We write regularly about the importance of voter education. It is not enough for people simply to vote; people must vote wisely.
Candidates for President are already making plenty of headlines. In Arkansas, candidates will file for office in less than two weeks. As the 2016 election season approaches, we wanted to take a moment to talk about an often-overlooked resource: party platforms.
Arkansas currently has four registered political parties, according the Secretary of State’s website:
- The Democratic Party of Arkansas
- The Green Party of Arkansas
- The Libertarian Party of Arkansas
- The Republican Party of Arkansas
Each political party has a platform–a set of beliefs to which it holds. While not every candidate adheres 100% to his or her party’s platform, party platforms are an excellent way voters can understand a little more about the kinds of candidates who run for office.
Below is the preamble of each party’s platform and a link to the entire platform. I strongly encourage you to read each party’s platform; it may help you decide which party or candidate most closely aligns with your values.
The Democratic Party of Arkansas
The preamble to the Democratic Party of Arkansas’ platform reads,
The fundamental principles of the Democratic Party of Arkansas are the promotion of individual freedom, equality of opportunity, and a healthy and vibrant democracy. All are essential if Arkansas is to reach its full potential.
A spirit of individualism is at the root of the unmatched success of the American experiment and has been a defining characteristic of Arkansas since the state’s founding 176 years ago. That individual initiative generally works for the benefit of society as a whole. At certain times, however, the interests of the individual must be balanced with a healthy respect for the benefit of the common good. Thus, in singular fashion, the Democratic Party accepts that unchecked individualism must not be allowed to violate the common good and to create fundamental inequities in society.
Ours is a party that celebrates individual initiative and entrepreneurialism but balances those principles with the good of the community. We believe that society is healthiest when all are contributing to a project larger than themselves. In particular, the Democratic Party of Arkansas believes that the community has the greatest responsibility to step in to take care of those who are most vulnerable in our society, especially those at the dawn of their lives and those at their life’s twilight.
The Democratic Party of Arkansas is also committed to the assurance of equality of opportunity for all Arkansans. First and foremost, this involves the Party’s commitment to work to remove legal structures that treat individuals inequitably based on their socioeconomic status or group membership. But, simply removing legal barriers does not rectify patterns of social inequality; as it has been throughout the modern era, the Party is therefore committed to working proactively to ensure such equality. The denial of equal educational opportunities or access to basic health security has also shown itself to be a barrier to individuals’ full flourishing in the economic and social arenas. Arkansas’s Democratic Party commits itself to leadership in promoting equality in these realms as well.
Arkansans have a responsibility to participate fully in their democracy in the voting booth and through using their constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and association to make their views on issues known to their fellow citizens and their elected officials. On the other hand, because public servants enter into a sacred trust with citizens, government has a responsibility to be as good as the people of the state through using their tax dollars wisely, valuing the input of all citizens, respecting those citizens’ civil liberties, and operating ethically.
This combination of an engaged citizenry and a decent and dignified government will ensure the promotion of the common good. While recognizing that there are some within our party who, for reasons of personal conscience, may disagree on some of the specific issues as stated within this platform, we recommend the following guided by these principles:
The Green Party of Arkansas
The preamble to the platform of the Green Party of Arkansas reads,
The Green Party of Arkansas has adopted the Ten Key Values of the Green Party of the United States as its basic operating philosophy and endeavors to apply these principals to guide our policy positions on every issue, whether that issue is local, state, national, or international. The Ten Key Values are: Democracy, Social Justice, Environmental Wisdom, Non-Violence, Decentralization, Community Based Economics, Gender Equality, Respect for Diversity, Personal Responsibility, and Future Focus.
The Green Party of Arkansas (GPA) is an open political party with no barriers of any kind to those who wish to participate. We seek to improve the political life of the State of Arkansas and the United States of America by participating in the elections and offering candidates for office at every level who will espouse and promote a progressive political agenda on the campaign trail and in office.
Our party is not satisfied with business as usual, is not satisfied with seeing bad candidates elected to office while consoling ourselves that their alternatives were worse. We will advocate directly our positions on justice, equality before the law, the protection of the environment, and the freedom of the individual. Politicians who craft their positions by reading the polls have no place in the Green Party of Arkansas. That path that has been taken by other parties, we will have no part of it. Courage is required in every endeavor, and the path of the reformers of bad policy and the pioneers of new policy is difficult. Courage and selfless dedication to the principals of a progressive political agenda are absolutely required.
The Green Party of Arkansas holds that enhancing the well-being of all the members of society – in this country as well as around the world – is the only proper role of government. We reject the seeking of hegemony over other people and other nations. We reject granting unfair advantages to the wealthy – often based on the false theory that doing so is helpful everyone else. We reject the theory that corporations, or any non-human entity, can be considered as a “citizen” – only flesh and blood human beings can be citizens and only they are rightfully accorded the rights and protections enshrined in the U S Constitution. Creations of humans are not human, and the creations of humans are only useful when they serve the needs and legitimate desires of humans. We reject government that responds only to the desires of the wealthy and the powerful.
We believe in allowing the maximum freedom of the individual that is consistent with the rights of society at large. However, we recognize that with rights come responsibilities, and we accept that in some cases the rights of the individual must be regulated to protect those of society. Finally, we also believe that all life on Earth, our only home, also has rights, and that to deny those natural rights that belong to all living things is to deny to ourselves and our posterity the benefits that come to us by virtue of living on a healthy planet where all living things are respected and cared for. The future of our children and our species depends absolutely on the care that we exercise in managing our environment and the wisdom that we show in preserving the health of the Earth.
The Libertarian Party of Arkansas
The preamble to the Libertarian Party of Arkansas’ preamble reads,
As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.
We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.
Consequently, we defend each person’s right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.
In the following pages we have set forth our basic principles and enumerated various policy stands derived from those principles.
These specific policies are not our goal, however. Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.
The Republican Party of Arkansas
The preamble to the platform for the Republican Party of Arkansas reads,
We believe the United States Constitution is the foundational framework for our federal government and we will support and defend its precepts. We believe that the Constitution is a literal document and that it is as relevant today as the day it was written.
We will protect and defend the State of Arkansas against usurpation of the State’s rights as guaranteed by the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution and the rights of Arkansas’ citizens as guaranteed by the Ninth Amendment to the US Constitution.
We, as members of the Republican Party of Arkansas, believe the Platform expresses the will of the people and provides direction to our elected officials. Therefore, this Platform is our blueprint for government of the people, by the people and for the people based upon the following principles:
- THE POWER OF FAITH IN GOD
- THE SANCTITY OF LIFE
- INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY AND INITIATIVE
- INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM AND LIBERTY SECURED BY A LIMITED GOVERNMENT
- PRIVATE PROPERTY
- LOWER TAXES TO PRODUCE ECONOMIC GROWTH
- STRONG NATIONAL DEFENSE
- THE PERSONAL RIGHT TO OWN AND BEAR ARMS
- THE EQUAL AND JUST ENFORCEMENT OF THE LAW
- SEPARATE AND EQUAL BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT