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How the GOP cut 50 pages from its platform in a day

Committee members are divided on whether the changes will revive or wreck the party


Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. Associated Press/Photo by Mariam Zuhaib

How the GOP cut 50 pages from its platform in a day

Former President Donald Trump phoned in to a Monday morning meeting of 112 delegates in Milwaukee ahead of next week’s Republican National Convention. The delegates represented all 50 states and six territories—one man and one woman from each—on the party’s platform committee.

By 9 a.m., the committee members were seated in a conference room. At 9:45 a.m., Trump called to endorse new platform text that he worked on himself. By noon, the vote was completed and a new platform adopted, condensing a formerly weeklong process into a few hours, delegates told WORLD.

In years past, the delegates received the platform text and then split up into subcommittees to parse the language, discuss amendments, and bring them back to the committee. This year, co-chairwoman Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., took the platform straight to a vote. It passed 84-18.

“There was a big push from the Trump campaign to create a clear and concise document,” Tamara Scott, an Iowa delegate and state director for Concerned Women of America, told WORLD. This year was her second time on the platform committee. “I think we can all agree with that, but it must also convey our core principles and carry the voice of authentic Republican grassroots. And this platform doesn’t do that.”

The new platform is 16 pages long, a heavy cut from the 66 pages passed in 2016. (The Republican National Committee did not convene the platform committee in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) Many delegates agreed on the need for more concise, direct language to give Republican candidates nationwide a springboard to victory. Others expressed concern that leaders ignored or even subverted the delegates while eliminating important statements on life and marriage.

“In years past, we’d get [the platform text] in orientation,” Scott said. “You’d spend the night in your hotel room, reading it through, scouring it, coming up with ideas to improve it or correct it. This week we were not given that opportunity. Once in the meeting, we had speakers who had helped write it. It was written by Trump’s campaign and experts in their fields, which is fine. Usually, we get to speak with those experts and collaborate with them. Instead, we were presented a document to pass.”

Gayle Ruzicka is a longtime RNC delegate from Utah. She said she received a schedule for the platform committee’s meetings that gave subcommittees time to weigh in on the proposed language on Monday, with the full group reviewing any amendments on Tuesday and Wednesday. Instead, she showed up to the meeting on Monday morning and had her phone, smartwatch, and computer taken away, something she said was new for this year.

“At the end of the two days, you thoroughly discussed and reviewed and researched the platform,” Ruzicka said, recalling past years. “We were a real committee, getting to vote in subcommittee and then voting as a group. On Monday, they just passed it out, had some speakers, and then made this surprise motion. I’m just astounded that they did this. I don’t think it’s good for the party. I don’t think it’s going to help us win. I think they’re discouraging Christian voters. But I don’t know who’s behind this.”

Ruzicka said she has tried to contact Sen. Blackburn and learn who made the decision to skip the subcommittees, but her questions have not been answered. According to an RNC announcement in May, Ed Martin, Russ Vought, and Randy Evans headed up the platform committee leadership this year. Evans, the former ambassador to Luxembourg, and Vought, former Office of Management and Budget director, worked in the Trump administration. Martin is the president of the Phyllis Schlafly Eagles and the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund. Unlike previous years, the authors did not sign their names at the end of the platform, so delegates do not know who wrote it.

Page 15 of the 16-page document states: “We proudly stand for families and Life. We believe that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that no person can be denied Life or Liberty without Due Process, and that the States are, therefore, free to pass Laws protecting those Rights. After 51 years, because of us, that power has been given to the States and to a vote of the People. We will oppose Late Term Abortion, while supporting mothers and policies that advance Prenatal Care, access to Birth Control, and IVF (fertility treatments).”

In a statement, former Vice President Mike Pence called the new wording “a profound disappointment.”

“The updated platform also cedes this fight to the states, leaving the unborn in California and Illinois to the far-left’s extremist abortion policies,” Pence wrote in a statement. “The right to life is not only a state issue; it is a moral issue, and our party must continue to speak with moral clarity and compassion about advancing the cause of life at the federal, state and local level. … Unfortunately, this platform is part of a broader retreat in our party, trying to remain vague for political expedience.”

The new language removes any reference to “unborn child,” which Ruzicka deemed a significant departure.

“The language that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed has been included for years,” Ruzicka added. “[Pro-family activist] Phyllis Schlafly was responsible for getting that in many years ago. Of course, she’s no longer with us. And this year they just took it all out. It’s embarrassing.”

Marilyn Musgrave, the vice president of government affairs with Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said the new plank on abortion is not a total loss. The platform has included support for the 14th Amendment for the past 40 years, and it remained this year. Musgrave, who served on the platform committee in the past, said she wished for stronger federal language but still supports the overall position.

“It means that the Republicans are committed,” Musgrave told WORLD. “The 14th Amendment language means that unborn children are recognized as human beings with rights. Under the 14th Amendment, it’s Congress that enacts and enforces its provisions. So the Republican Party remains strongly pro-life at the federal level, and that’s very critical at the national level.”

SBA has launched a $92 million initiative to reach 10 million voters this election cycle with the message that the Democratic Party has an extreme pro-abortion position. Musgrave contended that the pro-life cause can be a winning issue for candidates under the new platform language.

Scott, the delegate from Iowa, worries that the new platform leaves vague a formerly rigorous section on marriage. This year’s platform states, “Republicans will promote a Culture that values the Sanctity of Marriage, the blessings of childhood, the foundational role of families, and supports working parents.” The 2016 platform defined marriage as between one man and one woman and specifically expressed support for traditional marriage and opposed the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

“It’s created confusion for a lot of our people who are now concerned we’re no longer pro-life,” Scott said. “Marriage is not defined when it should have been clearly defined. What pro-life means wasn’t defined.”

Kip Christianson, a wealth adviser, is a delegate this year from Minnesota for the second time. This year is his first time on the platform committee. He called the new language concise, hopeful, and strong, and he was one of the 84 who voted to approve it immediately.

“This platform is crafted to win elections as opposed to crafted by various lobbying interests, getting specific language in the platform over a series of decades,” Christianson said. “That makes the platforms bloated and doesn’t speak a clear, hope-filled victorious, optimistic future, forward-looking platform message that can get candidates elected up and down the ballot no matter where they are in this country. This is a platform for victory.”

In Christianson’s home state of Minnesota, Democrats control the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the legislature. In 2023, Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that guarantees a right to abortion in the state’s constitution. Christianson argued that the shorter pro-life plank in the RNC platform can help in his state. Former President Trump has likened his position on abortion to that of former President Ronald Reagan. At a speech in Washington and at the presidential debate in June, he said he supports pro-life measures but will let each state decide its own laws. He has argued that it is more important that conservatives win elections.

“I’m very strongly pro life,” Christianson said. “If you control a state chamber, that allows you to legislate. This platform will allow Republicans to control more state chambers across this country. I’ve worked in campaigns for 15 years and usually at the margins, usually tight races. This is how we win. I’m very happy with what happened here. This platform at a national level allows Minnesota to be in play for the first time in my life.”

Christianson contended that the slimmer platform affirms conservative priorities while not bogging candidates down with precise wording. He attributed disapproval from other delegates to the old guard not understanding the current state of political polarization.

“If you’re from a conservative state that’s never had a situation where Republicans don’t control the show, I get it,” he said. “You might feel like this somehow loosens the party position. For those of us that have lived in Democrat-controlled states, this is a breath of fresh air. Trump is not writing the platform for himself. He’s writing the platform to help more Republican and conservative senators and House members get elected at the federal and state level.”

Ruzicka of Utah said new and inexperienced delegates this year did not understand how the platform process worked in the past. But Christianson said the former system jammed up the process and allowed special-interest lobbyists to cram the platform with too many paragraphs.

“We were told ahead of time they would shorten the language,” Ruzicka said. “That’s fine. There’s lots of explanations that were easy to take out and still leave the principles. But when they took out ‘man and woman’ in marriage, that’s not sticking with the principles. When they left out any language at all about the unborn baby, that’s not sticking with the principles.”


Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.

@CarolinaLumetta


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