Many Democrats are intensely aware of their party’s platform, as formulated each four years at the national convention. A desire to influence the document in a more progressive direction is the public and private rationale offered for giving primary voters an opportunity to vote for Bernie Sanders and delegates pledged to him, even though he has suspended his campaign and acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory. And Team Biden seems eager to accommodate some progressive platform priorities in order to unify the party going into the general election.
It’s very different on the other side of the barricades, as reflected by the startling news that the Republican National Committee has voted to simply reutilize the 2016 platform adopted four years ago in Cleveland. It’s part of a more general effort to minimize the “official business” portion of the upcoming convention, which will apparently be conducted in obscurity in the original Charlotte venue for the event, while shifting the focus to Trump’s acceptance speech, likely to be held in Jacksonville. Republicans debating platform planks cannot be allowed to distract attention from POTUS’s moment of glory, particularly since its actual platform is basically Ecce homo! (Behold the man! as the Gospel of John describes Pontius Pilate’s Latin introduction of Christ to the Jerusalem multitudes). Who needs policy statements that might handcuff the Very Stable Genius as he plots his erratic course across the landscape of American public life? In a very real sense Trump is the platform.
Still, as Aaron Blake of the Washington Post points out, the recycling of a four-year-old document creates some “awkward” juxtapositions of old language with new circumstances. For one thing, it’s full of attacks on “the administration,” meaning Obama’s, which is a bit moot now and a bit jarring in the hands of “the administration’s” current owner-occupiers. And there are also policy positions that seem a mite embarrassing in light of Trump’s actual record:
“The huge increase in the national debt demanded by and incurred during the current Administration has placed a significant burden on future generations.”
“The current Administration’s refusal to work with Republicans took our national debt from $10 trillion to nearly $19 trillion today. Left unchecked, it will hit $30 trillion by 2026.”
Since Trump took office in 2017, the deficit has ballooned, with the latest Congressional Budget Office estimate projecting it at $3.7 trillion for 2020. That’s about 18 percent of the gross domestic product, which would be the highest number since World War II.
And that’s before the pandemic — which will not be addressed at all in the old/new platform — hit and sent the debt much higher.
There are also, as Blake points out, potentially mockable sections on presidential respect for the rule of law, abuse of executive powers, relations toward U.S. allies, and many other topics.
As someone involved in the drafting of past party platforms on occasion, I can testify that it’s not that hard to update the previous model to accommodate changing circumstances or at least get rid of embarrassing language. It says something about the current value of ideas in the GOP that they are going to get far less attention from Republicans this year than the size and shape of the balloons that will drop on Trump’s adoring fans when he finishes his acceptance speech.