Explainer: What you should know about the Democratic Party platform (Part I)
Religion & Liberty Online

Explainer: What you should know about the Democratic Party platform (Part I)

dncplatformDuring the recent Democratic National Convention the delegates voted to adopt their party’s platform, a document that outlines the statement of principles and policies that the party has decided it will support.

Although the document is not binding on the presidential nominee or any other politicians, political scientists have found that over the past 30 years lawmakers in Congress tend to vote in line with their party’s platform: 89 percent of the time for Republicans and 79 percent of the time for Democrats.

Because of its significance to political decision-making, Americans should be aware of what is proposed in these documents. In this article, we’ll examine a summary outline of the Democratic platform as it relates to several non-economic issues covered by the Acton Institute. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the the party’s economic agenda as laid out in the platform. (Last week we examined the GOP platform’s stance on these same and related issues.)

Criminal Justice Reform

Supports reforming mandatory minimum sentences and closing private prisons and detention centers.

Supports working with police chiefs to invest in training for officers on issues such as de-escalation and the creation of national guidelines for the appropriate use of force.

Encourages better police-community relations.

Supports requiring the use of body cameras.

Opposes the use of “weapons of war that have no place in our communities.”

Opposes racial profiling that targets individuals solely on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin.

Supports a requirement to make the Department of Justice investigate all “questionable or suspicious police-involved shootings.”

Supports states and localities “who help make those investigations and prosecutions more transparent, including through reforming the grand jury process.”

Supports assisting states in providing a system of public defense that is adequately resourced and which meets American Bar Association standards.

Supports reforming the civil asset forfeiture system to “protect people and remove perverse incentives for law enforcement to ‘police for a profit.’”

Supports removing barriers to help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully re-enter society by “banning the box” [persuading employers to remove from their hiring applications the check box that asks if applicants have a criminal record.] Supports executive action to “ban the box for federal employers and contractors, so applicants have an opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications before being asked about their criminal records.”

Supports expanding reentry programs, and restoring voting rights for felons.

Supports, whenever possible, prioritizing prevention and treatment over incarceration when tackling addiction and substance use disorder.

Endorses the use of effective models of drug courts, veterans’ courts, and other diversionary programs that “seek to give nonviolent offenders opportunities for rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration.”
Supports abolishing the death penalty.


Supports making community college free for all students.

Supports the federal government pushing “more colleges and universities to take quantifiable, affirmative steps in increasing the percentages of racial and ethnic minority, low-income, and first-generation students they enroll and graduate.”

Supports “ensuring the strength of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.”
Supports refinancing of current student loan debt.

Supports simplifying and expanding “access to income-based repayment so that no student loan borrowers ever have to pay more than they can afford.”

Supports a student borrower bill of rights to “ensure borrowers get adequate information about options to avoid or get out of delinquency or default.”

Supports the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and loan discharge programs “begun by the Obama Administration.”

Supports the inclusion of student loans in bankruptcy.

Supports a moratorium on student loan payments to all federal loan borrowers.

Supports restoring year-round Pell funding.

Supports strengthening the gainful employment rule to ensure that for-profit schools enable students to complete their degrees and prepare them for work.

Supports the Department of Education using their oversight to “close down those for-profit schools that consistently engage in fraudulent and illegal conduct.”

Supports universal preschool for all children.

Supports efforts to “raise wages for childcare workers, and to ensure that early childhood educators are experienced and high-quality.”

Supports increased investments in afterschool and summer learning programs.

Encourages group mentoring programs.

Encourage states to develop a “multiple measures approach to assessment, and we believe that standardized tests must be reliable and valid.”

Opposes use of standardized tests that “falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners as failing.”

Opposes the use of standardized test scores as basis for refusing to fund schools or to close schools.

Opposes the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations.

Support enabling parents to opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty for either the student or their school.

Supports a national campaign to recruit and retain high-quality teachers.

Supports “high-quality STEAM classes, community schools, computer science education, arts education, and expand link learning models and career pathways.”

Supports ending end the “school-to-prison pipeline by opposing discipline policies which disproportionately affect African Americans and Latinos, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, students with disabilities, and youth who identify as LGBT.”

Supports the use of restorative justice practices that “help students and staff resolve conflicts peacefully and respectfully while helping to improve the teaching and learning environment.”

Supports improving “school culture” and combatting “bullying of all kinds.”

Supports expanding Title I funding for schools that serve a large number or high concentration of children in poverty.
Supports charter schools but opposes for-profit charter schools.

Supports increasing sexual violence prevention education programs that “cover issues like consent and bystander intervention, not only in college, but also in secondary school.”

Human Trafficking

Supports the “full force of the law against those who engage in modern-day forms of slavery, including the commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor of men, women, and children.

Supports increasing diplomatic efforts with foreign governments to “root out complicit public officials who facilitate or perpetrate this evil.”

Supports increasing the “provision of services and protections for trafficking survivors.”

National Service

Support strengthening AmeriCorps with the “goal that every American who wants to participate in full-time national service will have the opportunity to do so.”


Supports directing more federal resources to “lifting up communities that have been left out and left behind, such as the 10-20-30 model, which directs 10 percent of program funds to communities where at least 20 percent of the population has been living below the poverty line for 30 years or more.”

Supports protecting programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Supports helping people “grow their skills through jobs and skills training opportunities.”

Supports expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program for low-wage workers not raising children, including extending the credit to young workers starting at age 21.

Supports expanding the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and making more of it refundable, or indexed to inflation to stem the erosion of the credit.

Religious Liberty

Opposes attempts to impose a religious test to bar immigrants or refugees from entering the United States.

Supports a “progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate.”

Supports protecting both Muslims and religious minorities and the “fundamental right of freedom of religion” in the Middle East.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).