Democratic platform ain’t subtle

The platform that goes before the Democratic National Convention this week isn’t based on subtle themes and gentle reminders.

Colorado Senate President Peter Groff, a member of the national panel that drafted the platform, says the document does not mince words on a variety of controversial issues.

For example, it calls for an end to the practice by insurance companies of denying coverage to people with "pre-existing conditions" — an issue the 2004 platform tiptoed around.

"This is really kind of putting a laser on a lot of different issues and policy concerns across the country, saying this is exactly where the Democratic Party will take you," said Groff, of Denver.

The platform calls for an end to labeling schools as failures based on achievement test scores even as the federal government makes little money available to help improve those schools — a major complaint of educators.

The platform also calls for a massive effort to develop new forms of energy, promising that millions of "green jobs" will be created in the process, many of them in the hard-hit auto industry. Energy likely will be a key issue in the campaign, particularly as Republicans emphasize the need to explore new areas for drilling.

The 57-page platform was finished earlier this month at a meeting in Pittsburgh. It is likely to pass without major dispute at the convention, said Michael Yaki, a San Francisco lawyer who is the national platform director. No minority planks have surfaced, Yaki said.

A platform is not as specific in its prescriptions as a legislative bill, Yaki said. But this year people are looking for answers on key issues, he said.

"The American people are tired of the generalities," Yaki said. "The urgency people feel in America is palpable and real and they want change, they want to know how we’re going to change it and they want to know it now."

The health care issue, for example, came up repeatedly at the 1,600 community meetings the platform committee held around the country, Yaki said. Some people told of being stuck in dead-end jobs because a pre-existing condition would make them ineligible for insurance with a new employer.

Education is another issue where people want specifics, Yaki said.

"I don’t think anyone, including President Bush, believes No Child Left Behind is really working," Yaki said, referring to Bush’s signature education initiative. That program requires the testing that many states use to rate schools.

"People are getting frustrated (on the education issue) because it doesn’t seem like anything is getting done," said Rep. Mark Ferrandino, of Denver, also a member of the platform committee.

(E-mail Berny Morson of the Rocky Mountain News at morsonb(at)