It seems the farther one gets from Washington, D.C., the more conservative the Democratic Party gets — at least in the platforms of the party's various levels.

A review by the Deseret News of the draft national Democratic platform, the Utah State Democratic platform, and the Utah County Democratic platform shows a few common themes and more than a few differences.

In fact, while it may be the case, political scientists say, that few voters read or know much about party platforms, a number of Utah Democratic candidates are very sensitive about their own party's written beliefs — keeping their distance from ideas they don't like.

U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, is not attending next week's National Democratic Convention in Denver, where the national platform will formally be adopted. And Matheson declined to be interviewed by the newspaper on any differences he may have personally with the draft national party platform.

State Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake, served on the national Democratic platform committee, which adopted a draft several weeks ago in Pittsburgh.

"It is an inclusive document, without being repetitive. One really needs to read the whole document" which runs some 50 pages long, to get a feeling for the comprehensive nature of the Democratic party's approach to national government, Davis notes.

Asked about one political sore point with many Utah voters, Davis said: "We do stand for a woman's right to choose (an abortion) following Roe v. Wade, but we also have strong statements on adoption and access to birth control and education so a woman doesn't find herself in that position" of seeking an abortion.

Compare how the party platforms change as they move up the chain of government:

Utah County Democratic platform

Utah County Democratic candidates are stressing their commitment to faith, family and communities.

In fact, the importance of faith is the lead issue in the county party platform. Families are referred to throughout the short platform (just five pages long.) Some of the key issues for Utah County Democrats:

• They are against abortion, calling it a "tragedy." Their stand on abortion reflects Utah law and the stand by the LDS Church — abortion is wrong with the only exceptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal deformity or when a doctor says there is a "serious threat to the life or health of the mother."

• They support more funding for public schools. They hate No Child Left Behind. There's no mention of vouchers. (Vouchers had some close votes in the November 2007 referendum in Utah County House and Senate districts.)

• Families should teach sex education to their children. Marriage is between one man and one woman, although a "family" may be related by blood, marriage or choice of individuals wishing to care for each other. No mention of gay or human rights in the platform.

• There should be public health care, if needed, for children, the elderly and working poor (leading to universal health care for all). No mention of national health care.

• No closed caucuses in the Legislature, open decisions at all levels of government.

• They demand fiscal responsibility, condemn the federal debt.

• They support current gun laws, condemn importing nuclear wastes to Utah, support responsible wilderness, but want to keep multiple use access as long as natural resources are not harmed.

Utah state Democratic platform

• Open and accountable government (the first platform issue), limit campaign contributions and no personal use of campaign accounts. "Restore trust in state government," in part with an independent ethics commission to investigate complaints against officeholders. No stand on lobbyists' gifts to officeholders.

• All citizens should enjoy full benefits of citizenship regardless of race, gender, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or economic status. No constitutional amendments aimed at restricting civil liberties.

• Low taxes and balanced budgets. Further food sales tax cuts. Dump the state flat income tax for a progressive tax system.

• Win the global war on terror while protecting individual rights. No torture of prisoners. Build state veteran homes.

• Support the constitutional right to bear arms for "lawfully" defending families and property, "common-sense" measures to reduce gun violence.

• No illegal immigration, but humane programs and viable immigration worker policies, no exploitation of "undocumented workers," and no demonetization, "with undercurrents of racism," of such workers.

• A comprehensive approach that "protects reproductive freedom while fostering personal responsibility ... (making) moral decisions about sexuality, childbearing, adopting and parenting."

• Encourage multiple use of public lands in sustainable ways. It is certain that humans are causing "catastrophic climate change."

• Strong families are fundamental to good communities, and primary responsibility for raising children belongs to families, not government.

• Public education is a right, not to be bought and sold. Support "rational" education reform. No mention of vouchers. They support faith and the traditional separation of church and state. No direct statement on who can legally marry.

Democratic Party's national platform

• Quality and affordable health care is a basic right of Americans. Insurance must cover contraception.

• Immediate "energy rebate" to struggling American families. Allocate $50 billion to "jumpstart" the U.S. economy. Eliminate all income taxes for seniors making less than $50,000. Do not privatize Social Security. Raise minimum wage and index it to inflation. Expand Earned Income Tax Credit. Won't increase taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year.

• Adopt a national energy policy, which will contain many parts, including incentives domestic production of clean and renewable energy. No mention of nuclear energy.

• Fix No Child Left Behind, while keeping accountability for closing the achievement gap. Pay for the college education of those who promise to stay in teaching. New federal aid for a college education. No mention of private school vouchers.

• The economy needs a number of changes: End tax breaks to firms to take jobs overseas, create 2 million new jobs through rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, create a safety net for family farms, create incentive programs to increase savings, and adopt pay-as-you-go-budgeting to help reduce the federal deficit.

• Iraq war a big mistake. Remove combat troops within 16 months. Move toward a world without nuclear weapons. Greater aid for veterans. Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and allow homosexuals to openly serve in the military.

• Climate change is the "epochal, man-made threat to the planet." America will lead the world in low-carbon energy creation.

• Secure the borders but allow "undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens."

• Support gun ownership rights, but close the "gun show loophole" in background checks.

• Honor faith in America, but churches are not a replacement for government or secular nonprofit programs.

• Strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of the ability to pay, and oppose any attempt to weaken that right. Support the Equal Rights Amendment. Oppose the Defense of Marriage Act (marriage is between one man and one woman).

• Various "open government" reforms, including banning all lobbyist gifts.

The three platforms can be read in PDF format using the graphic links above right.


E-mail: bbjr@desnews.com; lee@desnews.com