"Walking the Plank": Fine-Tuning the NDP Platformby Kyle Michaelis
And, in case you haven't noticed, I can be an opinionated little bugger who can be a little bit less than humble in declaring what's best for the Democratic Party, the state of Nebraska, and the voters of both. This sort of political self-pleasuring is right up my alley.
Well, none of this amounts to the desire or the ambition to make too radical an overhaul of the existing platform. What the NDP has is already a pretty good document crafted over years - with the input of hundreds of people just as passionate as myself, many of whom were probably a whole lot more intelligent and better informed.
Still, I can't help noting there are some glaring omissions, as well as some positions that could use some definite fine-tuning in their political and linguistic character. Although time is short to do this properly, I hope to elicit some readers' reactions and opinions on a few of these issues, particularly my few meager proposals for the platform's immediate improvement.
Now, for me, the key to a good platform position is principled viability. The position should speak to some underlying Democratic Party principle, reflecting the will of the majority without needlessly alienating those of alternative viewpoints - particularly on issues of secondary importance (a rather subjective concept in itself). If a plank lacks the substance to carve out a clear position, it shouldn't be taking up space and distracting from those parts of the platform that actually mean something. Still, there's a delicate balance that needs to be established between standing on principle and respecting the diversity of thought and perspective that has been a traditional source of the Democratic coalition's strength.
Not sure how this will work out. But, we'll give it a try just to see how things go. And, really, what better place to start than the ever-divisive issue of abortion - addressed in the 2004 Platform under the title "Reproductive Rights." That plank reads:
The Nebraska Democratic Party recognizes that:
*We live in a pluralistic society.
*Individuals have a constitutional right to privacy.
*The question of abortion is a personal, medical, philosophical, and religious issue.
*Government intrusion into deeply personal decisions runs counter to democratic principles.
Therefore, the Nebraska Democratic Party supports the right of individuals to make reproductive choices in accordance with their personal, philosophical, and religious beliefs. We further support the rights of all individuals to petition the government for changes in the abortions laws in a peaceful, lawful manner.
Thoughts? Opinions? While I respect this planks attempts at inclusiveness, I personally believe it engages on the issue of "reproductive rights" at too grand a scale - to the point that readers on both sides of the debate are going to be suspicious or unresponsive.
How to change that? For starters, a Constitutional right to privacy goes far beyond the overly-politicized issue of abortion. Its recognition is important enough to deserve a plank of its own. Meanwhile, noting that "we live in a pluralistic society" - as a preface to a controversial position - is a pretty insulting bit of mealy-mouthed pandering that could just as well be used to preemptively undermine any potentially controversial plank. In that case, the issue shouldn't be addressed to begin with.
But, whether over-hyped or not, it would be irresponsible to just wash our hands of so complicated an issue with so much importance to the development of the religious and political climates of 21st Century America. Moreover, the original plank was rightfully titled "Reproductive Rights" because the central issue truly does extend beyond the too-convenient pro-choice/anti-abortion dichotomy.
The following is my attempt at clarifying and refining the "Reproductive Rights" plank to make it better fulfill the difficult mission before it:
The Nebraska Democratic Party respects and recognizes women's rights to make their own reproductive and medical decisions. We call on those who oppose abortion for reasons of conscience to join us in reducing their number by promoting adoption, improving sex education, expanding access to contraception, and actively reengaging in America's War on Poverty.
So, what do you think? An improvement? I'm aiming for something more straight-forward and honest that maintains inclusiveness by stating a shared purpose rather than weakly acknowledging that different opinions exist.
Of course, I would suggest this follow recognition of a constitutional right to privacy - an issue too important during the ongoing "War on Terror" to be confined to discussion of women's reproductive choices.
Additions? Alternative language? Criticism? Feel free to submit whatever you like - consider this a community project, and we'll see what, if anything, we come up with. And, over the next week, I'll try to offer up a few more proposals on other issues for which we can do the same - maybe building a better NDP platform in the process (for whatever that is worth).