What We Believe

 

The Democratic Vision

The Democratic Party is committed to keeping our nation safe and expanding opportunity for every American. That commitment is reflected in an agenda that emphasizes the security of our nation, strong economic growth, affordable health care for all Americans, retirement security, environmental stewardship, honest government, and civil rights.

 We Stand For Civil Rights:

Democrats have a long and proud history of defending Civil Rights and expanding opportunity for all Americans. From the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, Democrats have fought to end discrimination in all forms—including discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity or national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability. We believe in the essential American ideal that no one should be constrained by the circumstances of their birth, and that each of us should have the opportunity to make of our lives what we will.

Civil Rights are not just abstract principles. They represent nothing less than our ability to provide for ourselves and our families and to live free from discrimination or persecution. For decades, Democrats have fought for these values, working to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to fully participate in our society—to live in a place where there are no second-class citizens, where each of us can go about our lives without fear of discrimination.

For too many though, this ideal is still far from a reality. Democrats are committed to:

  • Strengthening the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to better protect voting rights;
  • Enacting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which includes measures prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a sensible way that strengthens our armed forces and our national security;
  • Ensuring civil unions and equal federal rights for LGBT couples, as well as fully repealing the Defense of Marriage Act;
  • Ending racial, ethnic, and religious profiling; and
  • Building a fair and more equitable criminal justice system that provides non-violent offenders a second chance at a rehabilitated life.

From local neighborhoods and city councils, to state house chambers and the halls of Congress, men and women, from one generation to the next, have taken up the cause of civil rights and have helped lay the foundation of freedom that we know today.

Democrats believe that we all have a part to play in promoting equality and protecting Americans against discrimination, and we continue to work vigorously toward greater freedom and equality in America.

We Stand For Economy And Job Creation:

Democrats are fighting to repair a decade of damage and grow an economy based on hard work and responsibility, not greed and reckless speculation—an economy that strengthens our country and middle-class families for the long run. The current recession has touched nearly all of us in some way, but the heart of America’s promise is our resilience to overcome hardship. Democrats are committed to helping all Americans confront these challenges—spurring job creation, rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in clean-energy technologies, and restoring fairness and opportunity to our economy.

President Obama inherited an economy in free fall, with huge deficits, skyrocketing health care costs, dwindling employment, and banking and housing markets on the brink of collapse. Working with the President, Democrats stabilized the financial system and helped to prevent a second Great Depression. An economy that was losing 700,000 jobs a month is now gaining jobs. We still have a long way to go, but we are now moving forward on the road to recovery.

Democrats recognize the importance of meeting our most urgent needs—not just in the short term but also in the long run. Starting with the passage of the Recovery Act, Democrats began a series of strategic investments in health care, energy, and education that are laying the groundwork to build a stronger economic foundation for the future.

Democrats cut taxes for 95 percent of working families, provided help for small businesses and homeowners, and strengthened consumer protections for anyone who has a credit card or a bank loan. Despite Republican obstruction at almost every turn, Democrats have provided relief for hardworking Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.

Democrats reinstated fiscal responsibility in government spending and ensured that American taxpayers will never again be forced to bail out big banks.

We still have work to do, but Democrats are moving forward with a “Made in America” economic plan to strengthen American industries and create jobs for American workers by:

  • Ending tax loopholes that let corporations hide profits overseas, and investing those dollars in small businesses that create jobs in America;
  • Providing tax cuts to small businesses and expanding lending so that businesses can create new jobs;
  • Investing in a clean-energy economy, and providing tax credits to spark manufacturing of windmills, solar panels, and electric cars here at home; and
  • Putting Americans to work rebuilding roads, bridges, rails, and ports, strengthening our economy and our infrastructure across all 50 states.

Democrats stand for the values of hard work and responsibility, and we know that as a country we are most successful when we invest in our people—middle-class families and small business owners—who can grow our economy from the bottom up. Together, we have begun to lay a new foundation for growth, building an economy that works for all Americans.

We Stand For Education:

Democrats share with all parents the commitment to prepare our children to lead lives of happiness and success. That’s why we’re dedicated to ensuring the next generation has access to a first-rate education and the tools to drive our economy forward. Our country is strongest when our workers are trained with the knowledge and ingenuity to perform at the highest levels. Every child should have the opportunity to reach that horizon and to fulfill the American Dream.

Democrats have long valued education as the key to success, both for individuals and for our nation. In 1944, Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt enacted the G.I. Bill, a landmark piece of legislation that provided World War II veterans with opportunities for higher education. The G.I. Bill represented the single largest investment in higher education ever, and it helped create the modern middle class in America.

In recent years Democrats have further increased access to higher education and restructured and dramatically expanded college financial aid, while making federal programs simpler, more reliable, and more efficient for students. In 2010, President Obama signed into law student loan reform that ended government subsidies to big banks and made college more affordable to millions of Americans—a measure in size and scope second only to the G.I. Bill.

The Obama Administration is working to overhaul the “No Child Left Behind” program and provide teachers with more professional support and resources—while also holding them accountable. President Obama instituted “Race to the Top,” a revolutionary program designed to promote innovation and provide incentives for improvement in education. As a result, already over a dozen states have made changes to increase standards and implement reforms.

As the global marketplace grows more competitive, we need to expand opportunities for higher education and job training. Democrats are committed to increasing the college-completion rate as well as the share of students who are prepared for budding industries with specific job-related skills.

Democrats recognize education as the most pressing economic issue in America’s future, and we cannot allow our country to fall behind in a global economy. We must prepare the next generation for success in college and the workforce, ensuring that American children once again become global leaders in creativity and achievement.

We Stand For Energy Independence:

For decades, America has been addicted to unsustainable energy sources and bound to the status quo by special interests. Our country’s transition into the 21st century requires that we recognize the relationship among energy, the environment, and our economy. Democrats have made historic investments in clean-energy technologies that are helping pave the way to a more sustainable future, creating new jobs and entire industries here in America. We believe that now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

Democrats are working to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to protect our nation from the serious economic, environmental, and strategic risks that result from our reliance on foreign oil. The BP oil spill is the latest reminder that our current energy policy is simply unsustainable. We can’t afford to stand by as our dependence on foreign oil deepens, and deadly pollutants threaten our air and our water and the lives and livelihoods of our people. And we can’t fall behind as other countries take the lead in creating clean-energy jobs and industries of the future.  

The transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of new jobs here in America. During the Obama Administration, Democrats have made an unprecedented and historic investment in clean energy, including:

  • Investing in the development of renewable energy and clean technologies that will lead to the energy sources of the future;
  • Investing in high-speed rail and advanced car batteries that will lead to the transportation systems of the future; and
  • Investing in a smart electric grid and energy efficient homes, offices, and appliances that will reduce our overall energy consumption as a nation.

Taken together, these investments will lead to the industries of the future, creating millions of jobs and preparing a new generation of professionals: architects and energy auditors, factory workers and engineers building solar panels and wind turbines. By 2012 alone, Democrats’ commitment to clean energy is expected to lead to more than 800,000 jobs—creating work in the short term but also helping to lay the foundation for lasting economic growth.

We Stand For Environment:

Democrats are committed to protecting America’s natural resources and ensuring the quality of our air, water, and land for future generations. From efforts to restore the Great Lakes to neutralizing the damage to the Gulf Coast caused by the BP oil spill, environmental protection is crucial not only to combat climate change but also to sustain the health of our ecosystems. In recent years Democrats have made crucial strides toward protecting our environment and investing in clean-energy technologies—all of which are paving the way to a more sustainable America.

From protecting endangered species to restoring our ecosystems and investing in clean-energy solutions, the Obama Administration and Democrats are working to address our biggest environmental challenges.

During the Obama Administration, the Department of Transportation issued new fuel-economy standards, the first mandated increases in fuel economy for cars in decades. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken the first steps toward regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. For the first time, the U.S. will catalogue greenhouse gas emissions from large emission sources-—an important initial step toward measurable and transparent reductions.

Democrats have made investments in weatherization programs, energy efficiency, and renewable-energy research, as well as investments in public transit and new rail transportation.

For decades it has been clear that the way Americans produce and consume energy is not sustainable. Our addiction to foreign oil and fossil fuels puts our economy, our national security, and our environment at risk. Democrats are working to develop comprehensive energy and climate legislation to protect our environment and grow our economy.

It will take all of us acting together—workers and entrepreneurs, scientists and citizens, the public and the private sector—to finally address the challenge of climate change and seize our clean-energy future.

We Stand For Fair Elections:

For too long, the voices of ordinary Americans were drowned out by the clamor of special interests and the influence of a privileged few in Washington. Democrats are committed to reining in the power of special interests and ensuring free and fair elections in which every American has a voice. Now, at a time when millions of Americans are struggling to get by, corporations are poised to unleash millions of dollars in secret, special-interest advertising intended to tip the balance in elections.

A recent Supreme Court decision overturned decades of election law, dealing a huge blow to efforts to rein in the influence of corporate money on elections. Big corporations—even foreign-controlled ones—are now free to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections throughout the country. They can fund millions of dollars worth of TV ads without ever revealing who is actually paying for them, and shadow groups are already raising money to influence elections.

Democrats have fought to limit the influence of special interests and have proposed tough disclosure rules that would bring these shadow groups into the light by:

  • Establishing tough new disclosure requirements for corporate campaign spending;
  • Preventing foreign-controlled corporations and government contractors from spending money on elections; and
  • Prohibiting political spending by companies that received government bailout money.

But, to date, Republicans have prevented these reforms from even coming to a vote in the Senate. They’ve instead chosen to defend big corporations and special interests at the cost of open and fair elections.

The American people have the right to know the names and motives of those trying to influence the election of leaders who represent them. Transparent elections are the hallmark of a free society, and Democrats are committed to a democracy in which all of us have an equal voice.

We Stand For Health Care:

In March of 2010, President Obama fulfilled a promise that Democrats have pursued for nearly a century: making health care available to all Americans. In all, seven Democratic presidents pushed for health reform over the years, each one moving the ball forward—from Medicare to children’s health insurance—until today, when we finally are able to make real the principle that every American should have access to affordable health care, and no one should go bankrupt just because they get sick.

For decades Democrats have fought for the simple idea that everyone should have some basic security in health care. When President Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965, we were finally able to provide that security to America’s seniors. Then in 1997, President Clinton created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to help provide coverage for uninsured children. In 2009, President Obama extended SCHIP to cover an additional 4 million children.

The Recovery Act protected health insurance coverage for nearly 7 million working Americans who lost their jobs in this recession, helping to make insurance more affordable while providing additional support for prevention, health, and wellness.

But it took nearly a century to extend that basic measure of security to all Americans. In 2010, despite unanimous opposition from Republicans, Democrats were finally able to pass comprehensive health reform into law. The Affordable Care Act will hold insurance companies accountable, lower health care costs, expand coverage options, and improve the quality of care for all Americans.

While a host of desperately needed reforms and consumer protections have already begun to take effect, it will take four years to fully implement these reforms in a responsible way. By 2014, health reform will eliminate all discrimination for pre-existing conditions, start the process of expanding health insurance coverage for an additional 32 million Americans, and provide the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in history.

The Affordable Care Act has begun to end the worst insurance company abuses. Starting in 2010, children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied insurance.

Currently more than half of all bankruptcies in America are related to medical expenses. The Affordable Care Act will help many of these families by limiting out-of-pocket costs for those that purchase coverage through the new health insurance exchanges.

The Affordable Care Act also provides tax cuts to small business to help offset the costs of employee coverage, and tax credits to help families pay for insurance. Health reform will also lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government, reducing our deficit by over $1 trillion in the next two decades alone.

And Health reform strengthens Medicare by reducing fraud, improving quality of care, and closing the Medicare “donut hole” gap in seniors’ prescription drug coverage.

Like Medicare before it, the Affordable Care Act lays a new foundation for our country that will bring additional security and stability to the American people for generations to come.

We Stand For Immigration Reform:

America has a long and rich heritage of immigration. Democrats have always embraced our country’s diversity, but we also recognize that our current immigration system is broken. In recent years, debate about immigration has often been portrayed as a false choice between amnesty and mass deportation. The real debate over immigration is whether we keep a broken system that undermines our economy and national security or whether we work together to fix it.

Democrats know that real immigration reform will require both parties to set aside partisanship and come together around our country’s best interests. Immigration reform should reflect America’s tradition not only as a nation of laws but also a nation of fairness and responsibility, compassion, and prosperity.

For years, Democrats have attempted to work across the aisle to pass comprehensive legislation. We need to bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows and create a legal, fair, and economically viable system that holds both immigrants and employers accountable and finally to ensure that our borders are safe.

Democrats support comprehensive reform grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability:

  • Responsibility from the federal government to secure our borders: The Obama Administration has dedicated unprecedented resources to securing our borders and reducing the flow of illegal traffic in both directions.
  • Responsibility from unscrupulous businesses that break the law: Employers who exploit undocumented workers undermine American workers, and they have to be held accountable.
  • Responsibility from people who are living in the United States illegally: Undocumented workers who are in good standing must admit that they broke the law, pay taxes and a penalty, learn English, and get right with the law before they can get in line to earn their citizenship.

An orderly, controlled border and an immigration system designed to meet our economic needs are important pillars of a healthy and robust economy. Comprehensive immigration reform is essential to continue the tradition of innovation that immigrants have brought to the American economy and to ensure a level playing field for American workers. We must never lose compassion for those who wish to improve their lives through self-determination and the realization of America’s promise.

We Stand For National Security:

As the threats facing our country have evolved over the years, so too has our ability to respond to them. Our national security personnel are the most dynamic and well-trained in the world, and we must never forget the solemn duty that they fulfill for our nation. Democrats are committed to ensuring that our troops have the training, equipment, and support that they need when they are deployed and the care that they and their families need and deserve when they return home.

Defending America is not just a question of defending our borders. We must continue to support and train our military to meet the challenges of 21st-century threats. Under the guidance of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, President Obama and congressional Democrats have made modernizing our military a top priority while eliminating outdated programs and unnecessary spending.

President Obama is focused on preventing terrorism across the globe. This means continuing to invest heavily in intelligence and information sharing and promoting those networks among our allies. We will continue to strengthen our ability to keep nuclear and biological weapons out of the hands of terrorists, address efforts to better ensure border security, and augment defense of our national infrastructure.

President Obama has already made real progress on one of our key long-term national defense objectives: stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and preventing vulnerable nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. In addition, the Department of Defense released an updated Nuclear Posture Review that places new constraints on when nuclear weapons could be used and puts an increased focus on the prevention of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

President Obama has made significant steps to restore America’s image around the world by rebuilding strategic alliances with countries that share our values and face common threats.

We Stand For Open Government:

For Democrats, changing politics in Washington means ensuring that government is open, transparent, and responsive to the needs of the people. President Obama has implemented the most sweeping ethics and transparency requirements in history, building on steps taken by Democrats to limit the influence of special interests and ensure that government is accountable to the people.

Democrats believe that government should be honest, transparent, and participatory. For too long, lobbyists and special interests have held sway behind closed doors, and Americans have become skeptical that the voices of ordinary people are being heard. The Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps to restore the public’s faith in government by opening up the process of governing.

Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. We are committed to creating the most open, transparent, and accountable government in history. In the past few years, Democrats have taken steps to:

  • Bring unprecedented accountability to federal spending;
  • Rein in the influence of lobbyists in Washington;
  • Shut down the “revolving door” that allowed lobbyists to move freely from government to special interests and back;
  • Open more lines of communication with the American public; and
  • Increase cooperation across all levels of government, as well as with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector.

Departments and agencies are using innovative tools, methods, and systems to solicit public feedback, offering Americans more opportunities to participate in policy making while providing government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Openness strengthens our democracy and promotes honesty, efficiency, and effectiveness in government.

We Stand For Science & Technology:

From the airplane and the Internet, to chemotherapy and the Model T, America has a rich history of technological innovation and scientific ingenuity. But after years of declining tests scores in math and science and a Republican administration that often turned its back on science, the United States risks losing its scientific dominance. Democrats are committed to reversing this trend by investing in the technologies and jobs of the future while increasing support for more advanced research, labs, and classrooms.

In the past, government investments in scientific research have yielded innovations that have helped shape the landscape of American life—technologies like the Internet, digital photography, Global Positioning System technology, laser surgery, and cancer treatment. But over the past three decades, support for the physical, mathematical, and engineering sciences has declined at a time when other countries are substantially increasing their own research budgets.

Democrats believe that scientific research should play an important role in advancing science and technology in the classroom and in the lab. In order to compete globally, our next generation must be equipped with the tools and skills that lead to the technological innovations and scientific breakthroughs of the future. Democrats have taken significant steps to expand educational opportunities and make college more affordable for all Americans while improving the quality of our schools and our teachers.

Democrats have made historic investments in research for clean-energy technologies that are helping to create the industries of the future. The Obama Administration lifted federal restrictions on stem cell research, providing scientists and doctors with new resources to help save lives.

Democrats are working to close the “digital divide,” expanding access to high-speed broadband Internet. We recognize that broadband is an important addition to our national infrastructure by expanding access to information and education while serving as a central resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs to generate economic growth.

The Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps to use technology as an instrument to restore faith, transparency, and accountability to government. By opening up government to all Americans, we can harness the ingenuity and experience of all Americans to increase efficiency and effectiveness of government.

We Stand For Retirement Security:

Democrats believe that a dignified retirement is central to the American Dream, and its foundation is built on two long-standing institutions charged with realizing that dream: Medicare and Social Security. These two institutions represent an unbreakable commitment to American workers, and for decades Democrats have fought to defend them.

In 1935, Democrats and President Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security. In 1965, Democrats and President Lyndon Johnson created Medicare. Ever since, Democrats have continually fought to defend these cornerstones of the American Dream in the face of attempts to dismantle or undermine both.

PROTECTING SOCIAL SECURITY

For 75 years, Social Security has been an enduring promise to America’s seniors. Today it remains a safety net for seniors and offers all Americans peace of mind. In recent years, Democrats have beaten back Republican plans to privatize Social Security—plans that would have exposed the retirement funds of millions of American seniors to great risk on the eve of the financial crisis. Instead, no one lost a penny of Social Security.

STRENGTHENING MEDICARE

Medicare is the second pillar of Democrats’ commitment to Americans’ retirement security. Recently enacted health reform strengthened the Medicare trust fund, expanding its life by more than a decade. The Affordable Care Act also will improve care across the board, reduce fraud, and finally close the hole in Medicare drug coverage known as the “donut hole.” Seniors will continue to have full access to their doctors and, starting in 2011, will be eligible for free coverage for certain preventive services, including an annual wellness exam.

HELPING AMERICANS SAVE FOR RETIREMENT

Democrats are committed to making it easier for Americans to save for retirement on their own. Nearly half the workforce—about 75 million people—currently do not have employer-supported retirement plans. Democrats want to make it easier for all Americans to participate in retirement accounts at work and support a system where employees have pension portability, so workers don’t lose their pension if they change jobs.

Democrats believe that all Americans have the right to a secure and healthy retirement, and we will continue fighting to preserve both Medicare and Social Security for future generations.

We Stand For Voting Rights:

Democrats have a long and proud history of fighting for voting rights that continues to this day. One of the most important rights of American citizens is the right to vote—the right to have a say in who our leaders are and how our government should work. But the path to full voting rights for all American citizens was long and often challenging, and for far too many people, obstacles to voting remain even today.

The expansion of voting rights for millions did not happen overnight. It was the product of a continued struggle by many people over many years. In 1965, Democrat Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, a landmark piece of legislation that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans. This was an important step forward—the result of a long, hard struggle—but it was neither the end of discrimination nor disenfranchisement.

Even today, minority voters still encounter obstacles and intimidation at every step of the voting process, from registration to casting a ballot. And in many parts of the country, voters are underserved by a lack of polling places, outdated voting machines, and unnecessarily complicated laws.

In 1982, the Democratic National Committee fought for and successfully won a ruling that bars Republicans from using “ballot security” measures that target minority and under-represented communities for voter intimidation and voter suppression. In 1987 this ruling was extended by the courts to cover the entire nation and was again upheld in 2009.

Democrats continue to fight for voting rights year-round, and the Democratic Party has made voter protection an integral part of its work. We are making progress, but we won’t stop working to promote a system of elections that is accessible, open, and fair—one that ensures that every vote lawfully cast is counted.