The Democratic National Convention was held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in mid-August. As is tradition for the quadrennial event, the convention was first and foremost an occasion for the party to rally around its presidential nominee, ex-Vice President Joe Biden. Biden also officially announced his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris.
Senator Harris served as the district attorney for the city of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011, as well as the attorney general for the state of California from 2011 to 2017, before becoming a senator in 2017. Senator Harris is also the third female vice presidential candidate representing a major party in United States history, after Geraldine Ferraro (Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984) and Sarah Palin (John McCain’s running mate in 2008). Both campaigns were unsuccessful in their respective presidential bids, which would make Harris the first female vice president in United States history should the Biden/Harris ticket win the presidential election this November.
While the DNC serves a symbolic purpose, with the party officially announcing their candidate for president and attempting to spark enthusiasm around them, it also serves a more practical purpose: the unveiling of the official party platform.
Being that the Republican Party has decided to reuse its platform from 2016, the new Democratic platform is the only offering put forth that addresses the current situation in America, including the COVID-19 pandemic and recent Black Lives Matter movement.
The Democratic platform is heavily influenced by a report put together by a joint commission of individuals selected by the former Vice President and Bernie Sanders, the progressive Senator from Vermont who was Biden’s main adversary during this year’s primaries. The purpose of this report was to give a voice to the growing progressive wing within the party, and to attempt to unify the party behind one candidate and one platform. Based on the policies outlined in the official DNC platform, as well as the active participation of progressive politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Sanders himself in the convention, it appears that this intended purpose was achieved.
Highlights from the Party’s Platform
Below is a breakdown of some of the pertinent elements of the Democratic Party’s platform, with an emphasis on issues that are likely to affect seniors.
The platform proposes that a public option be made available for health insurance coverage. This option would not be “Medicare for All,” nor would it constitute a single payer system, but it would add a more affordable form of health coverage to the health insurance marketplace. The platform would work toward an “eventual goal” of achieving universal healthcare coverage, but this is not a stated goal of the Biden/Harris platform.
The platform proposes that the age of eligibility for Medicare be lowered from 65 to 60. It also promises to implement a cap on out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for seniors, though no dollar amount is given for this cap. Additionally, the platform proposes an increase in the money allocated toward assisting Americans with disabilities. This would include increased financial support for group homes and nursing homes, which would specifically support residents and staff. The platform recommends a new minimum wage of $15 per hour for all employed caregivers, and a $5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers.
Finally, the platform promises free COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination (once a vaccine is ready).
The platform addresses climate change in-depth, though it does not endorse anything resembling a “Green New Deal” as proposed by the progressive wing of the party. Instead, the platform focuses on the reversal of the Trump administration’s rollbacks of environmental protections, and the creation of jobs that focus on “clean energy generation, energy efficiency, clean transportation, advanced manufacturing, and sustainable agriculture across America.”
DNC Chair Tom Perez released a statement that claims, “Social Security, Medicare, and paid leave programs represent our values as Democrats.” The party platform expands on this concept, prioritizing the bolstering of Social Security both in terms of maintaining the benefits offered to present-day seniors and investing in the program so future retirees receive full benefits. This would be done by increasing taxes for the wealthy, particularly Americans whose income exceeds $1,000,000 per year.
Democratic Platform Summary
The Democratic Party’s platform appears to focus on achieving higher quality living conditions for seniors, those with disabilities and frontline healthcare providers, all at the expense of the American taxpayer (particularly the wealthiest among us). This trade-off has largely been the position of the party for decades, and the 2020 platform offers some specific ideas concerning legislation that could embody this ideology. In particular, the party seeks to overturn generous tax cuts given by the Trump administration to high earners, so that Medicare and Social Security can be fully funded for future generations, and those that enjoy such benefits will not see a reduction in these services.