What’s Left: The Democrats’ Progress

I don’t know what election in the last 20 years has been about the candidates’ personality. Sure, Barack Obama’s persona as a young, optimistic senator promising change and hope was a huge part of the 2008 election, but 2016 is totally different. Most of the arguments for and against each candidate center on their personality, e.g., that Trump is a racist and is unstable and that Clinton is a liar and is corrupt.

For the sake of sanity, let’s take a step back and compare the actual party platform. The Democratic party agenda basically confirms that there will be massive investments in infrastructure. It’s easy for Republicans to decry these investments as “more wasteful deficit spending,” but it was only three years ago that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the United States a “D” on its report on infrastructure quality. By contrast, the GOP party platform lauds the Eisenhower administration for its work 60 years ago but makes no specific plans for how to address today’s problems, save for cutting out everything but highway funding from the budget.

On to Healthcare: The GOP platform is calling (once again) for the repeal of Obamacare, which they have already attempted (and failed) to repeal in Congress many times. To paraphrase Regina George from the classic film, Mean Girls, “Stop trying to make Repeal happen. It’s not going to happen.” Now, to be fair, there have been and still are  problems with Obamacare, but rather than try to eliminate the law, the GOP could try something productive like trying to have a seat at the table and moderate it. To be fair, though, such a move might make their primary races more difficult.

It is clear that millenials are concerned about student loan debt. The Democrats have said that they want to allow students to refinance their loans, as is the case with pretty much every other loan the government offers. They also want to lower interest rates; why should the interest on an unsubsidized undergraduate loan be 3.76 percent when, by contrast, the federal interest rate for a 30-year mortgage is only 3.6 percent? Students want to get a degree to be competitive in the market place, not buy a home – why are they being charged more? The GOP solution is, invariably, that the government should get out of the way and return to a market-only solution. The problem is that without access to affordable student loans, we’ll have an excess of young people unable to get a job in an economy that increasingly requires college degrees.

Finally, let’s discuss the 800-lb gorilla that has been a large part of this campaign due to one candidate’s inflammatory statements. The GOP plan is to, yes, build the wall. How much will it cost? Nobody knows, but apparently it’s a higher priority than helping make college affordable. While it’s true that crossing the border and residing in the US without proper paperwork is a criminal offense, there should be exceptions made for people and families whose only crime is illegally entering the country, especially when they otherwise function as productive members of society. The Democrats want to offer a path to citizenship for these would-be citizens. Surely, if the biggest obstacle to citizenship is their legal status, shouldn’t we be able, by act of law, to change that status?

Broadly speaking, I like most of my party’s platform. It’s not perfect, but politics isn’t about getting everything you want; it’s about getting roughly what works for the greatest amount of people. Having read both platforms, I feel I can safely draw this conclusion: The Republicans are the party of repeal and withdrawal, the Democrats are the party of reform. The Democrats are trying to adapt the function of government towards the problems of the 21st century. The Republicans are stuck in their Reaganesque mentality that if the government stays away, things will be fine, or get better. If only it were that simple…