The Republican Party platform that delegates to the national convention will be asked to adopt next week reads like the manifesto of a group of people who have realized they are fighting a desperate rear-guard action against societal changes that are destined to overtake them.
While the party platform is a wide-ranging document that states general guiding principles for everything from education policy to the national defense, the two-day meeting of the platform committee on Monday and Tuesday was focused in large part on putting an aggressively conservative stamp on the party in the area of social policy, sexual morality, energy policy and the role of religion -- specifically, Christianity -- in public life.
Some of the most eyebrow-raising changes to this year’s version of the draft platform are:
Bringing the Bible into public schools
The platform includes language that recommends, though it does not mandate, making the teaching of the Bible an element of public school curricula. Delegates cited the role the book played in the education of the earliest European settlers of North America and added language calling the book “indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry.”
In the most recent platform, adopted in 2012, the only mention of the Bible was the promise that “a Republican Commander in Chief will protect religious independence of military chaplains and will not tolerate attempts to ban Bibles or religious symbols from military facilities.”
This cycle’s platform does not weigh in on which of the many translations of the Bible would receive the GOP’s stamp of approval.
Bringing God into the lawmaking process
The platform suggests that lawmakers ought to use religious belief as a guide when drafting federal law. It says, “man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights.”
Ignoring homosexuals when possible
A minority of socially moderate delegates serving on the rules committee pleaded with their colleagues to include some language in the platform that would send a message to Americans with non-traditional sexual preferences and gender identities that they are welcome in the GOP. This included innocuous language acknowledging discrimination and violence.
Without exception, the efforts to extend a hand to that community were voted down.
Attacking homosexuals when necessary
While efforts to reach out to the LGBT community were unsuccessful, efforts to further marginalize them as members of society found a welcoming audience. The platform includes language supporting controversial “conversion therapy” meant to turn gay people into heterosexuals, despite evidence that the process can be psychologically devastating. It also supports the right of states to pass laws barring transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice.
It reasserts the party’s opposition to same sex marriage, calling for the appointment of judges who would overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. It asserts that the children of what it calls “natural” marriages are less likely to use illegal drugs or engage in other destructive behaviors.
Enforcing sexual morality
Past Republican platforms have criticized pornography and called on the federal government to “vigorously enforce existing laws on obscenity and pornography.” This year’s version goes further, declaring it a public health menace.
The platform also includes language opposing policies that encourage unmarried couples to live together, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.
Declaring coal ‘clean’
There’s not much to say about this one. The platform will include a plank labeling energy produced from burning coal -- one of the dirtiest forms of electricity production -- as clean. No word on whether up will be reclassified as down in 2020.
Nodding to the presumptive nominee
While much of the platform focuses on the type of social issues that presumptive GOP presidential Donald Trump has been content to ignore, the draft contains some elements – or, in one case, an omission -- clearly aimed at his preferences.
The original language of the draft called for a physical barrier to be constructed between the U.S. and Mexico, meant to block illegal immigrants from crossing into the country. In a nod to Trump, the language was simplified from “physical barrier” to “wall,” echoing his campaign trail promise to “build a wall.”
The platform adopts his bellicose language about dealing with the terror group ISIS, declaring that the U.S. must “destroy” it.
The draft also eliminates language from the 2012 platform that not only supported Trump’s bogeyman, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but went even further, envisioning “a worldwide multilateral agreement among nations committed to the principles of open markets, what has been called a ‘Reagan Economic Zone,’ in which free trade will truly be fair trade for all concerned.”