AUGUSTA (AP) – Maybe you can’t blame the Maine Democratic Party platform committee for trying.

In the proposed declaration of principles being put before Democratic State Convention delegates this weekend, platform drafters assert: “We adopt this platform as an expression of what Democrats in Maine support and as a guideline for elected officials in their political work.”

State party platforms, however, usually have a short practical shelf life. Whatever passions are stirred about them during a convention seldom carry over. And many candidates are unlikely to treat any platform in its entirety as binding.

Rep. Tom Allen, the odds-on favorite for the Democratic Senate nomination, said Friday the platform to be approved by the convention will probably reflect the values and concerns that party members share.

At the same time, he said, most elected officials understand that the platform is a “group” product and that it is up to individuals to make up their own minds on issues.

The 2008 Democratic package, as proposed, maintains support for Roe v. Wade, a “fair, progressive” tax system, universal health care and non-privatized Social Security.

Drawing on past convention voting, it would continue to call for taxes on nonessential services and the right to unionize and strike without replacement. It would support the United Nations and dignity for immigrants and oppose the recognition of a corporation as a person in the legal sense.

Professions of support for gay rights would be retained and bolstered, as would backing for public interest standards for broadcasters.

A provision urging resolution of the Iraq conflict would be expanded to include “pursuing diplomatic solutions” and “supporting an international stabilization force.”

The standing call for “bringing our troops home” would be revised to “bringing our troops out of Iraq in the quickest and most responsible manner possible.”

Proposed changes would include reworking a health care plank to delete reference to a single-payer insurance system and rewriting a plank on trade to specify that pro-consumer and environmental “reforms” should be sought in World Trade Organization, NAFTA and other U.S. trade agreements.

The proposed platform would scrap a standing call for creation of a “peace department” within Maine government while revising but retaining a statement of support for extended legislative terms among other electoral system changes.

Carl Pease of Windsor, a co-vice chairman of the platform committee who is slated to serve as convention parliamentarian, said close to 20 new amendments would be considered. In the end, he said, the platform might offer a glimpse at the future.

Over time, he ventured, many issues advanced at conventions eventually find their way into policy or law.

“Legally, obviously, it’s not binding at all,” he said. But given the currency that platforms may give to formative ideas, “I think they have more meaning than some people think they do.”

The 2008 package would reassert the party’s 2006 preamble:

“Since Jefferson and Jackson, the Democratic Party has led the struggle to increase democracy in our government. Democracy is the belief that the best repository of wisdom lies in the hands of an informed and educated electorate and that this electorate has a right to control the political agenda and debate those issues that are of importance to them.

“In keeping with this philosophy, Maine Democrats believe in serving the people in Maine by promoting strong communities, fairness and opportunity for all, and investment in Maine’s future. Economic opportunity and security, universal access to quality education and health care, good government, fair taxes, safety and national security, human rights, environmental protection, and international cooperation are the policies and principles for which we have long fought and will continue to fight.”

Earlier this month at the Republican State Convention, party principles ratified by delegates included support for American troops, the right to bear arms and market solutions to make health care affordable.

Among other planks were expressions of belief in the sanctity of life and support for the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

AP-ES-05-30-08 1439EDT

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