The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a platform as a declaration of principles and policies adopted by a political party or a candidate. Once every four years the members of the California Republican Party Central Committee have an opportunity adopt our state party platform. Our Republican candidates, of course, each get to set out their own individual campaign platforms.
Different state parties have platforms that vary in length and specificity, to suit the desires of each of their state committees. The California Republican Party’s currently platform is relatively short at eight pages (in larger font), as opposed to say the platform of the Republican Party of Texas which weighs in at a strapping 32 pages (in pretty small font). The Platform adopted by the last Republican National Convention is more like a book, being 55 pages in length (link).
Generally a party platform is an expository document that allows someone to read it and understand the party’s policy positions on a myriad of issues faces our state, our country, even our world. Typically party platforms are comprehensive and serve to paint a relatively thorough picture. For the most part, party platforms are internal documents. While available to the public, is commonplace for a party to create promotional materials highlighting particular areas of the platform to appeal to particular constituencies (perhaps one might create a flyer or brochure with positions from the “The Economy” section of platform when emphasizing the California GOP’s positions and ideas on private sector job creation. Alternatively, if you were looking to advance the party’s position on property rights, immigration or the Sanctity of Life, you could similarly create marketing materials consistent with those platform planks.
Of course a political party platform does not reflect the principles or policy positions of every party member or elected official – party platforms represent the views of the majority of the body which adopts it – be it the RNC delegates, CRP members, or even a County Committee can adopt a platform. In America we have a “weak party” form of government, so there is no mechanism for a party to force its nominees to adhere to the platform. A great example would be Arnold Schwarzenegger. As the state’s top elected Republican officeholder for seven years, his differences with many of the planks of the California GOP platform were vast. Still, a platform is an important defining document for any political party.
Within the party there are really two schools of thought about the platform. There are some who frankly wish there was not a platform – feel that no one reads it, and it’s only purpose is to give the liberal main stream media a once-every-four-years opportunity to beat the tar out of Republicans.
But there are many, including me, who think that a platform is an integral part of the definition of a political party. Especially as we usher in this new Proposition 14 era, where no longer do Republican voters have a closed primary to pick their nominees, it is more important than ever that party leaders on the State Central Committee lay out in expository form what the party stands for on major policy issues.
This weekend the full Platform Committee of the CRP (made up of roughly 1/6th of the State Committee) will hold its first meeting after the close of the convention’s General Session on Sunday. There, deliberations will begin concerning what revisions to make to the 2008 CRP Platform. Ultimately CRP members will consider and vote on the 2012 platform at our Spring Convention – in time for it to serve as input to those drafting the party’s national platform.
The CRP’s platform is a great document. While significantly shorter than it has been in years past (back in the 90’s it was as long as 40 pages), the Platform really gets into a good amount of specifics, as a platform should, about the party’s positions on issues. As an elected Platform Committee Member (representing the 71st Assembly District), I strongly support the re-adoption of our current platform (with slight updating as four years have passed) that has been introduced by Mark Pruner, President of the Republican County Chairmens Association. This document, which is very much in line with the principles and positions laid out in the much longer and more comprehensive national GOP platform, is one of which the California GOP can be proud.
That having been said, there is an aggressive effort underway to gut the CRP Platform, and actually make it significantly more vague on many issues, and fundamentally change the party’s position on other issues. In fact the proposal put forward by a group that cleverly calls it’s draft “The Platform For California’s Future” is seeking to radically change the commitment of the CRP’s Platform on many key issues. If you click here you can actually see a spreadsheet that compares the language of the existing platform to that of the Future group’s proposed new document.
If the goal, for specific marketing purposes, is to have a more general statement of principles for the party, there is nothing that prevents such documents from being created. Because the proponents of the “Future” platform know this, one has to assume that the goal of this group is actually to fundamentally alter the California Republican Party’s Platform for the purpose of making substantive changes in our policy positions.
Because this column is already so long, let me take just one example of how a significant policy is addressed in our current platform, and then show how it is changed in the proposed “Future” platform:
In the current platform, there is a plank entitled The Sanctity of Life that reads:
The California Republican Party is the party that protects innocent life because we believe life begins at conception and ends at natural death. We support laws that protect unborn children from partial birth abortions, sex selection abortions, tax-payer funded abortions, abortions performed as a form of birth control, or abortions on minor girls without their parent’s notification and consent.
We believe that the question of abortion is a matter that should be left to the people through their elected representatives, not usurped by the United States Supreme Court, and believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be reversed.
We support adoption as an alternative to abortion and call on lawmakers to reduce the bureaucratic burden placed on adoptive couples.
As a part of respecting the sanctity of life for disabled persons, we oppose efforts to legalize assisted suicide or euthanasia.
We support a comprehensive ban on all human cloning.
The California Republican Party supports ethical stem cell research that focuses on cures, not destroying innocent human Life.
In the proposed “Future” platform, there is no longer a Sanctity of Life Plank AT ALL. It is no longer a significant enough issue, apparently, to warrant it. Under a section called Deliver Real Health Care Reform there is a single sentence that reads, “We believe in the sanctity of human life.”
Seriously. That’s it. Could there be a more striking example of gutting our party’s commitment on a significant and important public policy issue?
And this is just one example, and a comparison of the existing platform and the one proposed by this “Future” group is replete with a great many more examples.
When you make a decision about the adoption of a new CRP Platform, you have to consider what is in place now, and what changes with the adoption of a new document.
If you believe that a party’s platform is important, I urge you to join with me and most everyone to whom I speak in the CRP, and let’s readopt our current platform.
And in case you were wondering, the media is intently watching this party discussion, and they have figured out what is going on. This is how Associated Press reporter Michael Blood describes the “Future” platform (see AP story):
“A proposed rewrite of the California Republican Party platform retreats from opposition to same-sex adoption, domestic partner benefits and child custody, avoids any mention of overturning Roe v. Wade and drops a demand to end virtually all federal and state benefits for illegal immigrants.”
It is clear that the proposed “Future” platform is intended to move the GOP to the left and it has sparked intense opposition from conservatives, many of whom have said that adopting such a platform will be “the end of the line” for the GOP in California. They have said they will look to forming a new Conservative Party in California should this platform be adopted (You can see their letter here).
Now a new survey demonstrates that the threat of a Conservative Party is not an idle one. GOP pollster Adam Probolsky recently conducted a statewide survey and found widespread opposition among Republicans and independents to eliminating the pro-life, pro-traditional marriage and immigration positions historically advocated by the GOP. Over 63% of GOP and decline-to-state voters oppose weakening the party’s positions on these issues, while only 23.6% of those voters support such positions. Moreover, nearly 60% of Republican and DTS voters approve of creating a new Conservative Party, and 50% of them would personally consider joining such a party (See all of the detailed survey information here).
In closing, this weekend’s convention will be an exciting time for us to gear up for next year’s chance to put a Republican in the White House. We’ll hear from some of the GOP candidates for President in person, and no doubt get a chance to see and hear from various surrogates for all of the candidates. We will all be able to cast a ballot in the official convention straw poll. But you will also have a chance to share input with CRP Platform Committee members, and I hope you will urge them all to reaffirm our current platform, and reject efforts (promoting by many of the same people who supported the new open primary measure) to make the Republican Party more like the Democrat Party.
Thank you for all that you do.
CRP Member and Former CRP Regional Vice Chairman