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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, September 03, 2012

EMPTY PLATFORMS

"The platforms are largely irrelevant, except as evidence of how confident a party feels on a topic"

The Republican National Party has its party platform finished - the positions and ideas that it wants the public to know it stands for - and among the various policy positions is this one:
We congratulate the social networking sites that bar known sex offenders from participation. We urge active prosecution against child pornography, which is closely linked to the horrors of human trafficking. Current laws on all forms of pornography and obscenity need to be vigorously enforced.
This is in the 'plank' or section dealing with the internet. And the Democratic National Party is working on its platform to reveal at their convention, which will include at least something about gun control. Mike Lillis writes at The Hill:
The draft language of the Democrats' 2012 platform — set for a final vote this week in Charlotte, N.C. — argues that current safeguards protecting the public against gun violence are insufficient and urges "an honest and open conversation about firearms."

The document also calls for "reasonable regulation" governing guns, including laws banning assault weapons and requiring all gun sellers — not just licensed dealers — to perform background checks on potential buyers.
In these two areas, and some others, the parties are reverting to type. Yet, these two areas are largely impossible to apply. Aside from a basic opposition to child porn, something that's about as bold and visionary as being in favor of bacon and surely shared by the Democratic Party, the Republican platform is calling for something that it would be challenged to accomplish in the real world. Eugene Volokh wrote recently:
even if overall world production of porn somehow improbably falls by some substantial amount, will that seriously affect the typical porn consumer’s diet? Does it matter whether you have, say, 100,000 porn titles (and live feeds) to choose from, or just 25,000?
Essentially, shutting down porn on the internet is like herding a million cats, and while I agree that at least some internet porn - there is some truly ghastly stuff out there - needs to be crushed like a bug, doing so just means it pops up somewhere else. The global nature of the internet makes it virtually impossible for anyone to really police it effectively.

He points out that really working hard to shut down porn on the internet, at least the really awful stuff, is virtually impossible and would at its most effective effort probably end up another "war on x" debacle costing billions and throwing hosts of people in prison for looking at dirty pictures. Because you can't really shut it off at the supply side, and you can't really cut it off at the access side:
It’s true: Going after cyberporn isn’t really that tough — if you require every service provider in the nation to block access to all sites that are on a constantly updated government-run “Forbidden Off-Shore Site” list. Of course, there couldn’t be any trials applying community standards and the like before a site is added to the list; that would take far too long. The government would have to be able to just order a site instantly blocked, without any hearing with an opportunity for the other side to respond, since even a quick response would take up too much time, and would let the porn sites just move from location to location every several weeks.

Sure, that sounds like a violation of First Amendment procedural rules, even when the government is going after substantively unprotected obscenity
And since its so easy to just change the name of your website and get access to the site name list, all that this would do is make it harder to find the site, not block it off.

So while in theory crushing the worst of internet porn and vigorously enforcing current laws is noble, its impractical, or at beast not going to amount to much.

Similarly, the Democratic Party's push for gun control isn't very likely either. While polling is conflicting, the general and overall trend in the United States is toward more open gun ownership and purchase. Some polls show people want more gun control, some show that people want more freedom. And court decision after court decision is supporting the 2nd amendment as protection of gun ownership as self defense.

Not only that, but in recent years, calling for gun controls and restricting 2nd amendment rights is political poison, it gets you voted out of office (which is the most reliable poll in existence). So Democrats can put anything they want about gun control on the party platform but its not going anywhere.

And that's the fact about party platforms in general. They are a sort of broad statement of consensus among the party leaders, but aren't binding. A party's platform doesn't compel anyone in the party to obey it or carry out its statements. It doesn't even necessarily represent what a given candidate in that party thinks about any specific topic. Which means the platform isn't really anything except a publicity stunt, a way of trying to encourage voters to sway one direction or another. They'll include wish lists, things that aren't practical, hot button issues meant to appeal to voters that some, perhaps many candidates differ on, and generally aren't significant at all.

The only thing you can really say about a platform is that if someone runs on it and shrugs it off while in office, they're not very honest and don't have much integrity. Which is true about nearly ever politician that has walked the earth, sadly.

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