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It's often said that party platforms don't matter, that nobody reads them and after they are approved every four years at the national conventions, everybody ignores them. While probably not more than one in 100 Americans can explain the details of each party's platform, and while the implicit promises within them are often broken or take years if not decades to come true, they aren't mere textual kabuki. They do indicate a path, a direction. And set against each other, some of the differences can be stark.

Let me pick a few words or phrases in the 2012 versions of each.

Look at the term climate change, for instance. The Democratic Platform mentions this 18 times. An entire section is devoted to the subject. The Republican Platform platform mentions it once and, quite tellingly, it is embraced with quotation marks, "climate change," a nod to the large number of Republicans, including members of Congress, who still believe it's a hoax.

Then there is equality. Four positive mentions in the Democratic platform, including marriage equality. In the Republican platform, zero mentions.

And collective bargaining. Four positive mentions in the Democratic platform. Zero mentions in the Republican platform.

Abortion gets four mentions in the Democratic platform that show support for women making decisions about the procedure without government interference. In the Republican platform, 19 mentions, all of them related to efforts to increase that interference and make what should be a personal decision subject to religiously motivated meddling designed to control women's sexuality.

The word gay is not mentioned in the Republican platform. It is mentioned four times in the Democratic platform, twice in a section devoted specifically in support of gay rights.

Regulation(s) and regulatory get 65 mentions in the Republican platform. These are usually attached to words like "burdensome," "costly new," "expansive," "over-reaching" and the like, plus repeated calls to reduce them, get rid of them or curtail them. "Environmental" is the most common word appearing in the GOP platform next to regulation. The term regulation(s) or regulatory is mentioned 15 times in the Democratic platform, and connected to words like "lobbyists" and "health care" and "safety." Each is also connected to "outdated," an acknowledgement of the Obama administration's out-of-the-starting-gate efforts to streamline regulations across two dozen agencies.

The Republican platform mentions HIV or AIDS four times, noting that abstinence protects against it, and taking note of PEPFAR, the AIDS relief program developed under President Bush. The Democratic platform mentions the terms 10 times, with no mention of abstinence but taking note that the party has upped spending to combat the disease to its highest level ever.

As always, defense gets plenty of mentions in both platforms. The Republicans seek increases in yet more Pentagon spending. The Democratic platform opts for national security not only by military means but also through diplomacy, cooperation and multilateral intiatives.

But of the 26 mentions of defense in the Republican platform, four are vows to keep in place the Defense of Marriage Act (plus two for DOMA) which gets one mention from the Democrats: "We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act." Marriage overall gets 21 mentions in the Republican platform, most of them connected to words like "traditional" or "get pregnant outside of." The Democrats mention it four times, always in support of equality.

The Republican platform makes a dozen mentions of union(s), almost all of them connected to some perjorative phrase such as "special interests of" or "rein in" or "acts as dues collector for" or "bosses" or "elites." The Democratic platform mentions union(s) five times, always positively and including support for workers' right to organize. The Republican platform contains the ultimate diss of unions by endorsing a national Right to Work Act. The Democratic platform continues the party's long-standing opposition to this union-busting effort.

The Democratic platform mentions the minimum wage twice, both times noting support for raising it and indexing it to inflation. The Republican platform mentions the term once, stating that the U.S. "Pacific territories" should not be bound by the national minimum wage.

The Democratic platform mentions poverty 14 times, three of these related to global poverty. Among those mentions are the fact that millions of Americans were kept from sliding below the poverty line by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit, and the increase in the food stamp benefit. The Republican platform mentions poverty six times, always in relation to the welfare reform of 1996 and the lie that President Obama has moved to gut it.

Even yellow-dog Democrats can find something, often several things, to disagree with in the party platform. The defense section, for instance, takes zero steps in the direction of dismantling the American empire. But forward-thinking is inherent in that document, not the retreat into the past of its GOP counterpart. Obviously, nuance can't be determined from a handful of words or phrases. For that, a more studied evaluation is needed, slicing through the boilerplate, the exaggerations, the obfuscations and the code words. When one does that, one word describes the Republican Party platform that has no counterpart in the Democratic platform: scary.

Much of the GOP platform is not what Republicans seek to do but rather to undo. Unmasked now, the goals quite openly support demolishing decades of environmental, social and economic policies dating back as far back as the New Deal and even some of the earlier Progressive Era reforms. Back to the golden age of America when women kept their eyes on the ground, gays kept their orientation out of the limelight and the rabble understood the risk of raising their voices against the masters of finance and war.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 10:38 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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