The final version of the Democratic Party platform released Friday includes a strong embrace of minority rights, with sections focusing on ending systemic racism, reforming the criminal justice system and supporting historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions.
The platform, which delegates will vote on at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia beginning Monday, is a stark contrast from the GOP platform adopted at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week.
Whereas the GOP’s platform committee rejected repeated attempts by its own members to move in a more inclusive direction, the Democratic platform includes specific sections guaranteeing civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, rights for people with disabilities and the protection of voting rights.
The Democratic platform also promises to bring more diversity to the Federal Reserve “to make it more representative of America as a whole,” and calls for supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) ability to enforce “foundational civil rights laws protecting against discrimination in consumer lending.” In contrast, the Republican platform seeks to abolish the CFPB, stating that racial protections “should have no place in the mortgage industry.”
Minorities were well represented on the DNC’s platform drafting committee, which was chaired by U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and included various members of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Latino, Native American and Asian representatives.
“Democrats believe that everyone deserves the chance to live up to his or her God-given potential,” states the platform document. “We know that there are barriers standing in the way of that goal, from the enduring scourge of systemic racism to our deeply broken immigration system to discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity — and we are committed to facing those problems and fixing them. Being stronger together means reaching communities that have been left out and left behind for too long.”
The focus “to end institutional and systemic racism in our society” will require a dismantling of “the structures that define lasting racial, economic, political and social inequity,” and the platform promises to “promote racial justice through fair, just, and equitable governing of all public-serving institutions and in the formation of public policy.” In addition, the platform calls for a “push for a societal transformation to make it clear that black lives matter and that there is no place for racism in our country.”
The Democratic platform also aims to address economic inequality, which it says “is even more pronounced when it comes to racial and ethnic disparities in wealth and income”:
“It is unacceptable that the median wealth for African Americans and Latino Americans is roughly one-tenth that of white Americans.”
“These disparities are also stark for American Indians and certain Asian American subgroups, and may become even more significant when considering other characteristics such as age, disability status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The racial wealth and income gaps are the result of policies that discriminate against people of color and constrain their ability to earn income and build assets to the same extent as other Americans.”
Criminal justice reform is another important tenet of the platform, which calls for reforming the system to end mass incarceration, revisiting mandatory minimum sentences and closing private prisons. “Something is profoundly wrong when almost a quarter of the world’s prison population is in the United States, even though our country has less than 5 percent of the world’s population,” states the platform.
The platform also seeks to reform the civil asset forfeiture system “to remove perverse incentives for law enforcement to ‘police for a profit,'” as well as require the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate “all questionable or suspicious police-involved shootings.”
For the first time, the platform addresses LGBT rights in its own section and also includes issues of LGBT homelessness, bullying and discrimination:
“A restaurant can refuse to serve a transgender person, and a same-sex couple is at risk of being evicted from their home. That is unacceptable and must change. … We will promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world.”
With regard to education, the platform pledges to support HBCUs and minority-serving institutions, which educate “disproportionate percentages of growing populations of Americans: students who are racial and ethnic minorities, low-income students, and first-generation students.”
“As the nation is grappling with how to expand educational access and increase success, especially for communities of color and low-income students and families, there is evidence that the nation’s HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions have honed promising models for educating these students to prepare them for high- and critical-need positions,” according to the platform.
“This is, without a doubt, the most progressive platform we have all seen in a long time,” said Rep. Cummings in a statement. “I kept saying over and over from the beginning: I am not interested in finding common ground, I am interested in finding higher ground. And I think this document can take us there.”
Cummings added that the party also sought to demonstrate a strong position on voting rights. “We have very, very strong language over the right to vote,” he said. “States that are passing laws that restrict the right to vote are criminal because they are stealing voters’ ability to take their destiny in their hands.”
The Democratic Party platform is also reflective of its membership, and this year’s convention features a diverse list of attendees and speakers representing various races, ethnicities and genders, including undocumented immigrants.
While official delegate data for the 2016 Democratic convention has not yet been released, Blacks represented more than 26 percent of the delegates at the 2012 Democratic convention, up from 24 percent in 2008 and 20 percent in 2004.
In contrast, Blacks represented 0.7 percent of all delegates at the Republican convention in Cleveland last week, and that number decreased from 2 percent in 2012. Latinos consisted of about 5 percent of all delegates at this year’s Republican convention.
In an effort to drastically differentiate itself from Trump and the Republican Party, which has promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, the DNC specifically selected several undocumented immigrants for official roles during its convention. Officials said two of those selected will work on the convention credentials and platform committees, and others will be speakers. None of the positions are paid, and the move is legal due to the “deferred action program,” which postpones deportations and provides work authorization for some immigrants brought to the United States as children.
“Our nation is a nation of immigrants that believes in being inclusive, and that’s exactly what we will continue to work toward,” said Leah Daughtry, DNC Convention CEO. “The voices of our nation’s brave undocumented youth will be heard loud and clear.”