Commentary - July, 2006

Let's Make It Real!...Compared to What?

The following piece of commentary was submitted to the Eagle Tribune as an op-ed piece, to be published sometime in July, 2006 

Revising a Party Platform

Political party platforms are real snoozers. If read before bed, they’d hasten sleep, but who keeps a copy of their party‘s platform at bedside? No more than a few party activists read them at all. Only a few political insiders and elected officials actually make use of them. Yet, many people these days complain that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between the major parties. If they had read the party platforms, they’d know better.

If knowing what a party stands for is important, so is the process by which a platform is developed. The New Hampshire Republican Party, for example, has just concluded a set of ten (10) platform hearings, one in each county of the state, to solicit input from any and all attendees on suggested additions, changes or amendments to the NH GOP Platform. Proposed “Amendments” needed to be submitted in writing by the end of June. Bundles of these have been received at the NH GOP State Committee office in Concord, but this number does not include several dozen that may have been submitted to Platform Committee members or those prepared by the Committee members themselves. The Committee itself, numbering 26 members, is the largest ever convened.

The range of submissions is all over the state’s geographic and editorial map -- from the bit-wise [subtract a comma here; add a comma there] to the big [end the death penalty; deal with global warming], and from every county -- and the Platform Committee still hasn’t yet met to introduce and debate many changes that Committee members themselves may suggest!

What’s important to note here is that the NH GOP Platform revision process is relying on the Party’s grassroots. It is a bottom-up, not a top-down process -- a major step towards getting the NH GOP recognized as a people-based party and a party grounded on good, reform, change- and future-oriented ideas, not one dominated by big money; old, hidebound biases or closed minds. Just in case the reader thinks that the task of Platform revision is also a snoozer, note some of the serious questions that have arisen for debate in the process:

* Do we recognize that the evidence for global warming is overwhelming, and finally say that we’re going to start to do something about it, or do we become known as a party that’s pro-ideology and anti-science?

* Should we refuse party support for candidates that don’t support the platform or, more narrowly, candidates that can’t go along with the platform on a particular issue such as the prohibition of partial birth abortion?

* Is the platform a place to begin to reconsider an issue, especially a controversial, major issue such as the death penalty?

* Is the platform a document solely for the use of party insiders and true believers, or one that can and should be used to market the party’s ideas and positions to the media and the public-at-large?

* Should the Platform be a statement of values and goals, or a statement of more precisely specified objectives and positions on specific issues and/or legislative initiatives?

Exactly what will emerge from this people-based process won’t be clear until the NH GOP meets in convention on Sept.30th to debate and vote on the Platform. What is already clear in broad outline, however, is just how significantly the two major parties differ with respect to values and goals, as per:

> Belief in God (Most Democrats place their faith in a secular society);

> The dignity, liberty, initiative and potential of each individual (after God, our paramount values. Democrats place more stock in government, collectivities or groups);

> An open society (the greatest enemy of which is a closed mind. The Democratic Party is now dominated by closed-minded ideologues);

> Personal responsibility (without which our democratic Republic fails. Democrats tend to shift responsibility to government);

> Limited, decentralized government (political power brought down to earth, where “We, the People” can control it. Democrats kick problems upstairs to the national level and big government);

> Fiscal responsibility (controlled spending, limited taxes. Democrats suffer from the politics of good intentions: We have better intentions; you pay for them);

> Economic opportunity (free enterprise, entrepreneurship, small business development. Democrats lean towards big business and a planned economy);

> Compassion for the truly needy (True compassion -- helping the needy to help themselves. Democrats treat the disadvantaged as victims and think the provision of ongoing help to them by government is a morally superior approach); and…

> Confidence in the strength of private sector and local political and non-governmental organizations as fundamental sources of energy, common sense, initiative and volunteerism. Democrats have more confidence in government).

Our shared values of innovation, learning, hard work, self-reliance, productivity, accountability, truthfulness and tolerance should also be cited, along with corollary convictions that would serve to guide our efforts to build a better world:

>> A sense of the future (a better world for generations following us),

>> Openness to change (without which our Republic suffers from hardening of institutional arteries and our Party becomes a dinosaur);

>> Commitment to build on the best of the past in seeking to reform that which needs to be changed (the GOP approach to change);

>> A search for excellence, and a reformed educational system that would advance active, responsible citizenship, critical thinking and creativity as well as technical expertise (essential sources of renewal of our democratic Republic). Of such values and goals are good party platforms made.

Let’s make it real…compared to what! PETER BEARSE, Ph.D.,  Member of the NH GOP Platform Committee, e-mail address:, 7/8/06.

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