Some of the finest minds in the Democratic Party emerged this week from their huddle in St. Louis with a list of goals they believe ought to be addressed in the party's platform.
The goal list offers a sneak peek at the still-developing shape of the party platform the Democrats hope will propel them to a Campaign 2000 victory allowing them to hang on to the White House under the banner of presidential candidate Al Gore.
North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, chairman of the committee that will write the actual draft of the platform in Cleveland next month, says the list of goals hammered out in St. Louis contain no platform surprises for Gore.
The Cleveland draft itself will be subject to change, when it goes before the national Democratic Party convention, which begins August 14 in Los Angeles.
"My sense is that much of this is what he has already had to say and what he has already proposed," Hunt said. "I think this is a platform he can run on and he can win on."
Witnesses addressed the platform committee and 1,600 people submitted comments to via the Internet at www.SpeakOut.com.
Hunt said it was the first time a major political party had allowed citizens to electronically submit their ideas and suggestions for a platform.
Highlights of points included in the proposed Democratic platform include:
- Knock down barriers to fair trade. Enforce worker rights, human rights and environmental protection in those agreements.
- Work to repeal Republican Freedom to Farm Act that has resulted in years of low prices and necessitated billion dollar bailouts.
- Have fully qualified, well-trained teachers in every classroom. Every teacher should pass a rigorous test to get there.
- Every failing school in America should be turned around or shut down and reopened under new leadership.
- Ensure that no high school student graduates without mastering the basics of reading and math.
- Allow parents to choose the best public school for their children.
- Make high-quality preschool fully available to every family in every community.
- Close the achievement gap between minority students and the rest of America's students.
- Children deserve schools of safety and classrooms that are free of fear. Zero-tolerance policy towards guns in schools.
- Each school should institute strict, firm and fair discipline policies. Expand family leave law to make sure parents can attend parent-teacher conferences without fear of job loss.
- Make college education as universal as a high school education with tax deductions for tuition and fees.
- Wipe out national debt by 2012.
- Give middle-class families tax cuts allowing them to: save for ollege, invest in job skills and lifelong learning, pay for health insurance, afford child care, care for elderly or disabled loved ones, invest in clean cars and clean homes, and build additional security for retirement. Eliminate marriage penalty for working families.
- Create Retirement Savings Plus: voluntary, tax-free, personally controlled, privately managed savings accounts with a government match that help couples build a nest egg of up to $400,000. It would allow Americans to save and invest on top of Social Security's guaranteed benefit.
- In death penalty cases, DNA tests should be used in all appropriate circumstances and defendants should have effective assistance of counsel.
- Mandatory child safety locks on guns.
- Require photo license identification, full background check and gun safety test to buy new handgun.
- Give states and communities another 100,000 prosecutors to fight gun crime.
- End racial profiling.
- Ensure drug and alcohol treatment for criminals. Impose strict supervision of prisoners after release, and insist they stay off drugs. In return, help them succeed in the work place.
- Give victims voice in trial and other proceedings.
- Stand behind every woman's right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade and regardless of ability to pay.
- Support contraceptive research, family planning, comprehensive family life education and policies that support healthy childbearing.
- Guarantee access to affordable health care for every child. Expand coverage to working families and make coverage affordable for small businesses.
Allow Americans age 55 to 65 to buy into the Medicare program.
- Add prescription drug benefit to Medicare.
- Invest in biomedical research to fight disease.