First Draft of the GOP Platform: What You Need to Know

Photo credit: PBS NewsHour via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Photo credit: PBS NewsHour via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

On Sunday evening, the Republican National Committee shared a 58-page first draft of the party’s 2016 platform with members of the convention’s platform committee, which will debate, add, or change provisions over the next week.

For the most part, the RNC’s draft is similar to the 2012 platform. On Common Core and other education issues, the party’s stance is still strongly against federal meddling in local affairs, even if some Republican lawmakers are less committed to a principled stance on the issue. The platform also condemns the growth of the federal administrative state at the expense of local sovereignty.

Even though the platform is not a binding document, it can be very revealing as to the party’s priorities and goals going into the general election, and therefore an important part of the convention process.

Here is a brief look at where this draft platform stands on a number of key election issues:

Marriage

The 2012 platform called for a national constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union strictly between man and woman. Billionaire LGBT activists, such as hedge fund manager Paul Singer, have been attempting to shape the platform towards a more moderate position on same-sex marriage and other social issues.

Though the RNC’s draft platform no longer proposes a constitutional amendment supporting traditional marriage, it takes a strong position against the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Instead, the draft suggests that marriage is an issue best left to the states.

CNN reports that the draft’s actual language reads: “We urge [the decision’s] reversal whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states.”

Some delegates have been quick to remind the press that this does not necessarily reflect a shift in the party’s overall stance on the issue, but rather a pivot in reaction to recent judicial and legal changes.

Neither the social conservative nor the moderate wings of the party are expected to back down, so there will likely be some drama in the platform committee meetings surrounding marriage issues.

For his part, presumptive nominee Donald Trump is reportedly staying as far away from this fight as possible.

Abortion

According to reports, the RNC’s draft does not diverge significantly from the 2012 platform’s position on abortion. Echoing Frederick Douglass’ constitutionalist opposition to slavery, the draft contends that unborn children are human beings endowed with natural rights, and that the U.S. Constitution protects these rights, directly contradicting the Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark case, Roe v. Wade.  Additionally, the proposed platform includes a call on Congress to ban sex-selection abortions.

The presumptive nominee’s position on abortion is less clear, however. In the past, Trump has claimed to be a champion for the pro-choice side, and despite his recent pro-life conversion, he is reportedly considering a pro-choice Democrat for a running make. Some Republicans who support Trump have even expressed openness to supporting a convention rebellion if his ambiguity on the issue continues.

If the platform committee keeps the anti-Roe language as it currently stands without watering it down, then conservatives will likely be less anxious going into the general election. If, however, Trump’s confused positions and muddled rhetoric, combined with the influence of pro-choice billionaires, results in a changed platform, conservative unease about 2016 will only grow.

Transgender Issues

Similarly to his inconsistency on abortion, Trump has also sent mixed messages on issues surrounding transgender issues by flip-flopping on North Carolina’s bathroom access bill. Originally an opponent of the law, after angering social conservatives Trump eventually moved toward a position of federalism.

It remains to be seen what the delegates debating the platform will decide about the party’s position on these concerns. However, if the draft’s position on same-sex marriage can serve as an example, expect the GOP platform to emphasize federalism when addressing transgender issues.

Apparently, a transgender rights group has bought a 60-second ad slot during convention coverage on Fox News. Surely, this move will add fuel to the fire, and LGBT issues will be front-and-center in platform fights in Cleveland.

Religious Freedom

In one part of the platform, the party would endorse the First Amendment Defense Act, which prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against individuals or groups which believe marriage ought to be kept to a union of one man and one woman.

This section of the platform also commends Republican governors and legislators in states that have passed acts in defense of the First Amendment, despite immense pressure from the business establishment and entertainment elite.

This language may, however, cause some distress for potential Trump VP pick and Indiana governor Mike Pence. In 2015, Pence approved pro-religious freedom legislation in Indiana, but eventually caved to pressure from the left. Since then, he has often been pilloried by social conservatives for refusing to stand up for conservative principles.

Economics

The most significant proposed changes that would make the 2016 platform different from the 2012 version pertain to trade policy. Most mainstream Republicans, both conservative and moderate, support free trade agreements with foreign countries. Donald Trump, however, has made opposition to trade deals like NAFTA or TPP a cornerstone of his campaign, and the proposed platform’s language reflects Trump’s rhetoric.

On other economic issues, the proposed platform shares many similarities with the 2012 platform, such as a commitment to a more transparent Federal Reserve and tax cuts.

Interestingly, the proposed platform includes provisions for “a commission to consider the feasibility of a metallic basis for U.S. currency.” Trump himself has flirted with the idea of a return to the gold standard, so this potentially important issue may be moving to the forefront of the 2016 campaign.

Michael Lucchese works for the American Principles Project.