TAMPA, Fla. — It may be a truism that politicians never read the party platform, but that doesn’t make it true.
The document adopted on Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Tampa is certainly worth reading, even at a dense 54 pages.
“The 2012 Republican Platform is a statement of who we are and what we believe as a Party and our vision for a stronger and freer America,” begins the Preamble.
What follows is one of the most restrictive, conservative, right-wing platforms any party has produced in recent memory. And, while Republican bigwigs can pooh-pooh the document, voters seem to have a keen interest in what the platform actually espouses.
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A recent poll by the Pew Research Center indicates that more Americans were interested in the nuts and bolts of the GOP platform than in the major events of this convention — the speeches by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan.
Party officials have sought to downplay the significance of the platform, treating it more as a sop to special interests than as a roadmap for the future.
But if so, someone forgot to inform the impressive roster of speakers who have ascended to the podium in Tampa, one after the other, to deliver almost word for word the exhortations and admonitions contained in the document.
“If we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen — no one will lead and that will foster chaos — or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum,” said Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state in the administration of George W. Bush. “My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead — and one cannot lead from behind.”
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Rice was one of at least four speakers to use the familiar phrase, which is enshrined in the platform.
“The Current Administration’s Failure: Leading From Behind,” is the sub-heading in a chapter titled “American Exceptionalism,” another buzzword used often by convention speakers.
The ultra-conservative social values the platform embraces also found ample reflection in the speeches of the past two evenings.
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who made a convincing run at the presidential nomination in 2008, was on board the anti-Obama bandwagon Wednesday night. But his major complaint was not the economy, it was social values.
“Of the four people on the two tickets, the only self-professed evangelical is Barack Obama,” said Huckabee. “[Obama] supports changing the definition of marriage, believes that human life is disposable and expendable at any time in the womb or even beyond the womb, and tells people of faith that they must bow their knees to the god of government and violate their faith and conscience in order to comply with what he calls health care.”
This may sound like a rant, but it closely mirrors the platform.
“We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” write GOP theorists. “The court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States … is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society.”
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As for the rights of the unborn, Huckabee was right on track.
“We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” says the document. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”
This would prevent abortion for any reason, including rape, incest, or the health of the mother.
The GOP platform also echoes Huckabee’s plaint about being forced to “violate … faith and conscience” in the name of health care:
“No healthcare professional or organization should ever be required to perform, provide for, withhold, or refer for a medical service against their conscience,” according to the GOP manifesto.
Huckabee has either read the platform, or he wrote it.
There were some quite specific items in the document that were obvious concessions to one or another group, such as the call to rein in the Fed.
“The first step to increasing transparency and accountability is through an annual audit of the Federal Reserve’s activities,” write the authors.
Anyone who has been to a Ron Paul rally can easily identify the source of this one. Chants of “audit the Fed!” are common among the Libertarian’s supporters.
This may have salved some hurt feelings among delegates who were angry that their chosen candidate was not given the chance to speak at the convention.
But it was not enough to prevent a noisy demonstration by Paul supporters from Maine, who marched through the corridors shouting, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation” — which may have had the charm of rhythm but was not, strictly speaking, accurate.
Assorted other points also found resonance among the speakers, leading to the conclusion that the platform is not all that far from the party’s heart and soul.
The right to bear arms is fully enshrined in the document, which is not surprising. What is perhaps more puzzling is the special attention given to ammunition.
“We uphold the right of individuals to keep and bear arms, a right which antedated the Constitution and was solemnly confirmed by the Second Amendment,” proclaims the platform. “This also includes the right to obtain and store ammunition without registration.”
But conservatives love their guns, and the biggest applause of the evening, aside from Rice’s appearance and Ryan’s finale, was reserved for New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, recounting how, at 18, she helped out in the family security business.
“At 18, I guarded the parking lot at the Catholic Church bingos,” she said. “Now, my dad made sure I could take care of myself. I carried a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum — that gun weighed more than I did!”
The crowd went wild, rising to their feet, whistling, cheering and clapping.
Laura Vickers, who describes herself as a retired homemaker, is not a fan of the platform. She stood on a Tampa street through hot sun and driving rain with a homemade sign reading “GOP Platform: Racist, Homophobic, Misogynistic, Xenophobic.”
Vickers is not part of any organization, and says she is doing this for her own peace of mind.
“I see what is happening, and I felt that I would be a hypocrite if I did not try and do something,” she said. “I have never seen a party so committed to fear as this GOP. They try and scare us, then promise to save us. That, I guess, makes us easier to control.”
The GOP, as represented by its platform, is a small and select group, she insisted.
“They represent the interests of the moneyed elite, who will do anything to increase their hold and holdings,” she said. “I believe this is truly, truly evil.”
When asked how she thought her home state of Florida would vote in November, she shrugged.
“It really depends on how closely people are paying attention,” she said. “But most people are too busy being afraid.”