When the Entire Democratic Party Was Like Donald Trump

Read (and weep at) the 1996 party platform on immigration, crime, drugs and "zero tolerance"


That border wasn't gonna secure itself! ||| AFP

Here's your who-said-it of the day:

[W]e must remain a nation of laws. We cannot tolerate illegal immigration and we must stop it. For years […], Washington talked tough but failed to act….[O]ur borders might as well not have existed. The border was under-patrolled, and what patrols there were, were under-equipped. Drugs flowed freely. Illegal immigration was rampant. Criminal immigrants, deported after committing crimes in America, returned the very next day to commit crimes again.

OK, so the headline gives it away, but that's the Democratic Party's official platform for 1996. Mirroring that year's Republican platform, which was arguably the most stringent anti-illegal-immigration tract in the GOP's modern history, the Dem document is filled with tough talk and premature victory laps:

President Clinton is making our border a place where the law is respected and drugs and illegal immigrants are turned away. We have increased the Border Patrol by over 40 percent; in El Paso, our Border Patrol agents are so close together they can see each other. Last year alone, the Clinton Administration removed thousands of illegal workers from jobs across the country. Just since January of 1995, we have arrested more than 1,700 criminal aliens and prosecuted them on federal felony charges because they returned to America after having been deported.

So glad that problem got solved!

The whole platform is a masterpiece of Clintonian triangulation, bluster, and illiberalism, much of which has reverse-resonance today. Mere sentences after famously (and inaccurately, alas!) declaring that "Today's Democratic Party knows that the era of big government is over," the document goes on a rights- and federalism-shredding tough-on-crime bender, one that had the full contemporaneous support of 2016 candidates Hillary Clinton and (if he runs!) Joe Biden. A sampling (I will bold some bits throughout):

The ecstasy of victory. ||| Getty Images
Getty Images

Bill Clinton promised to turn things around, and that is exactly what he did. After a long hard fight, President Clinton beat back fierce Republican opposition, led by Senator Dole and Speaker Gingrich, to answer the call of America's police officers and pass the toughest Crime Bill in history. The Democratic Party under President Clinton is putting more police on the streets and tougher penalties on the books; we are taking guns off the streets and working to steer young people away from crime and gangs and drugs in the first place. And it is making a difference. In city after city and town after town, crime rates are finally coming down. […]

The Crime Bill is putting 100,000 new police officers on the street. We deplore cynical Republican attempts to undermine our promise to America to put 100,000 new police officers on the street. We pledge to stand up for our communities and stand with our police officers by opposing any attempt to repeal or weaken this effort. […]

We believe that people who break the law should be punished, and people who commit violent crimes should be punished severely. President Clinton made three-strikes-you're-out the law of the land, to ensure that the most dangerous criminals go to jail for life, with no chance of parole. We established the death penalty for nearly 60 violent crimes, including murder of a law enforcement officer, and we signed a law to limit appeals. […]

We provided almost $8 billion in new funding to help states build new prison cells so violent offenders serve their full sentences. We call on the states to meet the President's challenge and guarantee that serious violent criminals serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

How about some choice Zero Tolerance?

Uniformity always works. ||| Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd

The Democratic Party understands what the police have been saying for years: The best way to fight crime is to prevent it. That is why we fought for drug-education and gang-prevention programs in our schools. We support well thought out, well organized, highly supervised youth programs to provide young people with a safe and healthy alternative to hanging out on the streets. We made it a federal crime for any person under the age of 18 to possess a handgun except when supervised by an adult. Democrats fought to pass, and President Clinton ordered states to impose, zero tolerance for guns in school, requiring schools to expel for one year any student who brings a gun to school.

At the same time, when young people cross the line, they must be punished. When young people commit serious violent crimes, they should be prosecuted like adults. We established boot camps for young non-violent offenders. If Senator Dole and the Republicans are serious about fighting juvenile crime, they should listen to America's police officers and support the steps Democrats have taken, because they are making a difference, and then they should join us as we work to do more.

We want parents to bring order to their children's lives and teach them right from wrong, and we want to make it easier for them to take that responsibility. We support schools that adopt school uniform policies, to promote discipline and respect. We support community-based curfews to keep kids off the street after a certain time, so they're safe from harm and away from trouble. We urge schools and communities to enforce truancy laws: Young people belong in school, not on the street.

And you just know where this is going on drugs….

The war's over, soldier. You can go home. And fuck off. ||| AFP

We must keep drugs off our streets and out of our schools. President Clinton and the Democratic Party have waged an aggressive war on drugs. The Crime Bill established the death penalty for drug kingpins. The President signed a directive requiring drug testing of anyone arrested for a federal crime, and he challenged states to do the same for state offenders. We established innovative drug courts which force drug users to get treatment or go to jail. We stood firm against Republican efforts to gut the Safe and Drug Free Schools effort that supports successful drug-education programs like DARE. The Clinton Administration went to the Supreme Court to support the right of schools to test athletes for drugs. The President launched Operation Safe Home to protect the law-abiding residents of public housing from violent criminals and drug dealers who use their homes as a base for illegal activities. We support the President's decision to tell those who commit crimes and peddle drugs in public housing: You will get no second chance to threaten your neighbors; it is one strike and you're out. We are making progress. Overall drug use in America is dropping; the number of Americans who use cocaine has dropped 30 percent since 1992. Unfortunately casual drug use by young people continues to climb. We must redouble our efforts against drug abuse everywhere, especially among our children.

Earlier this year, the President appointed General Barry McCaffrey to lead the nation's war on drugs. General McCaffrey is implementing an aggressive four part strategy to reach young children and prevent drug use in the first place; to catch and punish drug users and dealers; to provide treatment to those who need help; and to cut drugs off at the source before they cross the border and pollute our neighborhoods. But every adult in America must take responsibility to set a good example, and to teach children that drugs are wrong, they are illegal, and they are deadly.

It's a gruesome document; well worth a read.