The Elephant/Donkey in the Room

By Debbie Wuthnow

Parties, Platforms, and Principles

How can a voter gain insight into a candidate when iVoterGuide doesn’t cover the race (yet!), when a candidate fails to answer the questionnaire, or before much public information is available?

That’s when it is helpful to address the “elephant”—or “donkey”—in the room!

The vast majority of candidates belong to a political party. Your member of Congress is likely to vote with his or her party 70% of the time, so it is crucial to know what that party stands for.

If you don’t know anything about your candidates, the party they have chosen to align with gives you insight into their values.

But how do you know what each party believes on the issues you care about? You must examine their mission statement. The “mission statement” of a political party is their platform, and the values stated in the platform generally reflect the values of the candidates.

So, What do the Party Platforms Say?

Since most candidates on your ballot run as either a Republican or Democrat, let’s take a look at what those two platforms say regarding foundational issues affecting our country. Most importantly, we will compare each position with what the Bible says regarding the issue.

If you live in one of the 33 states where Libertarian candidates can be on your ballot, visit the Libertarian Party’s website to view their platform and weigh it according to biblical principles.

Because the entire platforms are quite lengthy, we have created a summary of each party’s positions on six hot button issues. You can view them in detail on our Issues page. Alternatively, simply reading the preamble to each platform will provide you with an overview of the party’s beliefs and values.

The most important thing to remember is to evaluate each position in light of biblical principles. When you fear the Lord and humbly seek His knowledge and wisdom, “Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path …” (Proverbs 2:9)

As the major parties increasingly disagree on a number of foundational issues, knowing what the parties stand for is an important part of being an educated voter. Here are just three differences of great significance:

Right to Life

The Republican Platform affirms the right to life for the unborn and opposes federal funding for abortion. It also opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide. (Pages 13 and 14)

The Democratic Platform supports the legalization of abortion and commits to fighting against pro-life federal and state laws. (Page 32)

Biblical Perspective:

The Bible teaches that the unborn are human beings, human life is sacred from conception to natural death, and the government should protect innocent life. (Luke 1:36,41-44, Psalm 22:10, 51:5, Genesis 9:6)

Religious Liberty

The Republican Platform pledges “to defend the religious beliefs and rights of conscience of all Americans and to safeguard religious institutions against government control.” (Page 11)

The Democratic Platform rejects the use of “broad religious exemptions to allow businesses, medical providers, social service agencies, and others to discriminate.” (Page 48)

It is worth noting that the Republican Platform mentions God 15 times. The Democratic Platform mentions God one time.

Biblical Perspective:

Jesus taught that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). The Scriptures also make clear that the things of God take precedence when in conflict. (Acts 5:28-29, 1 Peter 3:13-17) Government is ordained of God but government cannot become God. (Psalm 2, Romans 13:1-7)

Border Security

The Republican Platform emphasizes protection for American citizens and legal immigrants. It prioritizes a secure border, opposes “any form of amnesty,” and advocates only admitting refugees who can be carefully vetted in order to ensure national security. (Pages 42, 25, and 26)

The Democratic Platform opposes immigration bans from nations who sponsor terrorists, believes in providing “a roadmap to citizenship” for illegal immigrants, and in expanding the asylum system. (Pages 61 and 62)

Biblical Perspective:

Even in biblical times, nations had clearly recognizable borders. In fact, God even determined the boundaries of nations (Acts 17:26, Deuteronomy 32:8). Under the law of Moses, while non-resident travelers were not eligible for social benefits, legal residents were, and God was clear that their rights were not to be infringed. “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 22:21)

While the party platform is a good indicator of a candidate’s beliefs, there are exceptions to the rule.

Sometimes, candidates break from their own party on certain issues. When possible, we document noteworthy examples of this occurrence on the candidate profile page in your voter guide. For example, in the 2022 General Election voter guide, we have documented each current House member’s vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and legalize same-sex marriage. Despite being in conflict with pro-traditional family principles in the Republican Platform, many Republican members of Congress voted for this bill.

It is worth noting when a candidate aligns with a faction inside their own party that disagrees with part of the platform. Examples of such factions include Democrats for Life, and Log Cabin Republicans—an LGBTQ Republican group.

Sometimes, the party leadership will act inconsistently with its platform. One example is the Republican National Committee’s Pride Coalition, formed last year. In instances like these, it is very worthwhile to note whether a candidate supports the leadership’s decision, or the platform principles.

As November approaches, voters will choose between the two “mission statements” of each party. . . and the implications they hold for our country. My prayer is that through our guide, we equip you to be both an informed voter and a wise voter, filtering everything through the teachings of Scripture. After all, this is what it means to be “Grounded in God, rooted in research.”

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