|DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM 2000|
August 15, 2000
In the "Progress" section of the platform the party reaffirms its commitment to affirmative action, abortion rigthts, gun control and health care.
Eight years ago, many citizens had come to accept the idea that Americas best days were behind her: that crime, welfare, teen births, divisiveness and irresponsibility would continue to rise; that our air and water would continue to get dirty; and that our essential social safety net programs were fated to go broke.
Instead, with the leadership of todays Democratic Party, the past decade has seen not just a rebirth of American prosperity, but a new season of progress in meeting our challenges and living up to our obligations. Crime is down to its lowest levels in a generation the longest decline on record, teen births are down seven years in a row, adoptions are up by 30 percent, millions of Americans have moved off the welfare rolls and onto the payrolls. America is not just better off, it is better.
But Democrats know that it must be better still. So we want to use this moment to bring even more progress to America. To make America safer, healthier, more secure. To clean up our environment and our politics. To make the job of parents easier and to bring us together as one America.
Democrats believe governments most basic duty is to establish law, order, and freedom and keep citizens safe from crime. When crime is rampant, families are forced off the streets and behind closed doors. When children are ducking for cover, they have a hard time reaching for their dreams. When people are afraid to walk in their own neighborhood, communities are robbed of the basic sense of decency and togetherness. When an overburdened justice system lets thugs off easy, good parents have a harder time teaching their children right from wrong.
Bill Clinton and Al Gore took office determined to turn the tide in the battle against crime, drugs, and disorder in our communities. They put in place a tougher more comprehensive strategy than anything tried before, a strategy to fight crime on every single front: more police on the streets to thicken the thin blue line between order and disorder, tougher punishments including the death penalty for those that dare to terrorize the innocent, and smarter prevention to stop crime before it even starts.
They stood up to the gun lobby, to pass the Brady Bill and ban deadly assault weapons and stopped nearly half a million felons, fugitives, and stalkers from buying guns. They fought for and won the biggest anti-drug budgets in history, every single year. They funded new prison cells, and expanded the death penalty for cop killers and terrorists.
Here are the results of that strategy: serious crime is down seven years in a row, to its lowest level in a quarter-century. Violent crime is down by 24 percent. The murder rate is down to levels unseen since the mid-1960's. The number of juveniles committing homicides with guns is down by nearly 60 percent.
But we have just begun to fight the forces of lawlessness and violence. We cannot go back to the finger-pointing and failed strategies that led to that steep rise in crime in the Bush-Quayle years. We cant surrender to the right-wing Republicans who threatened funding for new police, who tried to gut crime prevention, and who would invite the NRA into the Oval Office. Nor will we go back to the old approach which was tough on the causes of crime, but not tough enough on crime itself.
With Al Gore as President, America wont go back. We will move forward. We will fight to increase the number of community police on our streets. We will fight to give police the high-tech tools and the training they need to keep our streets safe and our families secure. We will toughen the laws against serious and violent crime to restore the sense of order that says to children as well as to criminals: dont even think about committing a crime here. We will reform a justice system that spills half a million prisoners back onto our streets each year many of them addicted to drugs, unrehabilitated, and just waiting to commit another crime. We will make schools safe havens for students to learn, and for teachers to teach. We believe that in death penalty cases, DNA testing should be used in all appropriate circumstances, and defendants should have effective assistance of counsel. In all death row cases, we encourage thorough post-conviction reviews. We will put the rights of victims and families first again. And we will push for more crime prevention, to stop the next generation of crime before its too late.
Victims Rights. We need a criminal justice system that both upholds our Constitution and reflects our values. Too often, we bend over backward to protect the right of criminals, but pay no attention to those who are hurt the most. Al Gore believes in a Victims Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution one that is consistent with fundamental Constitutional protections. Victims must have a voice in trial and other proceedings, their safety must be a factor in the sentencing and release of their attackers, they must be notified when an offender is released back into their community, they must have a right to compensation from their attacker. Our justice system should place victims and their families in their rightful place.
Ending the Revolving Door. We have to test prisoners for drugs while they are in jail, treat them for addictions, and break up the drug rings inside our prison system. Drug and alcohol abuse are implicated in the crimes of 80 percent of the criminals behind bars. Al Gore believes we should make prisoners a simple deal: get clean to get out, stay clean to stay out. And this deal should be non-negotiable.
We should do even more to make sure that when criminals leave jail, they leave a life of crime behind. We should impose strict supervision of those who have just been released on parole and insist that they obey the law and stay off drugs. In return, we should help them make it in the workplace. Al Gore believes that ending the revolving door, in combination with more determined efforts at prevention, will both combat crime and ultimately reduce rates of incarceration that are so tragically high in many communities.
Fighting the Scourge of Drugs and Gangs. We should send a strong message to every American child: drugs are wrong, and drugs can kill you. We need to dry up drug demand, hold up drugs at the border, and break up the drug rings that are spreading poison on our streets. We should open more drug courts, to speed justice for drug-related crimes; double the number of drug hot-spots where we aggressively target our enforcement efforts; expand drug treatment for at-risk youth; and make sure that all of our school zones are drug-free zones by stiffening the penalties to those who would use children to peddle drugs, and those who would sell drugs anywhere near our schools. We know that to dry up drug demand, we must provide drug treatment upon demand. To empower communities protect themselves from organized criminal conduct, the Democrats support giving communities relief against gang related crimes. We should be tough on drugs no matter which form they take and should not discriminate in sentencing.
Strong and Sensible Gun Laws. A shocking level of gun violence on our streets and in our schools has shown America the need to keep guns away from those who shouldnt have them in ways that respect the rights of hunters, sportsmen, and legitimate gun owners. The Columbine tragedy struck Americas heart, but in its wake Republicans have done nothing to keep guns away from those who should not have them.
Democrats believe that we should fight gun crime on all fronts with stronger laws and stronger enforcement. Thats why Democrats fought and passed the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban. We increased federal, state, and local gun crime prosecution by 22 percent since 1992. Now gun crime is down by 35 percent.
Now we must do even more. We need mandatory child safety locks, to protect our children. We should require a photo license I.D., a full background check, and a gun safety test to buy a new handgun in America. We support more federal gun prosecutors, ATF agents and inspectors, and giving states and communities another 10,000 prosecutors to fight gun crime.
Ending Racial Profiling. Good policing demands mutual trust and respect between the community and the police. We shouldnt let the acts of a few rogue officers undermine that trust or the reputation of the outstanding work of the vast majority of our dedicated men and women in blue. That is why we need to end the unjust practice of racial profiling in America because its not only unfair, it is inconsistent with Americas community policing success, it is a violation of the basic American principle of innocent until proven guilty, it views Americans as members of groups instead of as individuals, and it is just plain shoddy policing. We believe that all law enforcement agencies in America should adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward racial profiling.
Hate Crimes. The very purpose of hate crimes is to dehumanize and stigmatize not only to wound the victim, but also to distort the American conscience. Every crime is a danger to Americans lives and liberty. Hate crimes are more than assaults on people, they are assaults on the very idea of America. They should be punished with extra force. Protections should include hate violence based on gender, disability or sexual orientation. And the Republican Congress should stop standing in the way of this pro-civil rights, anti-crime legislation.
Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Citizens. Our most vulnerable deserve special protections. We need tougher penalties against all sex offenders. We should raise the penalties for those who commit crimes against the elderly. We should give federal prosecutors new tools to fight fraud and abuse. We should move aggressively to shut down fraudulent telemarketers who target the elderly. We believe that we must overcome constitutional objections and reenact a strong new law to combat violence against women. And if you commit any violent crime in front of a child, you should pay an even higher price for it: more time in jail.
Ending Domestic Violence. Violence in the home is an often silent terror in the lives of millions. We have to make sure that all battered women have the legal protection and the support they need to be safe in their own communities, and to keep their attackers away. By stopping domestic violence, we can also break the generational cycle of violence. We know that when children grow up in abusive families, they are more likely to become abusers themselves.
Stopping Crime Before it Starts. Democrats also know that all Americans are better off if we stop crime before it claims new victims, rather than focusing single-mindedly on pursuing perpetrators after the harm is done. That is why we are firmly committed to sound and proven crime-prevention strategies that are good for all Americans. Solid investments in children and youth, in job creation, and in skills development are powerful antidotes to crime.
Judges and the Supreme Court. We will fight to fill the vacancies on the federal bench to make sure we have enough judges to promptly decide all cases and to end Republican delays in the Senate that have kept qualified nominees, especially women and minorities, waiting literally for years for a Senate vote. Democrats oppose efforts to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction to decide critical issues affecting workers, immigrants, veterans and others of access to justice. And, unlike Republicans, Al Gore will appoint justices to the Supreme Court who have a demonstrated concern for and commitment to the individual rights protected by our Constitution, including the right to privacy.
Valuing Our Families
Government does not raise children, families do. But government can help make the hardest job in the world being a parent a little easier. Today, families come in all different shapes and sizes, but they all face similar challenges. Government should be on the side of parents making it easier for them to raise their children and pass down their values. With Democrats in the White House, we have passed the Family and Medical Leave law, which has been used by 20 million Americans to care for a newborn baby or a sick loved one. Al Gore led efforts to create the voluntary TV ratings system, to put the V-chip in all new TV sets sold in America so that parents can stop the assault of graphic images in their childrens lives, and to insist on a quick and easy way for all Internet users to be able to make offensive Web sites off limits to their children.
Balancing Work and Family. If we are to value our families, we have to make much more progress. Strengthening Americas families means helping parents make time for their children. We need to find new ways to help parents balance work and family so that they will have time to pass on the right values to their children. Already millions of Americans have benefited from the Family and Medical Leave law, now we need to expand it so that it covers parent-teacher visits and childrens routine medical appointments. And we will extend the law to cover more employers so that more working families enjoy this vital protection during times of family and medical need. We should urge employers to make workplaces more parent-friendly; explore strategies, including voluntary initiatives and policy reforms, that can provide income support for workers during periods of family and medical leave; call on parents to be more involved in their childrens learning; and fix the "marriage penalty" so that parents can spend more time at home and less time trying to make ends meet. We should not penalize families by forcing couples to pay more in taxes just because they have made the sacred commitment of marriage to one another. We should also provide grants to community and faith-based organizations to help couples prepare for and strengthen their marriage and relationships, become better parents, and reduce domestic violence.
Child Care and Early Childhood Education. Democrats believe in making child care more affordable through targeted tax cuts and other investments, in improving the safety and quality of child care centers, in ensuring that children start school ready to read, and in giving a helping hand to parents who decided to stay at home with their children. We need both higher pay and higher standards for child care workers and they need to get training so that they can do their jobs well. It is a priority of the Democratic Party to fully fund Head Start.
Eldercare. The Baby Boomers are the first generation with more parents than children. Many families are doing all they can to help for and care for their elderly parents. These families are doing the right thing and America must be on their side. We must do more to support the families and individuals who are caring for relatives suffering from long-term illnesses at home or at institutions. We should provide Americans with long-term care needs and their caregivers a $3,000 tax credit. We should hold those who care for our nations elderly to the highest standards and improve these workers wages, benefits, training, and working conditions. We should make sure that every community in the country has a program to offer caregivers critical information, referrals, and respite from the difficult work of caring for a loved one.
Fatherhood. Promoting responsible fatherhood is the next critical phase of welfare reform and one of the most important things we can do to reduce child poverty. Three times more men acknowledged paternity in 1998 than in 1993. This is a first step toward giving to a child the emotional and financial support a father must give to merit the name.
Democrats believe in cracking down on deadbeats who abandon their children. So we must require all fathers who owe child support to pay or go to work; strengthen child support enforcement, including increasing the amount of child support that gets paid directly to poor families; and make it harder for parents who owe child support to get new credit cards. However, we also recognize that, in addition to deadbeat dads there are dead broke dads. Thus Democrats support helping those men who want to reconnect with their families and who want to become a positive force in the lives of their children.
Responsible Entertainment. Parents are struggling to pass on the right values in a culture that sometimes seems to practically scream that chaos and cruelty are cool. Democrats have worked to give parents the tools to have more control over the images to which their children are exposed. Parents, along with the entertainment industry, must accept more responsibility. Many parents are not aware of the resources available to them, such as the V-chip technology in television sets and Internet filtering devices, that can help them shield children from violent entertainment. The entertainment industry must accept more responsibility and exercise more self-restraint, by strictly enforcing movie ratings, by taking a close look at violence in its own advertising, and by determining whether the ratings systems are allowing too many children to be exposed to too much violence and cruelty.
Democrats call for the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine by the Federal Communications Commission. We believe in public support for the arts, including the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Public and private investment in creativity and cultural heritage the arts and humanities is an investment in the education of our children, in the well being of our communities, in the strength of our economy, and in spreading the dream of democracy throughout the world.
Accessible, Affordable, Quality Health Care
For fifty years, the Democratic Party has been engaged in a battle to provide the kind of health care a great nation owes its people. We reaffirm our commitment to take concrete, specific, realistic steps to move toward the day when every American has affordable health coverage. And we will not rest until the job is done.
During the past eight years, Democrats have helped Americans keep their doctor when they lose or change jobs. We passed the Child Health Insurance Program to help states provide health coverage to millions of uninsured children the largest single investment in childrens health in a 35 years. We kept solvent a Medicare system that was scheduled to go bankrupt this year. We brought immunization rates to an all-time high.
In contrast, the Republican Party has refused to use one penny of the surplus to secure the solvency of Medicare and has supported plans that would increase Medicare premiums, force elderly patients into HMOs and raise the eligibility age for Medicare to 67. They have adamantly opposed the Patients Bill of Rights and proposed instead a mirage "Patients Bill of Goods" that would leave out a real guarantee of the right to see a specialist and assurances that you can go to the nearest emergency room and leave out 135 million Americans in the cold.
Instead of the guaranteed, universal prescription drug benefit that Democrats believe should be added to Medicare, Republicans are proposing to leave to insurance companies the decisions about whether and where a drug benefit might be offered, what it would include, and how much it would cost. Studies suggest that less than half of seniors will be able to use this benefit.
Universal Health Coverage. There is much more left to do. We must redouble our efforts to bring the uninsured into coverage step-by-step and as soon as possible. We should guarantee access to affordable health care for every child in America. We should expand coverage to working families, including more Medicaid assistance to help with the transition from welfare to work. And we should also seek to ensure that dislocated workers are provided affordable health care. We should make health care accessible and affordable for small businesses. In addition, Americans aged 55 to 65 the fastest growing group of uninsured should be allowed to buy into the Medicare program to get the coverage they need. By taking these steps, we can move our nation closer to the goal of providing universal health coverage for all Americans.
A Real Patients Bill of Rights. Medical decisions should be made by patients and their doctors and nurses, not accountants and bureaucrats at the end of a phone line a thousand miles away. It is time we meaningfully addressed concerns about the quality of care and about the decline of patient, access, trust, and satisfaction. People need to get the health care they need, when they need it, without having to leap endless hurdles. Americans need a real, enforceable Patients Bill of Rights with the right to see a specialist, the right to appeal decisions to an outside board, guaranteed coverage of emergency room care, and the right to sue when they are unfairly denied coverage.
Al Gore will work with a wide range of stakeholders to develop a national strategy to reduce medical errors, including appropriate public reporting, analysis of root causes, and development of error prevention models. Democrats also believe that doctors, nurses, and other health care practitioners must be allowed to advocate freely on behalf of their patients.
Protecting and Strengthening Medicare. It is time we ended the tragedy of elderly Americans being forced to choose between meals and medication. It is time we modernized Medicare with a new prescription drug benefit. This is an essential step in making sure that the best new cures and therapies are available to our seniors and disabled Americans. We cannot afford to permit our seniors to receive only part of the medical care they need.
Democrats believe Medicare is worth fighting for and worth saving. With the number of Americans on Medicare expected to double in the next 35 years, Al Gore has stepped up and taken responsibility by proposing a Medicare Lock Box that would insure Medicare surpluses are used for Medicare and not for pork barrel spending or tax giveaways. We should also modernize Medicare by promoting competitive prices and remain vigilant against Medicare fraud.
Fighting Diseases. Our newest medical miracles give us the chance to make significant progress in battling some of the most dreaded diseases. Democrats believe that we must invest in biomedical research and continue to fight and conquer everything from AIDS to Alzheimers to Diabetes to Parkinsons to spinal cord injuries. We must speed up the development of new drugs and get them to patients sooner while maintaining essential health and safety standards. We should allow stem cell research to make important new discoveries. We should expand prevention and widen access to clinical trials. And we should devote more resources to eliminating disease disparities among racial and ethnic groups.
Our nation must do all it can to focus its efforts on fighting HIV and AIDS. A top priority for Democrats will be the continued investment in research, prevention, care, treatment, and we are deeply committed to the search for a cure. Democrats continue to support important programs such as the Ryan White CARE Act, the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program, and incentives to return Americans with HIV/AIDS to work.
For a generation, America has been waging a war on cancer. Al Gore believes it is time we started winning it. Because of astonishing scientific breakthroughs, the day that America is cancer-free is within reach. With the completion of the draft of the Human Genome, we are on the verge of cracking cancers secret code. Democrats believe in taking advantage of this progress by doubling federal cancer research.
Fighting Teen Smoking. Al Gore is committed to dramatically reducing teen smoking in America. It is time we treated underage tobacco use like the health crisis it is. Thats why we need to give the FDA full authority to keep cigarettes away from children. We must match the power of big tobaccos advertising dollars with a counter-campaign that tells kids the truth about the dangers of smoking and the risks of cancer to themselves and to others through second-hand smoke. And we should double our investment in efforts to prevent teen smoking and break the deadly grip of nicotine addiction.
State attorney generals across America have recovered billions of dollars from the tobacco industry for damages caused by tobaccos advertising directed at our children and for the death and disease created by cigarettes. Now Republicans are trying to stop the United States Justice Department from pursuing similar litigation to hold the tobacco companies accountable for the damages they have caused to American taxpayers. We believe it is wrong to insulate the tobacco companies from liability for their wrongdoing.
Mental Health. Mental illness has long been concealed behind a shroud of silence and shame. Mental illness affects nearly one in five Americans each year, but nearly two-thirds of those Americans affected by mental disorders do not receive help. When mental illness goes untreated, undiagnosed, and unmentioned, people are denied the opportunity to live full lives and our nation is denied their full contribution. Democrats believe in supporting families caring for loved ones with mental illness by strengthening our community mental health system, providing access to full mental health coverage for every child in America, giving teachers and schools more mental health resources, and ensuring that mental illness and physical illness are treated equally by our nations health plans.
Disabilities. Democrats believe that we must fight to ensure that people with disabilities can meet their full potential and participate fully in the American dream. For people with disabilities, accessing affordable health insurance is the greatest barrier to returning to work. That is why we fought to assure that people with disabilities do not lose their health care when they return to work. Democrats also support tax credits and grants to pay for rehabilitation and work-related expenses for people with disabilities. And we support all efforts to implement the Supreme Courts Olmstead decision and to make personal assistance services and supports available to people with disabilities in their homes and communities because no one should be kept in a nursing home or institution if they prefer to live in the community with the necessary supports.
The Democratic Party stands behind the right of every woman to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of ability to pay. We believe it is a fundamental constitutional liberty that individual Americans not government can best take responsibility for making the most difficult and intensely personal decisions regarding reproduction. This years Supreme Court rulings show to us all that eliminating a womans right to choose is only one justice away. Thats why the stakes in this election are as high as ever.
Our goal is to make abortion less necessary and more rare, not more difficult and more dangerous. We support contraceptive research, family planning, comprehensive family life education, and policies that support healthy childbearing. The abortion rate is dropping. Now we must continue to support efforts to reduce unintended pregnancies, and we call on all Americans to take personal responsibility to meet this important goal.
The Democratic Party is a party of inclusion. We respect the individual conscience of each American on this difficult issue, and we welcome all our members to participate at every level of our party. This is why we are proud to put into our platform the very words which Republicans refused to let Bob Dole put into their 1996 platform and which they refused to even consider putting in their platform in 2000: "While the party remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing its historic principles and ideals, we also recognize that members of our party have deeply held and sometimes differing views on issues of personal conscience like abortion and capital punishment. We view this diversity of views as a source of strength, not as a sign of weakness, and we welcome into our ranks all Americans who may hold differing positions on these and other issues. Recognizing that tolerance is a virtue, we are committed to resolving our differences in a spirit of civility, hope and mutual respect."
Protecting Our Environment
Democrats know that for all of us there is no more solemn responsibility than that of stewards of Gods creation. That is why we have worked for eight years to produce the cleanest environment in decades: with cleaner air, cleaner water, and a safer food supply; a record number of toxic waste dumps cleaned up; new smog and soot standards so that children with asthma and the elderly would be able to live better lives; and a strong international treaty to begin combating global warming in a way that is market-based and realistic, and does not lead to economic cooling.
From the Redwood forests to the Florida Everglades, from the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone to Yosemite, we have protected millions of acres of our precious natural lands. We stopped development in Americas last wild places. Teddy Roosevelt saw our national parks as the playground of the people there for average families to enjoy with camping and hiking. Todays Republicans see them as the playground of the powerful there for big businesses to exploit with drilling and mining. The Republicans have tried to sell off national parks; gut air, water, and endangered species protections; let polluters off the hook; and put the special interests ahead of the peoples interest. They are wrong. Out natural environment is too precious and too important to waste.
Al Gore is committed to restoring the Everglades; protecting the coasts of California and Florida and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling; and preserving our untouched forests, including the Tongass, from logging and development. With regard to public lands, Democrats believe that communities, environmental interests, and government agencies should work together to protect our public resources, critical habitat areas, and wildlands while ensuring the vitality of local economies. We will work together to find land-based alternatives and decontamination technologies that will permanently end the ocean disposal of contaminated dredge spoils.
Once Americans were led to believe they had to make a choice between the economy and the environment. They now know that this is a false choice. But there is a real choice to make in 2000: whether we will protect our environment in ways that are practical and achievable or go back to the policies that led to generations of environmental devastation and degradation.
We have to do whats right for our Earth because it is the moral thing to do. It involves all of our lives from the simple security of having clean safe, reliable, affordable electricity for your home; to Americas ability to build and sell the best new clean cars, trucks, and technology to the world; to guarding our children from the summer smog that is made worse by global warming, and securing for our grandchildren the expectation of a joyful array of seasons that we took for granted when we grew up ourselves.
Democrats believe we must give Americans incentives to invest in driving more fuel-efficient cars, trucks, and sport utility vehicles; living in more energy-efficient homes, and using more environmentally-sound appliances and equipment. We need to clean up aging power plants. We must invest in rebuilding and improving our transportation infrastructure and ensure that we adequately maintain these systems for the future. Americans need and rely on diverse transportation sources, and our public infrastructure priorities should reflect that diversity.
We should invest in roads, bridges, light rail systems, cleaner buses, the aviation system, our national passenger railroad, Amtrak, and high-speed trains that would give Americans choices freeing them from traffic, smog-choked cities, and being held hostage to foreign oil. We should ensure that urban communities affected by the presence of airports which create increased levels of noise and pollution be provided mitigation support to address these concerns. We must also ensure that we maintain adequate public funding and public administration of publicly operated and delivered transportation services, without gutting collective bargaining agreements or long-standing worker-protections. In these and other areas, we will encourage project labor agreements, fostering labor-management cooperation, quality development, and efficient use of public monies. Today, technology has advanced to the point that we can drive the kind of cars we like and live in the kind of houses we like while being kind to the earth. We should use some of our budget surplus to help Americans take advantage of these new opportunities. With the right investments, these new environmentally-friendly technologies can create new jobs for American workers.
America is blessed with abundant low-cost sources of coal, petroleum, and natural gas, but we must use them wisely and ensure that changes in the energy sector promote a workforce whose skills are expanded, utilized, and rewarded. Democrats believe that with the right incentives to encourage the development and deployment of clean energy technologies, we can make all our energy sources cleaner, safer, and healthier for our children. This responsibility includes disposing of nuclear waste in a scientifically-sound manner in accordance with standards designed to protect human health and the environment.
And we must dramatically reduce climate-disrupting and health-threatening pollution in this country, while making sure that all nations of the world participate in this effort. Environmental standards should be raised throughout the world in order to preserve the Earth and to prevent a destructive race to the bottom wherein countries compete for production and jobs based on who can do the least to protect the environment. There will be no new bureaucracies, no new agencies, no new organizations. But there will be action and there will be progress. The Earth truly is in the balance and we are the guardians of that harmony.
Eight of the ten hottest years ever recorded have occurred during the past ten years. Scientists predict a daunting range of likely effects from global warming. Much of Florida and Louisiana submerged underwater. More record floods, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires. Diseases and pests spreading to new areas. Crop failures and famines. Melting glaciers, stronger storms, and rising seas. These are not Biblical plagues. They are the predicted result of human actions. They can be prevented only with a new set of human actions big choices and new thinking.
Working with the Americas great automakers, Al Gore has led the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles which has helped spur the development of high-performing cars that get far better gas mileage while meeting emissions standards. Now we need to give Americans help in being able to afford these new cars getting them out of the showrooms, onto the streets, and into our driveways. At the same time, we are committed to improving fuel economy in a way that preserves and creates jobs for American workers, and delivers products that consumers want to buy. To further this kind of progress, we now need the oil industry to join us in producing much cleaner fuels that will allow automotive environmental equipment to achieve the maximum possible reductions in emissions.
We have also created a new 21st Century Truck Initiative to build highly-efficient heavy duty pick-up and delivery trucks, even long-haul 18-wheelers. Now we need to work in partnership with industry to create a new generation of mass transit and a new generation of cleaner, more reliable power systems. Al Gore wants to swap every dirty, smoke-belching city bus for a cleaner, less polluting one.
Renewing Our Democracy and Campaign Finance Reform
In the year 2000, along with all the other big choices they have to make, Americans will be making a choice about whos running their country: the people or the special interests, the voters or the lobbyists, the many or the few. We must restore Americans faith in their own democracy by providing real and comprehensive campaign finance reform, creating fairer and more open elections, and breaking the link between special interests and political influence.
The Republicans will have none of this. Instead of limiting the influence of the powerful on our politics, they want to raise contribution limits so even more special interest money can flow into campaigns. The big-time lobbyists and special interest were so eager to invest in George W. Bush and deliver campaign cash to him hand-over-fist that he became the first major party nominee to pull out of the primary election financing structure and refuse to abide by campaign spending limits.
In this years presidential primaries it became clear that the Republican establishment is violently opposed to John McCains call for reforming our democracy. Al Gore supports John McCains campaign for political reform. In fact, the McCain-Feingold bill is the very first piece of legislation that a President Al Gore will submit to Congress and he will fight for it until it becomes the law of the land.
Then he will go even further much further. He will insist on tough new lobbying reform, publicly-guaranteed TV time for debates and advocacy by candidates, and a crackdown on special interest issue ads. Most boldly of all, Al Gore has proposed a public-private, non-partisan Democracy Endowment which will raise money from Americans and finance Congressional elections with no other contributions allowed to candidates who accept the funding. This will let our politics be free from the influence of special interests and let Americans believe in their own democracy again.
Just as our country has been the chief apostle of democracy in the world, we must lead by example at home. This begins with our nations capital. The citizens of the District of Columbia are entitled to autonomy in the conduct of their civic affairs, full political representation as Americans who are fully taxed, and statehood. Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. Citizens since 1917, but the islands ultimate status still has not been determined and its 3.9 million residents still do not have voting representation in their national government. These disenfranchised Citizens who have contributed greatly to our country in war and peace are entitled to the permanent and fully democratic status of their choice. Democrats will continue to work in the White House and Congress to clarify the options and enable them to choose and to obtain such a status from among all realistic options. Democrats believe the people of Guam, American Samoa, and the Virgin Islands have a right to be fully self-governing. We are committed to fair treatment in economic and social policies as well as improvement in federal-territorial relations in accordance with the needs of each area. Elected representatives of these areas will be regularly consulted on policies, laws, and treaties that affect the areas and we will ensure fair treatment for our fellow Citizens in the territories.
Building One America
Democrats believe that God has given the people of our nation not only a chance, but a mission to prove to men and women throughout this world that people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, of all faiths and creeds, can not only work and live together, but can enrich and ennoble both themselves and our purpose. Americas diversity is expanding, yet amidst important signs of progress, there is widespread evidence of persistent discrimination, growing racial segregation of our schools and neighborhoods, and dream-crushing barriers to opportunity. We cannot we dare not remain a nation divided. Our vision is of an America healed of hatreds and misunderstanding, with equality and opportunity so rich that legacies of discrimination and exclusion will be found only in history books, and not in our communities. To that end, Democrats support creation of a commission of distinguished scholars and civic leaders to examine the history of slavery, discrimination, and exclusion suffered by all minorities; to report on the continuing effects of those tragic chapters in our history; and to make appropriate recommendations on behalf of the American people.
Welcoming Our Newest Americans. Immigrants enrich the tapestry of American life, making our economy more vibrant, our workplaces more productive, and our nation stronger. We believe that all levels of government, in partnership with the private and voluntary sectors, must devise and pursue a comprehensive immigrant integration agenda that will make the newest Americans full participants in the nations mainstream. Thats why Democrats support reforming the INS to provide better services, and investing the resources needed to reduce the backlog of citizenship applications from nearly two years to three months. Democrats also support increased resources for English language courses, which not only help newcomers learn our common language but also help us promote our common values. And, we believe that family reunification should continue to be the cornerstone of our legal immigration system.
Democrats believe in an effective immigration system that balances a strong enforcement of our laws with fair and evenhanded treatment of immigrants and their families. The Clinton-Gore administration provided long overdue leadership in dramatically improving border management and law enforcement, including a major expansion of the Border Patrol and curbs on abuses of the asylum process. We also recognize that the current system fails to effectively control illegal immigration, has serious adverse impacts on state and local services, and on many communities and workers, and has led to an alarming number of deaths of migrants on the border. Democrats are committed to reexamining and fixing these failed policies.
We must punish employers who engage in a pattern and practice of recruiting undocumented workers in order to intimidate and exploit them, and provide strengthened protections for immigrant workers, including whistleblower protections. Doing so enhances conditions for everyone in the workplace. We believe that any increases in H1-B visas must be temporary, must address only genuine shortages of highly skilled workers, and must include worker protections. They must also be accompanied by other immigration fairness measures and by increased fees to train American workers for high skill jobs. The Democratic Party is committed to assuring an adequate, predictable supply of agricultural labor while protecting American farm workers who are among the poorest and more vulnerable in our society. We reject calls for guest worker programs that lead to exploitation, and instead call for adjusting the status of immigrants with deep roots in the country. We should have equitable asylum policies that treat people the same whether they have fled violence from the Right and Left. And we support restoration of basic due process protections and essential benefits for legal immigrants, so that immigrants are no longer subject to deportation for minor offenses, often committed decades ago without opportunity for any judicial review, and are eligible to receive safety net services supported by their tax dollars.
Fighting for Civil Rights and Inclusion. Passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of the proudest moments of our nations history and a sterling testament to our aspirations as a people. Yet, despite undeniable progress over the last several decades, inequality and polarization nevertheless persist in far too many American workplaces, schools, and communities. Over the last eight years, we have fought hard to end discrimination. We have increased funding for civil rights enforcement so that the laws on our books are not just pleasant words, but pledges of justice. Al Gore has strongly opposed efforts to roll back affirmative action programs. He knows that the way to lift this nation up is not by pulling the weakest down, but by continuing to expand opportunities for everyone who wants to achieve. The Clinton-Gore Administration has appointed the most diverse administration in American history, demonstrating that pursuing excellence means including all of the best that our nation has to offer.
Al Gore and the Democratic Party know that much remains to be done. We must remember we do not have an American to waste. We continue to lead the fight to end discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation. The Democratic Party has always supported the Equal Rights Amendment and will continue to do so, and we are committed to ensuring full equality for women and to vigorously enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act. We support continuation of the White House initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Because every American counts, we will continue to work toward a census that counts every American. We support continued efforts, like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to end workplace discrimination against gay men and lesbians. We support the full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of the nation. This would include an equitable alignment of benefits. We recognize the importance of new battles against forms of discrimination and disadvantage that stand as barriers to communities and families, such as environmental injustices and predatory lending practices. And we will fight for full funding and full staffing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other civil rights enforcement agencies so they can do their job of ensuring that America lives up to its creed of equal rights and equal opportunity for all.
The Democratic Party proudly upholds its tradition of support for the first Americans. The sovereignty of the American Indians and Native Alaskans and a strong affirmation of the government-to-government relationship are basic to our approach to the tribal governments. As we move into the 21st century, we have to renew our trust obligations and work to improve the lives of the many Indians who live in terrible poverty. The Democratic Party pledges to continue our work to make a difference in the lives of those who occupied this land before us. We affirm the legal and political relationship between the United States and Native Hawaiians as an important step in the continuing process of reconciliation. We will work to pass legislation establishing a process for Native Hawaiians to reorganize a governing body, freely chosen, expressing their rights to self-determination. The justice we provide the first Americans is a measure of our nations character, and Democrats believe we should build on the progress of the last eight years.
Forging Common Ground. American citizenship entails both rights and responsibilities and we need to ask every American from every walk of life to give something back to their communities and their country. We are committed to expanding AmeriCorps so that more Americans both serve their country and further their educations.
America will become much more diverse in the coming century. But while much is changing, much remains. Our common civic culture one grounded in the values most Americans share: work, family, personal responsibility, individual liberty, and faith ties us together. Our common ground our shared civic institutions makes us whole. In the years to come, we must celebrate our diversity and focus on strengthening the common values and beliefs that make us one America one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.