As the Republican Convention begins today in Cleveland, a big question was how different from GOP gatherings of years past might the Donald Trump show be, and whether that would be reflected in the 2016 Republican Party platform.
Trump is a new breed who horrifies neocons with his occasionally vaguely isolationist twinges and disturbs what’s left of the libertarian contingent of the party with his total lack of interest in small government. In spite of Trump’s amazing success, which rides so much on his enthusiastic appeal to the pissed off/xenophobic voter bloc, he hasn’t been a serious right-winger in his previous life.
Still, in the vast middle, where more of the Republicans rest, there is an uncertainty. They embraced former Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012, a man who not so long before was moderately pro-choice, among other less-rigorous right-wing credentials. The nominee in 2008, John McCain, was also seen as more middle-of-the-road than either your neocons or your evangelicals. Maybe it’s because we’ve been busy having a Democratic president, but it feels like a long time since George W. Bush and his ilk were terrifying us with a potent mixture of anti-abortion, censorship, drug warring, real warring, spying and an attempted constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
The culture war and the drug war have long been declared over prematurely. If the draft of the 2016 platform that the Platform Committee passed last week is a bellweather, the fight is not over. America is just going another round.
Right-wingers demand a pandering, and Trump accepts that, and so the platform will be more socially conservative than he has ever been in his life.
GOP voters have picked a man who is on wife number three, and who was once pro-choice, and suggested that America legalize every drug. However, the vaguely Democratic, slightly civil libertarian Donald Trump is no more. And he morphed from sideshow candidate to blathering populist to real politician who can use a teleprompter and everything. With that change–and with VP pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a stately social-con choice–comes the necessity of embracing the evangelicals and the more serious right-wingers in the party. The embrace can be tepid, as long as it happens. These people demand a pandering, and Trump accepts that, and so the platform will be more socially conservative than he has ever been in his life.
The 2016 platform has been voted on and approved of by members of the the Platform Committee. Today it will be made official.
As with other convention issues, the language could in theory change, but it doesn’t seem likely to. The moderates pulled moderate, and the right pulled back hard. A scuffle over anti-gay language was lost, and the homophobes won. But that’s not all. Here are some of the more damning bits of the document, which show that America still has a whole lot to fight over. If only we can do it politely–or stay out of each other’s business. Sadly, the RNC doesn’t seem interested in doing that.
Yes, that old scourge porn is still a public menace. The 2012 platform urged the government to go after child porn (fine, good) and to be tougher on existing obscenity laws (bad). Four years later, the RNC is getting more frantic to do the evangelicals’ bidding. Porn is bad. Porn is ruining our children. Porn is most popular in Utah, and is very big in other red-friendly states. We must watch out for porn. (But guns? Not so much a public health threat, according to Republicans.)
Also be careful of transgender bathrooms. Yes, we’re still talking about that. Trump initially was bored and dismissive of this recent culture kerfuffle. But he’s got to march in lockstep with the party, even if he’s the parade officiant. The RNC platform condemns the Obama administration’s direction that schools let trans students pick the bathroom and changing rooms for them.
This is the draft language opposing Obama admin’s guidance to schools re: trans kids and bathrooms/locker rooms pic.twitter.com/OyWfVaxbB5— Liz Goodwin (@lizcgoodwin) July 11, 2016
It also wants parents to be able to choose their children’s therapists. That sounds reasonable, except when you remember that that’s a dog whistle to keeping gay conversion therapy legal, which comes courtesy of Family Research Council President and Louisiana delegate Tony Perkins.
But wait, there’s more! The RNC hasn’t forgotten about gay marriage, that great enemy during the halcyon George W. days. We’ve advanced beyond then, in the sense that the platform no longer calls for a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage, which it continued to do so even in 2012. Now it simply says American should overturn 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage at the federal level, and then have states decide on whether sex same marriage and the myriad other rights that go with it are to be permitted. It also makes sure to remind people that marriage is just for one man and one woman. But now the constitution doesn’t need to say that anymore, so that’s something.
Remarkable moment: Rachel Hoff, 1st openly gay GOP platform member, making the case for a neutral platform plank on gay marriage.— Molly Ball (@mollyesque) July 11, 2016
The effort to take opposition to same-sex marriage out of the GOP platform has failed. But not overwhelmingly.— Molly Ball (@mollyesque) July 11, 2016
Rachel Hoff, reportedly the first openly gay Republican delegate, fought a good fight to include language about accepting all families. She failed, although 20 other delegates backed her, which would have been incredible if this was 2004. On the plus side, wording that suggested biological parents are best failed to pass. Because randomly insulting adoptive parents is at least not part of the 2016 GOP platform.
Gays are creeping into the Republican Party with some level of acceptance, but only because the GOP is desperate for friends. Still, if the changing times don’t help, maybe placing a billboard with an image of Sen. Ted Cruz and Trump kissing outside the RNC in Cleveland will.
WOMEN IN COMBAT
The Republicans love the military, but it’s not for everyone, you know. Unlike 2012, all military roles are now open to women who wish to take them on. The Republican platform of 2016 will continue to positively highlight women’s roles in the armed forces while still championing their exclusion from the front lines. Even if the war on terror that they love so much doesn’t have that many front lines. Oh, and Hoff’s suggestion that the platform include a reference to LGBT victims of the Orlando shooting (i.e., ISIS targets gay and other Americans) failed. They want a war on terror, but dead gays are not good enough motivation to have one.
Though a majority of Americans support the right to use medical marijuana, an attempt to include positive language about that failed hard in the platform. Previous years have included some gung-ho drug war stuff (as well as some token nods to drug courts and help for addiction). However, actually endorsing the individual right to take something to make you feel better remains un-Republican, it seems.
after being called a gateway drug and linked to mass shootings, medical marijuana is defeated. #GOPPlatform— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) July 11, 2016
Liberty is important, after all. That means religious liberty. And religious liberty often sounds a lot like, let me discriminate against gay people for…reasons. Trump’s VP Gov. Mike Pence oversaw Indiana’s controversial bill that was accused of being targeted towards gays and not really anybody else. Whether you literally believe a baker should be forced to bake a gay wedding cake or not is one question. Whether you think the freedom to be homophobic is a vital national priority is another. And enough Republicans continue to believe it is.
Religious liberty also keeps managing to mean tearing down that wall separating church and state. The platform includes language about how God is a great inspiration for legislation and that the Bible is good school reading.
Republicans still don’t like it. According a reporter who was present for the hammering out of the platform draft, however, there was some question over the best terminology to use to refer to fetuses.
Debate on whether to use pre-born or unborn. #GOPplatform— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) July 12, 2016
The day that the GOP isn’t pro-life is the day that the partisan world completely stops turning. Even if both Trump and 2012 nominee Romney were both pro-choice in their dark past lives.
That’s the odd thing about the GOP. With some exceptions–and some shifts rightward–Trump, Romney and McCain could all be called moderates. Even George W. Bush was seen as being less purely Christian himself and more about needing to keep those evangelicals fat and happy.
The evangelical vote still matters. Trump has nodded to that by saying he’ll let the RNC pick its own platform without a fight and by picking the extremely socially conservative Gov. Pence. But younger people, even younger Republicans, do not care nearly so much about banning marijuana use or gay marriage as their older fellows. In the years to come, and let’s be honest, when older Republicans start to die off, the GOP platform will shift, or at least politely exclude some of the culture war issues. But even with the bizarreness of Trump, that year is not yet arrived. The old, the reactionary, the right must be placated still. The cost of that is, par usual, ignoring the rights of individuals who are not favored, and chipping away at rights that don’t mesh with a very limited view of a Godly nation. The cost may also prove to be a continued loss of presidential elections for the party.