From: Shai Sachs <shaisachs@g...>
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2005 23:13:09 -0600
Subject: Platform Format - add a Core Values Section, tighten the Preamble
To: platform05@m...


To the Members of the Platform Committee:

I am writing to address the question which the committee's Chair,
Martina Jackson, posed in a letter to Massachusetts Democrats
(http://www.massdems.org/convention05/platcom.htm). The matter of the
platform's format, posed in the letter and discussed at some length at
tonight's
Cambridge platform committee hearing, is one which interests
me a great deal. I made some comments about this matter at the
hearing, but I'd like to expand a bit on them.

My proposal is that the platform be reorganized as follows:

Preamble
Section 1: Core Values
Section 2: Families and Children, Diversity and Community
...
Section 12:
America and the World

Sections 2 - 12 would remain essentially unchanged (except as
irrelevant planks are removed and new planks are added.) The Preamble
would be made considerably shorter.

As a steering committee member of the Principles Project
(http://www.theprinciplesproject.com), I greatly value and appreciate
the perspective that the Party needs a document clearly outlining its
key values and principles. I believe such a document would be a
valuable contribution to the ongoing nationwide effort to define the
core values which are the foundation of the national Democratic Party.

However, I believe that the specific policy positions outlined in the
platform as it currently reads are very valuable. I view these
positions as a yardstick by which Party activists and voters may judge
the success or failure of the Democratic Party. If the policy
positions which we've outlined in the platform come to fruition, then
we can rightfully make our case to the voters that when they elect
Democrats, good things happen.

In short, the values and the policy positions must go hand-in-hand; we
cannot go very long without clearly identifying both key elements of
the Party's identity.

I also want to address a very interesting question Rep. Alice Wolf
asked me when I described this proposal at the meeting tonight. She
asked if I thought that the new Section on Core Values would be
similar to the Preamble. I began to answer but we ran out of time
before I could fully address the matter.

The Preamble, as it currently stands, is a bit like an executive
summary of the platform. As such, it does contain some of the core
values which I believe should go in the new "Core Values" Section.
While this is a good start, I believe it is not sufficient.

First, it does not list the Party's core values in a clear and
easy-to-read manner. Secondly, it does not meet what I consider the
four criteria for a good preamble: it must be short and it must answer
the questions "Who are we?", "What are we doing?" and "Why are we
doing it?"

As I mentioned at the meeting tonight, the preambles to the
Constitution and the Sharon Statement do a very good job of meeting
all four criteria. Our preamble is not short; it does answer the
question "Who are we"; it does answer the question "What are we
doing?"; and it does not, very clearly, answer the question "Why are
we doing it?". By my criteria, our preamble is 50% successful. In my
view the preamble should read along these lines:

"We, the Democrats of Massachusetts, in order to unite our fellow
citizens around the values and goals we cherish most, and in order to
lay before the voters of Massachusetts our promise for a better
Commonwealth, hereby adopt the following platform:"

As for the Core Values Section, writing such a Section is going to be
a very serious challenge. However I will provide a (very) rough
draft, to illustrate my notion of the basic format of the Core Values
Section:

"Section 1: CORE VALUES

As Democrats we are united and defined by a set of values which are
the foundation for all of our goals and policy positions. These
values are:

- That everyone deserves a place at the table;

- That it is our collective responsibility to ensure that everyone
enjoys the basic necessities of life;

- That it is our individual responsibility to protect and improve the
commons, including our natural environment, our shared culture, and
our public institutions.

...
"

I think that the Core Values section should include no more than
twenty such statements, and that even fewer statements - perhaps ten -
would be even better.

Now that I've outlined what Section 1 should look like, I think it is
clear to see why we need Sections 2 - 12 as well. Without Sections 2
- 12, Section 1 is really just a collection of platitudes. But with
Sections 2 - 12, our values become real, meaningful statements that
have relevance to everyone's life.

Thank you very much for your time and service. I hope to attend the
youth-focused hearing on March 8 as well to continue this dialog.

Shai Sachs
Cambridge, MA