The Wacky World of the Republican Party Platform
The Republican National Convention is all about pomp and speeches and balloons and grand gestures. It’s basically a white guy in a suit high-fiving himself over and over for a week while thousands of reporters tweet about it. Conventions used to be where the presidential nominees would be decided upon and therefore were pretty damn important, but now they mainly exist to give parties a chance to talk about what a great guy their would-be president is. One of the few things of “substance” that occurs during the RNC is the writing of the party platform—the painstaking process of putting down on paper all the things Republicans believe in and want to make happen. This should be pretty important, right? Well, it would be, if people read it. The problem is, pretty much everyone, including the candidates, ignores it. I mean, you pretty much know what the GOP stands for by now. They like guns, the military, free markets, and religion; they hate gay rights, illegal immigrants, taxes, abortion, and Obama. You don’t need to read a document that’s tens of thousands of words long to understand that.
It’s a shame more people don’t pay attention to party platforms though. Not only do they list the policies that the party actually supports—after all, everyone says they want to talk about policies, not the horse race of campaigning—they also contain some truly outstanding nuggets. The GOP’s platform hasn’t officially been released yet, but in a rather amusing bungle, they posted a draft of it on their website by mistake. Thanks to the Politico reporters who found it, we got a glimpse into the ideas the GOP brain trust is tossing around in their smoke-filled rooms. Like, “Hey, why don’t we think about going back to the gold standard?” Or, “Let’s try to ban porn. All of it.” (I wrote about how terrifying this was during the primary.) Those are fairly terrifying ideas, but there’s also some fun stuff in there. For instance, one thing they’d like to do to reduce health care costs is tell everyone to stop being so goddamn fat. How this slimming down would happen is unclear—maybe the federal government should force people to exercise?
Not surprisingly, the platform shows that the GOP is getting more and more conservative as time goes on. Well, duh. Thing is, the platform is written and approved by party insiders and activists, not the plain ol' folks who'll vote for the candidates who (supposedly, at least) are going to try to turn the policies into reality. What do ordinary Republicans want?
Hey, there’s a website that tells us! This time around, the GOP set up a forum where people could submit ideas and vote on them. Unsurprisingly, many of the platform planks that get tossed around on the site mirror the official positions of the GOP. Under the “Marriage and Traditional Values” section there’s a bunch of posts about banning gay marriage, and the “Sanctity of Life” section is basically just NO NO NO ABORTION NO. Once you start going through the posts, however, you find that ordinary Republicans actually disagree with their party more than you’d think. (As far as I can tell, there are remarkably few trolls on the site.)
For instance, you know how the War on Drugs is an awful policy that is tearing our communities apart? Republicans hate it too. Really! But the Republican Party doesn’t seem to care about the issue—the anti-drug war posts were in the “Traditional Values” section because there’s no proper place on the site to discuss legalizing drugs. The platform writing committee literally can’t conceive of ending the drug war. Christ.
Then there’s taxes. Republicans hate taxes. The most popular idea by far on this section of the site is the Fair Tax, which is basically a national sales tax. As with the drug war, ordinary Republicans lean more Libertarian than the platform writers—plans to include a Fair Tax plank in the finished platform aren't apparent, if they exist at all. (Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson loves the Fair Tax, while Mitt Romney thinks it’ll favor rich people too much, which, c’mon dude, really? You don't like rich people now?)
More ideas float around the website and will never see the light of day in the convention, including removing the distinction between marriages and civil unions. That’s one of a few things I read that had me going, “Hey, yeah, let’s do it!” Another one was replacing the dollar bill with dollar coins. Republicans aren’t all religious nutjobs unwilling to consider useful policies—that’s just who’s in charge of the party.
Then there are the amusing, wacky posts that are less policy proposal than expression of the Republican id. There’s a rant against the “progressives who have wormed their way into the Republican Party” (???), a confused old man who complains about welfare fraud (he begins his post “Hello and I think I might like this site, so Thank-You!), and someone who doesn’t know what a scientific theory is. In some sections of the site, the discussion veers into pleads for everyone to just WORK HARDER! “You don’t work-you don’t eat,” says one poster, who is undoubtedly a dad. One guy grouches about the number of “desk jobs with computers,” then says Americans should be forced to read Where the Red Fern Grows. Less amusingly, one commenter on this “Christian Values” post said, “Athiests [sic] and the rest should realize that this nation has no need to cater to them with our laws, since they have a choice to be elsewhere.”
None of these suggestions matter, of course. These are people ranting on a website that exists to supposedly help a committee write a long document that no one will read. It’s sort of sad. Just picture an ordinary guy typing his idea into the text box, excited that finally his party will listen to him. “They need to rebuild the Navy!” he cries out excitedly (he really likes boats). His idea seems expensive and impractical and doesn’t really solve any problems, but hey, there’s at least a chance someone will read it, it’ll make it into that smoke-filled room, and all of a sudden it’s in the platform! Which no one cares about. Oh well, boat guy. At least you participated in the process.
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