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An enforceable ERA plank?

The most extraordinary departure in the 1980 Democratic Party platform is not among the minority planks initiated by Senator Kennedy (see above). This ERA plank even goes beyond an unusual Kennedy-promoted party rule in the direction of trying to make the platform more than an easily dismissed piece of paper. The party and its candidates will say something about themselves and party politics if this platform, too, turns out to be conveniently ignorable.

The new rule requires a Democratic presidential candidate to declare his acceptance of his party's platform in writing along with any reservations he may have. The plank in support of the Equal Rights Amendment actually provides a penalty for failure to adhere to it: It calls for withholding financial and political aid from all party candidates who do not support ERA.

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No other plank includes such a penalty, including anothe one that drew a sharp distinction with the Republican platform -- a plank in effect endorsing abortion as a medical procedure that should be available to ppor women under federal funding. But it is possible to imagine a future platform peppered with planks including disciplinary measures to enforce them.

Would the enforcement then be honored in the breach as often as the planks themselves have been in the past?

On the one hand, it seems only reasonable that a party should not supply aid to candidates who violate its staged goals. Yet the Democratic Party is one of such diversity that members would probably resist being bound to many planks by such means.

That these means were tied to the ERA plank may simply testify to an enduring Democratic enthusiasm for an amendment that the Republicans ironically pioneered.

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