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How political platforms shape supporters views

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Political platforms occupy a unique place in American politics. While they possess no real power over their parties’ candidates, they do offer evidence of how their parties’ supporters view what America, or one of its individual states, should be like in order to live up to their opinion of “true” American government.

“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” has been the national motto of France for many decades, owing its origin to the French Revolution of the 1790s. Simplification of giant themes like these is always dangerous. But after reading the 2024 Iowa platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties, I think it’s safe ground to identify a main theme of the Iowa Democratic Party as Equality, while the Republican Party leans toward Liberty.

Those themes are simply emphases rather than mutually exclusive ideas, of course, and the platforms of both parties are complicated enough to encompass plenty of examples of both themes in each of them. But it’s not difficult to follow the thread of equality throughout the 892 (!) individual points of the Iowa Democratic platform, and similarly to discern the emphasis on liberty in the 103 individual items of the Iowa Republican platform.

The subject of taxes offers a classic example. The Iowa Republican platform supports “replacing the current complex progressive income tax system with either a consumption-based tax, or a flat tax,” and advocates “amending the Iowa Constitution to require a 2/3 vote of both Houses of the Iowa General Assembly to pass any bill that raises taxes.” It also demands “the end of property tax.”

The Iowa Democratic platform, conversely, supports “progress/comprehensive corporate/individual taxation,” “capping residential property taxes for low-income citizens,” “estate taxes on estates over $35 million,” “wealth taxes,” “taxing all stock exchange transactions,” and a “minimum 25% corporate tax.”

It’s a given that the Republican platform proposals would allow well-to-do Iowans to keep more of their money (emphasizing liberty) and that the Democratic platform items would push toward a more equitable distribution of income.

In education the difference in emphasis is stark. The Iowa Republican document supports “the termination of all Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) instructions, propaganda, and indoctrination in government schools and education systems. Any educator or administrator attempting to indoctrinate the minds of students (through DEI) shall be prosecuted.”

The Iowa Democratic platform supports “attracting/retaining educators from underrepresented populations.” It opposes “banning books/literary resources & suppressing academic discourse.” It endorses “equity to enable the inclusion of stories/experiences/contributions” of non-straight people “in our learning communities and to provide strong protections” for them.

The Republican platform calls for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and replacing it with a free market solution. It advocates the elimination of “abusive and unconstitutional federal agencies” including the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Transportation Security Administration, the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Education. Those eliminations would take a huge toll on efforts to regulate basic aspects of American life for the benefit of Americans.

The Democratic platform calls generally for strengthening government efforts carried out by those federal agencies.

The Iowa Republican platform opposes funding to Ukraine, reaffirms the nation’s commitment to Israel’s right to exist, opposes U.S. citizenship for babies born in the U.S. to undocumented parents, and supports “securing of our borders including a wall where needed.”

The Democratic platform opposes “border walls,” “immigration laws enforced by local police,” and “Remain in Mexico” family separation. It supports “earned citizenship paths for undocumented workers.” It advocates “Palestinian self-determination/nationhood,” and calls for “an end to all military aid and arms sales to Israel until the following conditions are met: a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, the expulsion of illegal Jewish settlements and full compliance with the Oslo Accords.” It opposes “Israel’s genocide against Palestinians.”

Some platform planks are jarring. The Iowa Republican platform calls for “the repeal of the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” That amendment, approved by Congress and at least three-fourths of state legislatures in 1913, provides for direct election of U.S. Senators by the voters of each state. Prior to that year, U.S. Senators were selected by the legislators of each state. Repeal of the 17th Amendment would return selection of U.S. Senators to the state legislatures.

Some other provisions of the Iowa Republican platform that would create major changes in the state or nation include the following: 

  • An end to all public employee labor unions.
  • No same-day voter registration.
  • Reinstatement of the death penalty.
  • Term limits for members of Congress.
  • Require all elections to be partisan, including city councils and school boards.
  • Allow prayer in public schools.
  • Repeal of laws allowing same-sex marriage.
  • Allow property owners to vote on bond issues in any district whether residents or not.
  • Eliminate government efforts associated with “alleged” man-made global warming.
  • Oppose carbon pipelines.

The Iowa Democratic platform opposes pipeline subsidies, an item that narrows the gap between the platforms of the two parties on that subject. Some other Democratic platform provisions that would be of significant importance to Iowa and/or America include:

  • Creation of Universal Basic Income.
  • Creating a federal jobs program similar to the 1930s WPA.
  • Regulating private equity firms like publicly traded companies.
  • Eliminating Social Security/Medicare wage/taxable income cap.
  • Same retirement benefits for elected officials as for other public employees.
  • Granting Iowa public employees the right to strike.
  • Establishing employees as first-in-line creditors in bankruptcies.
  • Oppose property tax as a school funding source.
  • Restore full funding and services to Iowa Area Education Agencies.
  • Oppose using tax dollars for PreK-14 private schools.
  • Support sports participation and bathroom choice based on students’ gender identity.
  • Support ranked-choice voting.
  • Support term limits and ethical standards for Governor, Congress, and the Supreme Court.
  • Iowa constitutional amendment for recall of public officials.
  • Oppose ghost guns.
  • Support codifying Roe v. Wade.

The Libertarian Party of Iowa, now an officially recognized party by dint of its election showing of more than 2% of the vote, has a drastically stripped-down platform. It cites the Iowa motto: “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.” In that regard, the party’s platform emphasizes self-ownership, self-governance, and strong property rights, with a paragraph dedicated to each of those three principles.

None of the three parties enjoys the power to force its candidates to observe its platform if elected. But platforms do indicate the direction each party would like to take the nation and the state if they earn the majority at the polls.

Rick Morain is a reporter and columnist with the Jefferson Herald.

Rick Morain

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