Greg Sargent had a nice item up yesterday pushing the press to question Mitt Romney over torture, and specifically whether Romney would overturn Barack Obama’s executive order prohibiting Bush-era torture techniques. Fair enough.

But there’s a parallel question for Obama and, perhaps more importantly, for Democratic activists and party-aligned interest groups: will the Democratic platform repeat its strong 2008 language not only condemning torture but also supporting civil liberties? Language which Obama, in office, has sometimes wound up far away from? As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the 2008 Democratic Party platform is promised to “close the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay” and “revisit the Patriot Act” and reject sweeping claims of “inherent presidential power.” The key promise? “We will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools to hunt down and take out terrorists without undermining our Constitution, our freedom, and our privacy.” (I recommend reading the full platform plank, under the heading “Reclaiming Our Constitution and Our Liberties).

Now, as I said then, it’s not as if voters will be eagerly reading the platform; once they’re published, no one really pays attention to these documents once the opposition researchers are done with them, usually realizing there’s little there to exploit. But despite that, it’s not unusual for serious fights to break out over various planks, and for groups within the party to work hard to win the positions they care about.

Which leaves the question: do significant groups within the Democratic Party care about civil liberties and other such issues? Or did they only care about those things when George W. Bush was in the White House? The truth is that there are good questions to ask both parties about these issues — and for those who care about them within both parties, an opportunity to get involved and try to do something about it.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

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Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.