Their task is to write a 50- to 60-page manifesto that defines what it means to be a Republican.
If the Platform Committee members do their job badly, they could spark debate and disunity that could seep into the convention next week, when hundreds of Republican delegates will be asked to adopt their work as one of the convention’s first items of business.
If they do their job well, they’ll slave over a party plan that, in truth, few people will ever read.
A good platform must be specific enough to provide guidance for governing but general enough to remain a lofty statement of unifying principle.
It must dovetail with the ideas and policies of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.). But it must also encompass the beliefs of a sometimes divided party, including activists who supported Romney’s Republican opponents during the primary season.
The document must be “clear and concise” and must “embody the heart and soul of what the Republican party believes in,” said Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who chairs the committee, along with Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). “It’s not easy.”
McDonnell said the document must leave people with a simple take-away message: “We need to put policies in place quickly to get the greatest country on earth out of debt and back to work.”
The hot-button social issues are likely to get the most public attention.
Last time around, the platform also endorsed a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortion. Will this year’s also call for a “personhood” amendment, which would extend the rights of citizens to fetuses?
The 2008 platform did not address whether the party officials held that abortions are illegal in all instances, including cases of rape and incest. That topic could get a hearing this year, in the wake of controversial comments from Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP’s Senate candidate in Missouri. He told an interviewer that he believed pregnancies rarely result from “legitimate rape” because the “female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
In response, the Romney campaign issued a statement Sunday saying that Romney and Ryan disagreed with Akin’s statement and that a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in cases of rape, a position not universally shared within the party.
Democrats, who will meet in Charlotte next month, have already announced that their platform will include a plank endorsing same-sex marriage.
Republicans last time called for a federal constitutional amendment outlawing such unions, and it is likely this year’s platform will do the same. (“I think there will certainly be an affirmation of traditional marriage,” said McDonnell.)