As the subcommittees and, later today, the full Platform Committee of the Republican National Convention meet, you will hear about lots of crazy planks endorsing gay conversion therapy, promising to wipe out pornography, railing against same-sex marriage, and so on and so forth through the whole list of hot-button issues. Some of these reports are premature, since crazy planks adopted by subcommittees may not survive full committee review. And beyond that, the usually obscure platform process is legendarily the playground of ideologues whose handiwork will be undone whenever possible before the final document is adopted during some sleepy afternoon session of the convention, and then ignored by the presidential nominee whenever necessary.
Here’s how Republican Establishment warhorse Charlie Black aptly summed it up in an interview with Bloomberg:
Black, who managed the convention platform three times for incumbent Republican presidents, said he expects that activists will push to pass a very conservative platform that will include some things Trump supports and others he doesn’t. Black said the billionaire can try to get a few items he cares about included or removed, and that ultimately it won’t really affect his campaign after the convention. “You let the activists go wild because that’s where they get to go wild, you talk them out of anything that’s really bad, and then you pass the platform and you go run for president and don’t pay any attention to it,” he said.
The tension between conservative ideologues and everyone else in this particular year’s platform process is at an all-time high for a couple of reasons. First, it is their only outlet after losing the presidential nomination to Trump and his Populists of the Right. Second, they can make the argument that “regular” Republicans need to hem in Trump with the most conservative platform ever written.
Current indications are that Team Trump is mostly staying out of the way and letting its past enemies and perhaps future friends have their way with the platform. That hands-off attitude reflects an implicit deal where conservative activists are avoiding any outright declarations of war — for example, the trade platform language will omit attacks on NAFTA or TPP but will sound vaguely Trumpish on the need for better trade deals.
The one thing that could ratchet up the pressure for a wing-nut-y platform even more would be additional rumors that Trump is considering a heterodox running mate — e.g., former general Michael Flynn, a registered Democrat who is having as much trouble reciting the catechism on abortion as Trump himself once had.
If veep talk subsides or if Trump lets it be known that his running mate will be some reliable movement-conservative mouthpiece like Mike Pence, the platform craziness may subside. But given the kinds of people who care most about platforms, it will most definitely include some fine oppo research material for Democrats.