Friday, October 21, 2011

Political Party Platforms

For 167 years political party platforms have stated the aims and principles of political parties.  On May 1, 1844, the Whig Party Platform of 1844 advocated for the election of Henry Clay for President of the United States based on the fact that he was the best representative to carry out the political agenda of the then Whig Party.  See the very first political party platform below:


Resolved, That, in presenting to the country the names of Henry Clay for president, and of Theodore Frelinghuysen for vice-president of the United States, this Convention is actuated by the conviction that all the great principles of the Whig party—principles inseparable from the public honor and prosperity—will be maintained and advanced by these candidates.

Resolved, That these principles may be summed as comprising, a well-regulated currency; a tariff for revenue to defray the necessary expenses of the government, and discriminating with special reference to the protection of the domestic labor of the country; the distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands; a single term for the presidency; a reform of executive usurpations;—and, generally—such an administration of the affairs of the country as shall impart to every branch of the public service the greatest practicable efficiency, controlled by a well regulated and wise economy.
Resolved, That the name of Henry Clay needs no eulogy; the history of the country since his first appearance in public life is his history; its brightest pages of prosperity and success are identified with the principles which he has upheld, as its darkest and more disastrous pages are with every material departure in our public policy from those principles.

Resolved, That in Theodore Frelinghuysen we present a man pledged alike by his revolutionary ancestry and his own public course to every measure calculated to sustain the honor and interest of the country. Inheriting the principles as well as the name of a father who, with Washington, on the fields of Trenton and of Monmouth, perilled life in the contest for liberty, and afterwards, as a senator of the United States, acted with Washington in establishing and perpetuating that liberty, Theodore Frelinghuysen, by his course as Attorney-General of the State of New Jersey for twelve years, and subsequently as a senator of the United States for several years, was always strenuous on the side of law, order, and the constitution, while as a private man, his head, his hand, and his heart have been given without stint to the cause of morals, education, philanthropy, and religion.

Today, our great nation holds its elections on the ideological foundations of two major parties using political party platforms.  As time has continued on, not only has the language of these documented platforms evolved, but the issues as well.  Additional issues that did not exist during the 1800's such as social security, immigration, abortion, and energy make for great debate in the long process of electing officials in the United States.  This contrast can be seen in the 2008 Democratic Party Platform, which occurred on August 25, 2008.  See the contrast in the language and agendas below in this passage from the platform:

We will start by renewing the American Dream for a new era – with the same new hope and new ideas that propelled Franklin Delano Roosevelt towards the New Deal and John F. Kennedy to the New Frontier. We will provide immediate relief to working people who have lost their jobs, families who are in danger of losing their homes, and those who – no matter how hard they work – are seeing prices go up more than their income. We will invest in America again –in world-class public education, in our infrastructure, and in green technology –so that our economy can generate the good, high-paying jobs of the future. We will end the outrage of unaffordable, unavailable health care, protect Social Security, and help Americans save for retirement. And we will harness American ingenuity to free this nation from the tyranny of oil.
While the context and substance of these platforms have evolved, they still serve the same purpose and that is to state the aims and agendas of political parties.  Regardless of the fact that today there exists major divide between the Democrats and Republicans, the more important issue is that there is a divide amongst members of the same party.  Therefore, it is essential to have these platforms to give candidates amongst the same party the opportunity to debate their differences in such a manner that the best candidate is chosen to represent their party.

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