Platforms, for parties and candidates alike, are the launchpad for political fundraising, election chatter, and conection with a voter base. As the initial connection point between person and policy, many journalists and promoters will use the planks of a platform to verify the ideas and stance of the candidate in question. Similarly, this “ground-zero” style of engagement provides the candidate with opportunity to set the tone of discussion for potential backers and endorsements by allowing a vacuum-like atmosphere in showcasing their most basic ideas and beliefs. If technology has done anything for the political process, it has provided ease of access to our potential leaders’ desired contributions to policy creation and shaping.
Naturally, since Congressional candidate Steve Daines has currently out-fundraised his opponent by a 10 to 1 margin, I decided to examine the Gilan and Daines platforms in an effort to understand the financial force behind the Daines campaign. Bearing in mind that this statistic was taken very near the post-primary seasom, at which point the democratic donor base was spread between a multitude of candidates rather than a single person, a lead this distinct can be a sign of general election outcomes. In that case, a study of platforms and planks serves as definition for the proverbial boat our state may be boarding on the congressional front.
In my research, I realized that this race requires a decision based upon what we value in our representatives; relevant experience or rhetoric. Thus far, wealthy Montana donors have chosen rhetoric.
When examining each candidate’s job creation plank, a decisive issue this election cycle, both Gillan and Daines reference their small/local business experience and both camps use a certain amount of prose necessary for platforms to be engaging. But there is a fine line between making a platform interesting and not saying anything substantial. Here are each candidate’s comments on job creation, for your review;
Daines on jobs;
“Montanans understand that Government does not create jobs. Individuals, entrepreneurs, business men and women create jobs. I’ve not only talked about creating jobs, I’ve actually done it — creating hundreds of high paying jobs right here in Montana. The best way to create jobs is to give small businesses the right incentives to invest and grow, instead of creating doubt and uncertainty as Washington politicians are doing today. The path forward to create more jobs begins with less government.”
Gillan on jobs;
“A hallmark of Kim’s legislative career has been her support for small business. Whether pushing for small business tax relief so they can create jobs or promoting a worker training program so that businesses can compete, Kim knows that small businesses have always been the engine of economic growth for Montana and for America.Gillan has run a small business, and in the Montana Legislature her first and last bills were tax cuts to help small businesses create jobs. In Congress, she will find practical solutions to create a climate that small businesses can grow and succeed. This includes cutting unnecessary regulations and red-tape and providing targeted small business tax relief.Montana undoubtedly has some amazing natural resources. However, Montana’s greatest asset is and will always be its people. Kim believes that maximizing these natural resources and giving Montana workers the right training is how we will fuel the jobs of tomorrow.Now more than ever, a trained and educated workforce is essential. While we work to gain the jobs we need right now, we also have to educate the workforce of tomorrow. That is why Kim will work to make college more affordable for Montana families.We also need to make sure that the jobs of Montana’s traditional economy like farming, ranching, timber, and mining survive and that new industries like biotech and clean energy lead Montana in the 21st Century economy.Our economy won’t be back on track until every Montanan who needs a job can find one that pays a livable wage. And in Congress Kim Gillan will never stop working until we get there.”
Outside of the obvious differences in the two platforms (length, depth, clarity, contradiction), the use of tangible examples stuck out the most to me. Now, hear me out; experience is not necessarily telling of success in a public office. But, experience in policy creation/voting records reveal illustrations of values in action that require equalization by an opponent with a less concrete background through more substantial planks and ideas; this provides supporters with a spring board of excitement around the candidate. This truth was very evident in the election of our current president.
Regardless, what am I, as a voter, supposed to garner from the Daines plank, other than his position at RightNow Technologies? Gillan references tangible examples such as bolstering higher education, training programs, and the maximization of all our natural resources. All that I gain from Steve Daines’ position is that he hates the trend of Washington politicians pandering to extremes and, in doing so, stalemating any kind of positive policy creation. I agree with Steve, but that bandwagon left a long time ago, taking his concrete policy examples with it. Upon closer inspection, the three substantial sentences in the Daines plank contradict a tried-and-true value that his party, and his platform, continue to promote; less government. How, exactly, will the federal government, of which you are attempting to be paid by, provide the “right” incentives for small business investment and growth in Montana with less of itself? Gillan answers this question by briefly discussing tax breaks for small businesses. But, Daines’ thoughts are a giant question mark. Either he is referring to spending taxpayer moneyto make money in the private sector, taking hits in the revenue, or his position needs some serious rewriting. As a voter, this lack of clarity creates a certain level of “doubt and uncertainty” in my mind.
The difference between an experienced and non-experienced candidate in platform creation shows in the dynamic use of successes, failures, and goals to thicken their initial presentation. While neither Daines nor Gillan went so far as to pull from their failures, there is a gap in the level of engagement with policy creation and execution in each case that is expected, of which Daines made no effort to make up for in the easiest way possible; through position platforms.