The above quote is attributed to Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat, but the first time I heard it was in a George Harrison song, and it stuck with me. I could hear George singing in my head this weekend as I watched the CPAC Convention. The Republican Party is operating without a platform. That’s not an opinion. At the 2020 Republican Convention they decided not to update the party platform.
They issued a resolution instead stating, “The RNC enthusiastically supports President Trump and continues to reject the policy positions of the Obama-Biden Administration.” Their game plan for the next four years revolves around two presidents who are no longer in office.
The 2016 Republican platform was 58 pages long and went into great detail as to what the party was for. It was broken down into six segments: “Restoring the American Dream;” “A Rebirth of Constitutional Government;” “America’s Natural Resources: Agriculture, Energy and the Environment;” “Government Reform;” “Great American Families: Education, Health Care and Criminal Justice;” and “America Resurgent.” Sure, it was full of spin. But it was a serious document that presented what the Republican Party aspired to be. Any new voter trying to figure out which party to join could read the 2016 platform and understand what the party’s values were and what it stood for.
The only thing supported in the 2020 resolution was Trump. No wonder they’re so lost without him. Which brings me back to CPAC. For years, it was a sideshow where the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party would come together to raise their voices in support of Ron Paul’s quixotic campaigns. It was always loud and boisterous, but serious players in the GOP didn’t give it much attention.
Now, CPAC probably represents the Republican Party as well as any outside group. Their convention last week was appropriately boisterous, one highlight being Ted Cruz impersonating Mel Gibson’s impersonation of William Wallace. And, it provided the first opportunity for the former president to address the public.
But his speech, and in fact the entire convention, was focused on two points. The election was stolen, and the riot wasn’t our fault. It sounded more like a defense attorney’s closing argument than a vision for America’s future. There was a lot of talk at the convention about what they were against. But beyond loyalty to Trump, I sincerely don’t know what they are for.
Throughout my entire lifetime, the Republican Party has always stood for a strong military, used throughout the world to defend not only our security and freedom, but also to protect our economic interests and impose our system of governance. Now, because of Trump, many GOP leaders say they’ve had a change of heart I’d be thrilled if that were sincere. But I suspect that was one of many things they didn’t want to have in writing.
Platforms are to political parties what master plans are to businesses and local governments. They aren’t hard and fast rules, and sometimes they just sit on the shelf and collect dust. But done right, they provide the basic fundamental values to always be considered when making decisions on any number of different topics. They’re like a roadmap where people may take different routes, but the goal is to have everybody moving in the same direction.
The GOP has been aimless ever since its compass was banished to Mar-a Lago.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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