One week before the Republican National Convention convenes in Tampa August 27, the 112 members of the convention???s Platform Committee will hold a meeting of their own in the same city to craft and vote on the party manifesto upon which Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will campaign this fall.
Overseeing the work of the Platform Committee and responsible for the final version of the document that the full convention will vote on are three well-known conservatives: Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, respectively chairman and co-chairman of the panel, and North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, who is also co-chairman.
Although the party???s national ticket is not bound in any way to executing what is in the platform and some past nominees have simply dismissed the document (Gerald Ford in 1976 and Bob Dole in ???96), the Republican platform has a special meaning to party officials in states, counties, and towns and to its grass-roots volunteers. To many of those who do the ???leg work??? of the party???sealing envelopes, canvassing precincts, fund-raising???the document is the summation of what the party stands for and why they are Republicans.
In past years, there were rancorous debates over the platform between the conservative and not-so-conservative factions of the party. But as the terms ???Republican??? and ???conservative??? grew mutually inclusive, the quadrennial GOP platform reflects the economic and cultural conservative that is the modern Republican Party.
Where the 1996 platform committee meeting in San Diego featured a spirited (but unsuccessful) assault by pro-abortion GOPers on the document???s pro-life plank by Republicans favoring abortion, it was also the last such meeting at which there was such a debate. In Tampa, the party is expected to ratify the strong pro-life language that has been in its platform since 1980, as well as its commitment to support traditional marriage that has been included since 2004.
???But it will be a more conservative document in 2012 than in ???08,??? Indiana GOP National Committeeman James Bopp, Jr., told Human Events last week. Bopp, chairman of the Platform Subcommittee on Restoring Constitutional Government, was referring to an issue he has long worked on: campaign finance and unleashing regulation over the use of campaign funds in races for office at all levels. Because the party???s nominee last time was the co-author of the McCain-Feingold legislation that strongly regulates spending in campaigns, Bopp explained, ???we never addressed the issue. But now that the nominee is not John McCain, you can count on a strong statement about freedom of expression in political campaigns based on the First Amendment.???
Indianapolis attorney Bopp noted that his panel and the five other platform subcommittees have held separate meetings. Each subcommittee, he said, ???reviewed initial drafts of their language for the full platform.??? The drafts will be addressed by the full committee at its Tampa meeting during the week of August 20 and the complete platform will be debated and voted on.
Delaware State Party Chairman John Sigler, also a member of the Platform Committee, agreed that the final party document will have ???conservative planks that reflect the concerns the party has had since 2008.??? Among those concerns Sigler suggested might be included are language about ???Operation Fast and Furious,??? the Obama Administration???s gun-running operation in Mexico that resulted in the death of a federal agent, concerns about the United Nations, growing U.S. worries about China and its attitude toward Taiwan and support of the industrial espionage in this country.
???I???m aware of no issue that should come as a surprise to any Republican who has been following the failures of the Obama addministration and other issues facing the country,??? said Sigler.
Are Ron Paul???s planks in?
For weeks there has been speculation in the press and among Republican leaders as to whether supporters of Ron Paul???s presidential campaign this year who are now on the Platform Committee may try to inject one or more of the libertarian Republican???s more controversial positions into the platform in Tampa. Sources within the Republican National Chairman???s office told us that several Paul operatives held a meeting with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus last month to discuss several concerns they wanted to be included in the document.
Bopp, Sigler, and others we spoke to said that some of Paul???s positions will be reflected in the platform. Almost sure to make it in the final document is an endorsement of auditing the Federal Reserve Board. Long a staple of Paul???s philosophy, the Fed audit recently received the blessings of the U.S. House.
It is unlikely that the Texas congressman???s call for getting the U.S. out of the U.N. or the International Monetary Fund will see the light of day in Tampa. Most likely, sources told us, the final document will include critical language about the U.N. and, very possibly, an endorsement of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers??? (R-Wash.) legislation to rescind the $100 million the Democratic-controlled Congress voted to give the IMF above its regular annual financial support. (Popular among lawmakers who fear that U.S. tax dollars will be lost in IMF bailouts for Portugal, Greece, and Ireland, Rodgers??? measure so far has 94 House co-sponsors).
One major subject of speculation is whether the Platform Committee will restore the GOP???s call for abolishing the U.S. Department of Education that was in platforms from 1980 until 2000. Twelve years ago, amid controversy at the party???s Philadelphia convention, the plank was removed???reportedly at the insistence of presidential nominee George W. Bush and with the support of then-Platform Chairman Tommy Thompson, then governor of Wisconsin.
Although many delegates no doubt want the language restored calling for closing down the 33-year-old Cabinet department, it seems unlikely that the Romney team would embrace this position. As former Mississippi Gov. and past GOP National Chairman Haley Barbour told Human Events earlier this year, ???[Y]ou don???t want to get the impression you???re against public education??????although Barbour added he agreed with restoring the abolition language to the platform ???as long as its recognized what the goal is. . .getting rid of a federal intermediary so state and local governments can operate without a giant bureaucracy.???