Democrats Released Their Draft Party Platform Language. Something Important is Missing.

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has spoken about the importance of Buy America, but it isn’t included in the Democrats’ party platform. | Photo by Brent Danley via Flickr Creative Commons

There’s stuff about manufacturing and infrastructure. But what about Buy America?

The countdown until the political conventions is officially on — just 13 days until the Republicans kick off their festivities in Cleveland! — and we’re starting to get an idea about what sorts of issues will be an official priority for the two parties heading into the fall.

While the GOP convention is happening first, the Democrats were the first to unveil the draft language to their official party platform, which the party released on Friday afternoon.

We’ve written about the party platforms before, and why they matter. Essentially, the platforms are an official set of goals the parties use to sell their agenda to the voting public. The platforms can help drive the national discussion around the election, and can become a big part of what the new president focuses on after taking office.

There’s some positive language in the Democratic platform about manufacturing.

The Democrats prioritize infrastructure investment as part of their plan to “Create Good-Paying Jobs,” promising that they will “make the most ambitious investment in American infrastructure since President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system. … These investments will create secure, good-paying middle-class jobs today and will substantially increase demand for American-made steel and other products manufactured in the United States.”

The party also cities manufacturing as “one of the best ways to innovate, prosper, and create good-paying jobs.” Interestingly, the Democrats take presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to task over his own manufacturing record, noting that while “Trump may talk tough… he has consistently outsourced his own products. American workers deserve better.”

There’s also language in the document that not everyone is thrilled with. There’s been significant media coverage around the fact that the party does not take a stand on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the controversial trade deal between the United States and 11 other Pacific nations, including Japan.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling on the party to officially oppose the TPP, and it is a sticking point for him —some believe he will not officially back presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton unless opposition to the TPP is included in the final platform language.

Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we don't take a stance either way when it comes to the TPP, although we have some concerns, including the fact there's no binding language to address things like currency manipulation, state-owned enterprises and rules of origin.

What concerned us most about the Democrats’ proposed platform is its lack of language about another important manufacturing issue — Buy America.

While the Democrats talk about infrastructure, they mention nothing about Buy America preferences, which give American workers and companies the first shot at federal procurement opportunities. It is smart policy, as it supports American workers and companies and helps ensure taxpayer dollars remain in the United States instead of being sent overseas. Buy America is also incredibly popular among voters — 91 percent of all voters support these preferences.

Another selling point: Buy America helps ensure infrastructure projects are appropriately managed. Compare the San-Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge to that of the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York, for example.

California officials opted to offshore the steel production of the Bay Bridge project to China. The project was riddled with delays — it was completed 12 years late — and came in $3.9 billion over budget. There are still serious safety issues associated with the bridge.

The new Tappan Zee Bridge is being built with American steel. Thousands of American workers have been hired, and it is happening on schedule. The entire projected cost is $3.9 billion, and it is designed to last 100 years without major structural maintenance.

It seems like commonsense that Buy America should be in the party platform — especially since Clinton herself has talked about Buy America before, including when she gave a policy speech on manufacturing. In her official factsheet on her infrastructure plan, Clinton notes that her proposed infrastructure bank will operate with “domestic sourcing requirements for project materials,” which is essentially Buy America.

It’s also worth pointing out that while the Republicans have yet to unveil their 2016 platform, the party included strong Buy America language in the 2012 version, barring procurement from China until it joins the Government Procurement Agreement.

The full Democratic Platform Committee is scheduled to meet in Orlando on July 8 and 9 to vote on the draft. Tell the party to include Buy America language in the final document.