Nobody pays much attention to the party platform—including the party, until some piece of it makes headline news. At last week’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, the official “platform” was destined to the usual low profile until the Republicans made headlines over the fact that the Democrats had dropped the word “God” and removed language regarding Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—both of which were present in the 2008 party platform. One day after approving the official party platform, the omission was reversed in a contentious voice vote from the floor that attracted even more attention to the matter.
Addressing the relevance of a party platform, NPR said: “The platform itself is a relic from the days when the parties were far more important institutions.”
While the platform may hold little sway over the candidate’s views or what actually happens in the next four years, it does outline some distinct contrasts between the parties on some major issues. For example, the Republican platform opposes abortion under any circumstance, while the Democratic platform supports abortion at any time. Both, also, have well-known, opposite views on gay marriage. These differences where highlighted last week in Charlotte as the Democrats gave key speaking spots to Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards and Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke and to openly gay Representatives Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin. One report cites an Orthodox Jew—sporting a beard and a payot and wearing a black suit and broad-brimmed hat—as saying: “In speech after speech, they promoted gay marriage. I don't think there was a single speech without it.” Even Michelle Obama’s speech supported the controversial themes.
Clearly, the DNC hasn’t shied away from polarizing issues—which makes the public absence of another platform plank all the more curious: climate change.
The 2012 Democratic Party Platform mentions climate change 18 times, while the 2012 Republican Party Platform mentions it only once (page 40)—and then only to criticize “the emphasis on climate risks in Obama administration military planning documents.” The Huffington Post calls climate change “one of the starkest contrasts between the recently released Democratic and Republican party platforms.”
Some of the climate change language from the 2012 Democratic Party Platform includes:
“We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation—an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. President Obama has been a leader on this issue. We have developed historic fuel efficiency standards that will limit greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history, made unprecedented investments in clean energy, and proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants. As we move towards lower carbon emissions, we will continue to support smart, energy efficient manufacturing. Democrats pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging powers. Democrats will continue pursuing efforts to combat climate change at home as well, because reducing our emissions domestically—through regulation and market solutions—is necessary to continue being an international leader on this issue. We understand that global climate change may disproportionately affect the poor, and we are committed to environmental justice.”
“We can … concentrate our resources and attention abroad on the areas that are the greatest priority moving forward. This means directing more energy toward crucial problems, including longstanding threats like nuclear proliferation and emerging dangers such as cyber attacks, biological weapons, climate change, and transnational crime.”
“The national security threat from climate change is real, urgent, and severe. The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of vital ecosystems across the globe. That is why, in addition to undertaking measures to enhance energy independence and promote efficiency, clean energy, and renewable sources of power here at home, the President and the Democratic Party have steadily worked to build an international framework to combat climate change. We will seek to implement agreements and build on the progress made during climate talks in Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban, working to ensure a response to climate change policy that draws upon decisive action by all nations. Our goal is an effective, international effort in which all major economies commit to reduce their emissions, nations meet their commitments in a transparent manner, and the necessary financing is mobilized so that developing countries can mitigate the effects of climate change and invest in clean energy technologies. That is why the Obama administration has taken a leadership role in ongoing climate negotiations, working to ensure that other major economies like China and India commit to taking meaningful action. It is also why we have worked regionally to build clean energy partnerships in Asia, the Americas, and Africa.”
“And we will continue to champion sustainable growth that includes the clean energy that creates green jobs and combats climate change.”
With the scare tactics involved—calling climate change “one of the biggest threats of this generation,” a “catastrophe in the making,” a “national security threat” that is “real, urgent and severe,” and one of “the greatest dangers we face” likened to “terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber and biological attacks,” and “transnational crime”—you’d think it deserved at least as much mention on the podium as abortion or gay marriage. There shouldn’t have been “a speech without it.” However, according to a report by the Daily Caller, it received only one mention in more than 80 speeches during the first two days. Additionally, none of its big supporters were given a spot on the podium. Neither Representatives Henry Waxman or Ed Markey—the authors of the failed cap-and-trade bill, nor the high priest of global warming, Al Gore, were given a role in Charlotte. At the 2012 DNC, unlike 2008 where he “strode onto the stage at Denver’s Invesco Field to a hero's welcome,” Gore reportedly was “nowhere in sight.” Markey was in town and did participate in an off-site panel discussion on energy hosted by Politico. There he called clean energy “a debate that wins.” He said, “We think this revolution is something to brag about.” Yet, the best attention the green energy/climate change issue got was a vague reference to “increasing climate volatility” from a “least watched” speech by Tom Steyer, co-founder of the Advanced Energy Economy trade association, a “passing reference” from Bill Clinton regarding “reducing greenhouse gases,” and, on Thursday, former presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry added: “an exceptional country does care about the rise of the oceans and the future of the planet.”
Why so little attention for an issue that is one of the “biggest threats of this generation?”
Perhaps, just days away from the anniversary of the Solyndra scandal, they didn’t want to remind people of President Obama bragging about how Solyndra is the model for green jobs of the future, only to have them fail—costing more than a thousand jobs and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Or, how the failed green-energy loan guarantee program exposed the favor his friends in high places received.
Maybe they didn’t want to draw attention to Obama’s failed promise to push through a cap-and-trade program—as was a part of the 2008 Democratic Party Platform. Or, to the higher energy costs the green-energy emphasis has brought to manufacturing—causing jobs to be outsourced—and that “disproportionately affect the poor.”
They probably didn’t want to have to answer questions about CO2 emissions being the lowest in twenty years without the onerous, job-killing policies favored by the Democrats. Or, why European countries are abandoning their green-energy policies, ending green-energy subsidies, and are pursuing coal, shale gas, and off-shore drilling.
Whatever the reason, the obvious exclusion at the DNC makes clear that the Democrats don’t view climate change as a winning issue. The strong language included in the party platform is more likely, as NPR stated: “the platform is used as a pressure valve for activists within the party’s base.”
In contrast, Republicans realize the economic damage and job-killing ramifications of pursuing an agenda like that laid out in the Democratic Party Platform. They know that, right now, jobs and the economy are where they need to focus—and that is “something to brag about.”