Republicans Replace Party Platform With MAGA Screed


The real Republican Platform Committee.
Photo: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

The draft 2024 Republican Party platform that will be rubber-stamped by the GOP convention in Milwaukee next week represents another step, or perhaps a leap, in the devolution of these documents from a comprehensive statement of party principles and commitments to a poll-tested piece of disposable campaign literature. In both parties, we are far from the days when delegates freely (and sometimes angrily and divisively) debated platform planks. These documents were at the center of some key moments in political history, such as the 1924 Democratic debate on whether to condemn the Ku Klux Klan (defeated by a half-vote with William Jennings Bryan leading the charge for a “no” vote); Hubert Humphrey’s address to the 1948 Democratic Convention in favor of a civil-rights platform that led to a southern-delegates walk-out; and Nelson Rockefeller’s unsuccessful push at the 1964 Republican convention for a minority report condemning extremism. None of them are imaginable now that conventions are merely a general-election campaign informercial.

It’s now normal for the presumptive nominee’s campaign staff to write or at least micromanage the “party platform” to minimize public controversy and reinforce campaign messaging. But Republicans in the Trump era are blazing new paths to platform irrelevancy. In 2020 the convention simply republished the 2016 platform so that there wouldn’t be any controversy over deeply unpopular traditional Republican commitments, like the call for a constitutional amendment banning abortion everywhere from the moment of conception and retrograde attacks on marriage equality. This time around, a renominated Trump insisted on a document that omitted many of the old sources of controversy and came across as either the shortest platform ever or the longest Truth Social post imaginable.

Reduced in length from the 54 pages of the 2016/2020 platform, the new 16-page platform is predictably entitled “Make American Great Again!” Its preamble, also predictably entitled “America First: A Return to Common Sense,” is a very Trumpian statement featuring heavy and eccentric use of capitalization and a characterization of the recent past under both parties’ governance as a nation “in SERIOUS DECLINE”:

For decades, our politicians sold our jobs and livelihoods to the highest bidders overseas with unfair Trade Deals and a blind faith in the siren song of globalism. They insulated themselves from criticism and the consequences of their own bad actions, allowing our Borders to be overrun, our cities to be overtaken by crime, our System of Justice to be weaponized, and our young people to develop a sense of hopelessness and despair. They rejected our History and our Values. Quite simply, they did everything in their power to destroy our Country.

There’s nothing like this “American carnage” verbiage in either party’s past platforms; this year’s document suggest all recent history was tainted before the arrival of the “unapologetic Champion of the American People” Donald Trump.

After the preamble the 2024 platform breaks new ground in another respect, with an all-caps list of 20 “promises,” which are basically campaign talking points. While the document generally avoids details, the “promises” can be embarrassingly specific, such as “NO TAX ON TIPS,” a recent Trump gimmick intended to help him carry Nevada with its huge hospitality industry. More typical is MAGA-ized pseudo-policy talk like: “CUT FEDERAL FUNDING FOR ANY SCHOOL PUSHING CRITICAL RACE THEORY, RADICAL GENDER IDEOLOGY, AND OTHER INAPPROPRIATE RACIAL, SEXUAL, OR POLITICAL CONTENT ON OUR CHILDREN.”

The ten pages of the actual platform after the preamble and the “twenty promises” are weirdly unbalanced. One of its ten chapters covers the entire topic of “Building the Greatest Economy in History.” This includes a subsection on “Fair and Reciprocal Trade Deals,” but then there’s a whole separate chapter entitled “PROTECT AMERICAN WORKERS AND FARMERS FROM UNFAIR TRADE,” and another separate chapter on inflation. There’s also a chapter entitled “PROTECT SENIORS,” which appears mostly designed to redundantly repeat a Trumpian pledge not to cut Social Security or Medicare.

As heavily advertised, in a chapter strangely entitled “GOVERNMENT OF, BY, AND FOR THE PEOPLE,” the platform shifts the GOP from supporting a federal constitutional ban on every abortion everywhere from the moment of conception to the new, Trumpian “states’ rights,” position — though there’s a sort of ghost of the old position in a reference to a 14th Amendment “due process” right to life and liberty. And instead of the old fulminations against same-sex marriage, the new platform addresses the heavily contrived objects of latter-day homophobia and transphobia: “We will keep men out of women’s sports, ban Taxpayer funding for sex change surgeries, and stop Taxpayer-funded Schools from promoting gender transition, reverse Biden’s radical rewrite of Title IX Education Regulations, and restore protections for women and girls.”

All in all it’s hard to know what to call this “platform,” other than a snapshot of the contemporary MAGA id along with omissions of unpopular traditional conservative and Republican policy positions no one doubts they will pursue if given power. Like everything else in today’s GOP, it bends every purpose to the values, interests, and rhetoric of the Boss.

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