When Republicans gathered in Cleveland last week, they adopted a platform opposing broad changes in American society and ignoring massive issues facing the country. The platform the Democrats adopted in Philadelphia this week is more mainstream and realistic, although as a governing strategy, it too would leave some major problems unaddressed and make others worse.

The Republicans embraced an agenda hostile to gays and lesbians, hard-line on immigration, opposed to rudimentary gun safety laws and skeptical about the threat of climate change. They claimed to stand for budget responsibility but endorsed tax cuts that would exacerbate the nation’s fiscal predicament.

The Democrats, by contrast, support same-sex marriage and would shield lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in employment and housing. The delegates acknowledge that climate change is real, that human activity is a cause of it and that the country must respond aggressively. The party does not oppose fracking for cleaner-burning natural gas, but favors rules to ensure gas is extracted with care for the environment. The platform calls for removing gun-sale loopholes and funding research into reducing firearm violence without trampling on Second Amendment rights. Unsurprisingly, Democrats support President Barack Obama’s legally audacious immigration executive actions, but they also call for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Rather than force the country through another disruptive and divisive health-care policy shift, the Democrats would seek to make the Affordable Care Act successful.

The Democrats propose to raise revenue to pay for new programs, mostly by raising taxes on the wealthy. But, like the Republicans, they fail to grapple with a central looming challenge: the national debt, which, on its current course, will grow and eventually overwhelm the government as the ratio of active workers to retirees diminishes. Obama acknowledged eight years ago that reform of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare was necessary, but it did not happen and now the Democrats have made “entitlement reform” dirty words. In fact, they would add new entitlements, like free tuition even for well-off people who do not need the help.

Republicans stressed the importance of economic growth, but embraced few policies suggesting they know how to set the stage for that growth or govern a rapidly transforming 21st-century society. Democrats stressed the importance of achieving a more even distribution of wealth through a broad range of government interventions, but underplayed the importance of the private sector in generating the growth needed to address inequality. And the platform locks the party into a backward-looking position on trade that would harm the economy at home and U.S. leadership abroad.

Editorial by The Washington Post

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