RNC & DNC -- Are the Democrats the Party of Ideas?

Control room where live feeds are managed during the virtual Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center, Milwaukee, Wisc., August 17, 2020 (Scott Olson/Reuters)

Much has been made of the GOP’s decision not to release a party platform during the Republican National Convention. Rightfully so. As National Review put it in an editorial: “How can the party ask voters to give it the power to act on its principles and policies if it can’t be bothered to say what they are?”

But the mere dearth of a Republican platform and existence of a Democratic one does not render the latter a “party of ideas.” In his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Joe Biden made the case for only a single policy proposal, and that was repealing the tax-reform bill passed at the end of Donald Trump’s first year in office. He also spoke optimistically of creating a higher-education system that is less costly, “an immigration system that powers our economy and reflects our values,” protecting entitlements, and “deal[ing] with climate change.” These are goals though, not ideas.

The big ideas on the Democratic side lie with the progressive wing of the party, but that cohort is disempowered for the time being, and their plans aren’t very well thought through. It is still entirely unclear how Medicare for All would be paid for. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other proponents of the Green New Deal were forced to admit that her signature piece of legislation was just a “non-binding resolution of values.” Elizabeth Warren wanted a wealth tax, which is neither a fresh nor a good idea. Vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris promised she would take all kinds of liberties with her pen and phone should she be elected during her primary campaign. Biden, to his credit, informed her that her approach was flatly unconstitutional. We’ll see if — like Barack Obama — he changes his mind if he wins in November.

The GOP deserves the criticism it has received for not coming out with a platform. It was a disservice to itself and its voters not to. But Tim Scott talked about more ideas last night than I heard over the course of four nights watching the DNC.

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