Party planks follow partisan preferences

By Jimy Valenti
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

The divide between Democrats and Republicans runs deep and is exemplified by the resolutions adopted at county assemblies throughout Colorado in March and April.

Republicans across the state put marriage, the definition of life, the right to bear arms, military support, constitutional adherence, the federal deficit and limiting government as top priorities, while Democrats listed health care, energy and the environment, education and civil liberties as their biggest concerns.

The formulation of the major parties’ platforms actually begins in neighborhoods across the state when caucus participants submit suggestions for resolutions at their biennial local gatherings. Many of these ideas are passed on to the county parties and if adopted, they are then forwarded to the state party for possible inclusion in the platform, which is decided upon at their state assemblies in May.

Each party leaves it up to individual counties to decide which resolutions move on in the process. Most counties require a majority vote from their delegates while some leave the decision up to an appointed committee.

Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams will appoint a 12-person resolution committee that compiles suggestions from the counties and decides which ones will be voted on at the state assembly. The committee submits about 20 resolutions and a two-thirds vote is required for passage at the state assembly.

“We try to be fair,” Wadhams said. “If there is an issue that seems to have wide support across the state then that will probably make it to the state assembly.”

Democrats, on the other hand, use a 110-person platform committee made up of county chairs, precinct committee persons and others involved in the party. Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak appoints the platform committee’s chair. This year it’s El Paso County Democratic Chair Hal Bidlack. The platform committee merges the resolutions passed at county assemblies and creates a working document that is presented at the state assembly where a simple majority vote is required.

These documents lay the groundwork for the state’s political landscape and present a stark contrast between the parties. Denver County Democrats, who passed 14 resolutions, or planks, consider health care a “right” while Douglas County Republicans, who passed 119 resolutions, call health care a “privilege.”

“Global climate change, pollution and environmental problems may be (the) biggest crises humankind has ever faced,” began one of ten Arapahoe County Democratic resolutions while Arapahoe County Republicans considered one resolution — out of 61 — that stated, “The concept of ‘man-made’ global warming is not a scientific fact, and should not serve as the basis for legislation.”

The divisions are similar in nearly every resolution. El Paso Republicans, who passed 24 resolutions at their assembly, reaffirmed their support of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights while, in an effort to fund higher education, Boulder County Democrats voted to overturn TABOR as one of eight planks they passed. Boulder Democrats say charter schools are re-segregating school districts while Douglas Republicans specifically mention their support of charter schools.

Denver Democrats want to see marijuana legalized while Douglas County Republicans want to repeal the medical marijuana amendment. Arapahoe County Republicans considered a resolution that said minimum wages hurt the economy. Denver Democrats said a fair minimum wage is good for business. Democratic county assemblies supported the closing of Guantanamo Bay — their Republican counterparts opposed the notion.

Both parties do agree on substantial penalties for businesses that hire undocumented workers. And metro-area Republicans, as well as the Denver County Democrats, would like a full audit of the Federal Reserve.

Republican assemblies resolved that Colorado should assert its sovereignty under the 10th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and opt-out of the health care bill. In addition, El Paso County Republicans also resolved to opt out of ‘Cap and Trade’ as well as other potential legislation they say infringes on the 10th amendment.

Republicans want to cut federal departments

Various federal departments should be axed, according to delegates at some Republican assemblies, in order to limit government and cut spending. Arapahoe County Republicans went a step further, calling for all government agencies, excluding the Armed Forces, to expire every 10 years unless specifically re-established by Congress. Douglas County Republicans want the National Endowment for the Arts eliminated along with the federal Department of Education. Larimer County Republicans resolved to abolish the federal Department of Energy because, they said, the DOE failed in its mission statement to create an energy self-sufficient America.

Congressional term limits of two terms for congress and three for senate were a common call at Republican county assemblies.

National identity needs to be codified, according to many Republican resolutions. Arapahoe and Larimer Republicans considered declaring the U.S. a Judeo-Christian nation, and Republicans of El Paso, Jefferson and Douglas counties proposed codifying English as the United States’ official language. Douglas County Republicans also favor an American flag in every classroom and specified that the Pledge of Allegiance be recited each morning throughout the county’s public schools.

Democratic assemblies supported the recently passed health care bill, but called for a resolution for universal coverage through a single-payer system. Republican resolutions called for the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines and preferred tort reform to the current health care bill.

Denver Democrats declared any effort to define life at conception as only a means to undermine Roe V. Wade and hinder a woman’s right to choose.

Republicans from numerous counties want a constitutional ‘personhood’ amendment that defines life as beginning at conception. Jefferson County Republicans did not adopt a personhood resolution, but declared their opposition to government funding of abortions.

Democrats in Denver and Arapahoe County declared the need for a personhood amendment that would end ‘corporate personhood,’ thus taking away political rights from corporations.

Denver County Democrats declared education a right, not a privilege, and opposed the privatization of schools through the funding of religious schools or the use of school vouchers. Jefferson County Republicans specifically support any educational funding method that follows the student, as in vouchers or through charter school systems.

A large New Deal scale education and training program is needed for the installation and design of alternative energy systems throughout the U.S., according to Arapahoe County Democratic delegates. They also support massive tax credits for alternative energy, water conservation or anti-pollution initiatives taken by businesses. Eagle County Democrats resolved that global warming is not only an environmental issue, but a national security issue as well.

Jefferson County Democrats support ending subsidies for fossil fuel producers and re-directing them to alternative energy sources.

Arapahoe Republicans also supported renewable energy incentives, but included oil, gas and coal in the same category. El Paso Republicans resolved to support polices that encourage domestic production of crude oil, natural gas or coal with no mention of alternative energy sources. Republican delegates in Douglas County resolved that the federal government should increase domestic energy production in an effort to pay down the national debt.

Republican platforms uniformly declared that the federal budget must be balanced through a cap on spending and not through higher taxes. Arapahoe, Douglas and El Paso counties said the budget should never exceed 20 percent of national GDP. Douglas County added that the federal budget should be capped at 2008 expenditures until the U.S. achieves a balanced budget.

Jefferson County Democrats said they are ‘realists’ who understand that taxes must be levied in order to receive government services. They also declared opposition to any flat tax that they say only favors the very wealthy, and they support a progressive tax structure. Democrats in the suburban county are calling for the repeal of ‘Bush-era’ tax cuts while the Douglas County Republicans want to keep them.

Douglas and Arapahoe counties Republican assemblies voiced support for a flat tax. Arapahoe County considered recommending a flat-tax rate of 13 percent and stated that the tax on corporations should match Ireland at 12.5 percent.

Resolutions differ on role of the military

Military platforms also differed between the parties. Arapahoe Democrats said a political solution is needed in the Middle East, not a military one. They want to shift military might to the strength of diplomacy. Douglas County Republicans stated their opposition to timetables for withdrawal of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other Republican assemblies specifically mentioned their support for the Iraq and Afghanistan military campaigns.

Republicans widely support ‘Clear the Bench Colorado,’ a conservative organization that suggests the removal of Supreme Court Justices, so they resolved to vote no on the retention of Colorado Supreme Court Justices Michael Bender, Alex Martinez, Nancy Rice, and Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey — all Democrats.

According to a Boulder County Democratic delegate survey, health care, conservation and energy independence as well as civil liberties top their list of the most pertinent issues, while the El Paso Republicans’ top five resolutions included protecting the basic right to life, reaffirming traditional marriage, community support of the military, constitutional adherence and firearms rights.

Many counties also include local issues in their resolutions. Denver County Democrats, for instance, resolved to end homelessness. Eagle County Democrats supported a mass transit solution to I-70 traffic congestion and Larimer County Republicans resolved to end the use of photo enforcement systems for traffic violations.

Multiple county assemblies considered resolutions to impeach or convict various elected officials. Eagle County Democrats called for the U.S. Senate to censure former President George W. Bush for his involvement in surveillance on U.S. citizens.

“Articles of impeachment (should) be drawn up accusing Barack Hussein Obama of high crimes and misdemeanors, including the bribery of multiple government office-holders to obtain their votes,” said a resolution considered by the Arapahoe County Republican Party.

“We resolve to arraign Dick Cheney for War Crimes,” was a plank considered by the El Paso County Democratic Party.

Jimy@coloradostatesman.com