On Tuesday the Democratic Party released its platform, one week after the Republicans did. While space got a two-paragraph plank in the Republican platform, only one sentence in the Democratic one is devoted to space, under the “Out-Innovating the Rest of the World” subheading: “President Obama has charted a new mission for NASA to lead us to a future that builds on America’s legacy of innovation and exploration.” That’s it.
That limited reference to space has caused some grumbling in the space community, who clearly wanted more discussion about space in the platform. However, to put it into perspective, that one sentence is actually more than in the 2008 platform, when space had to share a sentence: “We will double federal funding for basic research, invest in a strong and inspirational vision for space exploration, and make the Research and Development Tax Credit permanent.” In addition, while the Republican platform’s space section was longer, it didn’t necessarily say much more: it lacked specific policy prescriptions, whereas the one sentence in the Democratic platform references the administration’s record (for better or for worse) on space over the last four years.
Curiously, in an editorial Florida Today approves of the brief reference to space in the Democratic platform, saying it is “claiming ownership” of the administration’s policies on space. The Republicans, meanwhile, are criticized in the same editorial “for copping out on space” by not offering a distinctive space policy of their own after years of criticizing the Obama Administration’s policy.
One thing that should be kept in mind is that platforms are not binding policy documents but instead general expressions of what party members like and don’t like on various issues. The only reason we’re paying that much attention to them is that there’s little other specific information out there about where the candidates stand on space issues.