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Comparison of the Two Party Platforms on the Constitution

by Daniel Farber, published

What do the Democratic and Republican parties think about the Constitution? The table below offers a side-by-side comparison of the two party platforms on the Constitution. Many of the platform positions on constitutional issues will come as no surprise. But there are some less predictable provisions in the platforms.

For instance, the Republican platform’s only mentions of criminal procedure are a couple of proposals to limit investigation methods used by police. The Republican platform no longer calls for the Supreme Court to reverse Miranda and kindred Supreme Court decisions. Attacking the courts as “soft on crime” is no longer part of the platform either.

The Democratic platform’s lack of emphasis on affirmative action, formerly a hot button topic, is also interesting. The Democrats don’t mention affirmative action, and the GOP condemnation of it is a bit muted. That’s particularly interesting because the Supreme Court is set to hear a case this fall that could well end affirmative action in colleges and universities.

It is no secret that the parties have very different views on social issues, but the contrasts are even starker than one might expect. The Democrats endorse Roe v. Wade, which provided more protection for abortion rights than the current Supreme Court doctrine. The Republicans propose to move significantly in the opposite direction. They put forward a constitutional amendment to give fetuses the same rights that infants currently possess. Technically, that would equate abortion with infanticide and ban it under all circumstances. Similarly, the Democrats affirmatively support same-sex marriage. The Republicans, on the other hand, propose a constitutional amendment to prohibit states from even allowing it.

These are only some of the constitutional issues addressed by the two parties. The table below gives more details and covers a number of other constitutional issues.


Republican Platform

Democratic Platform

Proposed constitutional amendments

Marriage. Supports an amendment “defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Balanced budget and tax limits. “We call for a Constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for any tax increase with exceptions for only war and national emergencies, and imposing a cap limiting spending to the historical average percentage of GDP so that future Congresses cannot balance the budget by raising taxes.”

“Any value added tax or national sales tax must be tied to the simultaneous repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which established the federal income tax.”

Abortion. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

Campaign finance. “We support campaign finance reform, by constitutional amendment if necessary.”

Women’s rights. Reaffirms support for the Equal Rights Amendment


Judicial selection. “We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.” Judges should follow original intent of the Framers.No foreign law. “There must be no use of foreign law by U.S. courts in interpreting our Constitution and laws.”

Filibuster of judicial nominations. “We urge Republican Senators to do all in their power to prevent the elevation of additional leftist ideologues to the courts, particularly in the waning days of the current Administration.”

Judicial qualifications. Applauds the appointments of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.“Moving forward, we will continue to nominate and confirm . . . men and women of unquestionable talent and character and will always demonstrate their faithfulness to our law and our Constitution and bring with them a sense of how American society works and how the American people live.”

Federal power

Spending conditions. “Scores of entrenched federal programs violate the constitutional mandates of federalism by taking money from the States, laundering it through various federal agencies, only to return to the States shrunken grants with mandates attached.”

Regarding Obamacare: “We agree with the four dissenting justices of the Supreme Court: ‘In our view the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.’”

Church and state

“We support the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and of our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage, and we affirm the right of students to engage in prayer at public school events in public schools and to have equal access to public schools and other public facilities to accommodate religious freedom in the public square.”

“We believe in constitutionally sound, evidence-based partnerships with faith-based and other non- profit organizations to serve those in need and advance our shared interests. There is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country.”

Campaign finance

Repealing limits. “We support repeal of the remaining sections of McCain- Feingold, support either raising or repealing contribution limits, and oppose passage of the DISCLOSE Act or any similar legislation designed to vitiate the Supreme Court’s recent decisions protecting political speech in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”

Overturn Citizens United. [See constitutional amendments.]

Criminal procedure and anti-terrorism

“We support pending legislation to prevent unwarranted or unreasonable governmental intrusion through the use of aerial surveillance or flyovers on U.S. soil, with the exception of patrolling our national borders.”

“We will ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach.”

Applauds President Obama for banning torture.  Calls for the eventual closure of Guantanamo and more due process for detainees.


Appoint pro-life Justices.  Constitutional amendment to ban all abortions.

“We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

“The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay.” … “The President and the Democratic Party believe that women have a right to control their reproductive choices.”

Gay rights

Proposes to make it unconstitutional for states to allow same-sex marriage.“We support the First Amendment right of freedom of association of the Boy Scouts of America and other service organizations whose values are under assault and condemn the State blacklisting of religious groups which decline to arrange adoptions by same-sex couples.”

“We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples.”

2nd Amendment

The Second Amendment protects “the right to obtain and store ammunition without registration.” “We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the ill-considered Clinton gun ban.”

“We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms. We believe that the right to own firearms is subject to reasonable regulation.” Supports regulation of gun shows and assault weapons.

Executive power

Criticizes use of recess appointments.Reaffirms the constitutional role of Congress in national security matters and international affairs.

Affirmative action

“We reject preferences, quotas, and set-asides as the best or sole methods through which fairness can be achieved, whether in government, education, or corporate boardrooms.”

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