We received the following from a reader regarding our rebuttal yesterday to the QC Times denigration of the party platform process. We appreciate the response. The reader’s comments are set forth below in their entirety. We have upgraded it to the daily post section in order to address its contentions more thoroughly.
I agree with the Times in principle that the Platform is way too long, having helped write it for a few years. Yes it is a dumping ground of wishes, many of them violations of limited government principles that we so eloquently state in our preamble. Both parties are guilty of using the color of noble purpose to push their own profiteering agenda.
For Republicans examples are their devotion to tax and spend farm subsidies that overwhelmingly benefit those who are working the system to make a fortune rather than working their fields (I come from a farm family that has never used farm subsidies). As a veteran, I also agree with General Smedley Butler, President General Eisenhower, and General Clark and a long list of other senior ranking officers and enlisted who have found that our Military industrial complex doesn’t make us safer and costs way more than it should. The Republicans also have their own social engineering schemes, tax deductions for mortgage debt (enriching bankers), deductions for various causes they believe in. The purpose of government is Defense and Justice, not adventurism, not wealth creation, or even protecting the wealth of “producers” at the expense of “labor” (special capital gains income tax rates). Republicans are every bit a part of our Byzantine Labyrinth of tax law, currently at about 70,000 pages. The Government should should tax equally and fairly possibly with no deductions at all so that rates can be that much lower, and to allow everyone a paying stake in these important functions.
Republicans are for balanced budgets unless they’re in charge, look where that got us last time. When they are out of power Republicans are only looking to get back in power. I believe Democrats are more dangerous, but they are at least honest, they are there to advance an agenda, even if they loose a few elections.
That said, I believe the QC Times should stick to writing about the news instead of trying to create it.
Rather than indicating that the length of platforms suggests a “dumping ground for wish lists,” length and even the number of planks, we believe are more stylistic issues and matters of judgement over the amount of explanatory context. More importantly, length is a reflection of the desire to specify the variety of issues that have risen to a level of concern.
Platforms are an important outlet for party activists who are patient and informed enough to participate in formal and informal review and discussion, in order to give politicians ,and the community, their collective two cents on issues of the day. This properly includes the implication of what they expect from politicians in order to earn their support. That they do not hold politicians accountable is a separate matter.
We could have a platform longer still with indisputable provisions by the reader’s (and our) standards. Such length could result from pointing out specific constitutional lapses in current government, of which there are many, nay, an overwhelming number. Specification of complaints has merit lest certain sectors think they are exempt from opprobrium and as a matter of emphasis and prioritization.
But just as certainly there are legitimate constitutional policy choices regarding appropriate government action at the local state and national level that could individually constitute an informed, timely, vibrant, and yes even lengthy ( length being a judgement call) platform of priorities.
Let’s say that the Calico County Supervisors will be voting to build a new road, maintenance center, jail, whatever. At that level why shouldn’t political activists that create the party structure, provide the ballot access, help get those officials elected, with a reasonably informed opinion speak collectively as to what they think should be done on each of those matters? It should not be so easy to dismiss or ignore your own party activists.
All of the matters specified are legitimate governmental concerns. Maybe the elected officials from the party would appreciate the input, the support, and the opportunity to parlay that interest into a successful legislative program. Perhaps they need such momentum because he or she has experienced or anticipates resistance from other party members? Why would any party activist worth their salt be inclined to reduce the influence of the party on important matters?
We suppose the delegates could collectively grunt “follow the constitution” . . . deliver just those three words as comprising the platform to our illustrious elected officials . . . and retire to the bar each convention. Offering ten or fifteen platitudes isn’t much better. We can wipe our hands with the profound assurance that our work as delegates is done. Indeed done evermore as presumably the platitudes do not change. Yet the refrain from some delegates (why they want to be delegates confounds me) is “Let the politicians use their judgement . . . after all isn’t that what we elect politicians to do . . . pay attention for us?
Now most party activists, at least issue oriented folks who tend toward being delegates, have a mature understanding of how some of those politicians, including those of their own party, come to get nominated and elected, and how squishy they can be once elected. They would amend the last statement in the paragraph above to say, with some trepidation, . . . “pay attention to the details for us . . . in the spirit of fulfilling these things that we feel need attention as best you can”
To be sure, matters of importance do not make it into platforms, but we give leeway to politicians to deal with those as they arise. That any conceptual matter does not make it into the platform is more human failing in thoroughness or anticipation rather then a flaw in the concept.
We too have participated in many platform committees and there is always an element of that cranky sentiment confronting us at the convention . . . “let’s go home . . . the elected officials including our own do not pay any attention to this platform stuff.” That may be true but it is also more an argument for putting some performance tests into the platform.
We believe such an attitude is an indictment of those politicians who have solicited Party support and placement. Such politicians should run as independents and forgo the current system of ballot placement and advantages party identification provides – the advantages of straight ticket voting, campaign support, etc.
Letting such politicians get away with such an attitude with no sanctions is an indictment of leadership and the rank and file who are aware of it. For them, one wonders if party participation isn’t more about some sort of club membership and access for unprincipled log rolling for special interests as the reader suggested. While we do believe the latter aspect is endemic with the Democrat Party, we do not think it is so much with Republicans.
As an example of violation of principle by Republicans, the reader raised the issue of tax and spend farm subsidies. Here is the entire Agriculture section from the 2012 Iowa Republican Platform
2.1 We call for the abolition of the Federal Department of Agriculture, returning control to the state and local governments.
2.2 We support limiting the EPA’s control of agriculture and oppose the EPA regulating dust.
2.3 We oppose any laws prohibiting and/or restricting Iowans from selling farm products directly from the farm to the consumer.
2.4 We oppose efforts to control consumer food choices through selective taxation of any agricultural commodity, to include meat, dairy, or any other agricultural products or prepared packaged food items.
2.5 We believe animal husbandry decisions and production practices should be decided by individual farmers, not the state or federal government.
2.6 We affirm the property rights of farmers to sow seeds of their own choosing. Farmers planting seed shall not be held liable for the presence of invading seed by natural, uncontrollable causes, such as drift, wind, storms, animal movement, or water flow.
2.7 We oppose proposed Department of Labor regulations on the work of children on their own family’s farms. The Federal Government should not regulate young people working in agriculture through new labor laws, or revisions or new interpretations of existing ones.
2.8 We oppose regulations that would require a state-certified electrician to perform all electrical work on a farm.
2.9 We support labeling GMO (genetically modified) crops and food products made from GMO crops as such.
2.10 We call for the end of all federal subsidies in agriculture, including ethanol, and support the repeal of all federal regulations that inhibit the ability of the American farmer to compete fairly and effectively in the free market. It is not the government’s role to choose economic winners and losers.
2.11 We support the proper care and treatment of animals. We oppose laws or regulations elevating the well-being of animals to a similar status as the rights of people.
2.12 We believe that strict criminal and civil penalties should be imposed upon individuals or organizations that, under the guise of protection of animals, willfully destroy, vandalize or terrorize legitimate businesses.
2.13 We demand that the term “sustainable development” be defined, vetted, and controlled by county and state agricultural agencies whose private property it impacts rather than the UN, other international or Agenda 21 agencies, or any federal organization.
2.14 We support laws that prohibit foreign corporate and foreign country ownership of Iowa farm land.
2.15 We encourage the continuance of good stewardship of our farmland.
2.16 We demand that all laws restricting the growing of industrial hemp be immediately eliminated.
2.17 We support the definition of manure as a natural fertilizer.
2.18 We acknowledge that the protection of private property is essential to the sustainability of our agriculture and encourage the protection of private property to the maximum extent of the law. We support legislation to restrict the use of eminent domain only for public works and infrastructure; eminent domain should not be exercised to benefit an individual or corporation.
2.19 We support the effective enforcement of anti-trust laws, and the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921, to prevent commodity market price manipulation and also protect the integrity of the commodity market price discovery process.
2.20 We oppose packer/processor ownership and feeding of livestock.
2.21 Anyone moving into areas zoned as agricultural should be prohibited from filing “nuisance” lawsuits. However, any previously established residents should retain the right to file against any expansion or development that infringes on their property rights.
2.22 We support maintaining the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture as an elected office and not as an appointed one.
2.23 All imported food must be labeled as to the country where that food commodity was raised and/or produced. All imported food must be held to the same food-safety standards as food produced in these United States.
2.24 We oppose a mandatory National Animal Identification System (NAIS).
2.25 We believe that all regulations affecting production agriculture, including water and air quality standards, should be transferred from the DNR to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
2.26 We support statewide site standards for livestock facilities and oppose excessive local control laws, which would create 99 different sets of rules for Iowa farmers.
2.27 We support the continued production of lean, fine-textured beef.
2.28 We oppose a moratorium on new livestock farms.
2.29 We believe that previously drained, frequently cropped land labeled as “farmed wetland” and all agricultural lands assessed for benefits by drainage districts should be exempted from wetland conservation (swamp buster) provisions of the farm program.
2.30 We support bio-technical agriculture and bio-technical products.
Agree or disagree with specific resolutions but we see no solicitation of government largess in that entire section. More so we see the consistent call for government to be more hands off, along with some regulatory concerns. The agriculture planks are defensible items consistent with the greater principle of reducing government. They are matters that have risen to a level of concern within the party. Our complaint should be about politicians who ignore them, or are ignorant of them, not the advocacy and educational value of specifications in the platform.
Where the occasional tax break or some special regulatory policies are called for, they are properly understood in lieu of more fundamental reforms which the platform also calls for. That direction is part of the preamble to the district and state platforms. But we see relatively little special interest regulations across the board. There are calls for less regulation. That is just the opposite of the Democrat platforms. So there are differences in the parties. More the problem is who we elect and what they do once in office more than the nature of what they are called to do under the platform.
No one suggests that every matter in the platform can be addressed in each session of the legislature. But apart from exigencies the Republican members have no control over, specific planks , which are often limited in scope and therefore often more politically possible, should be pursued when possible in lieu of more encompassing reforms which we also support.
When government was less, identifiable aspects in need of reform were less. Platforms properly provide grand reforms and smaller reforms. It is not inconsistent to do so and it is a good and practical reason for platforms being more than a set of ten or fifteen platitudes as the QC Times favorite precinct chairman proposed.
Nevertheless there are ways to streamline and discipline the formation of platforms. More on that and other matters related to the importance of platforms in coming days. R Mall