The Real GOP

Kevin Drum has provided a “translation” of the Texas GOP platform. It doesn’t look good.

We should completely do away with separation of church and state.

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Gays should be treated like child molesters and should not be allowed to visit children unsupervised.

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The Biblical story of creation should be taught in science classes.

This looks like a more-or-less fair interpretation of the passages quoted.

Kevin then concludes,

And to liberals: this is what we’re fighting. Republicans may be smart enough to make soothing noises and put friendly faces like George Bush’s in front of their agenda, but behind the facade this is what they want and they won’t rest until they get it. It’s our job to make sure everyone knows this.

I think this overstates the situation more than a little. For one thing, I suspect that the Democratic platform in, say, Massachussetts, would be similarly outside the national mainstream. Party platforms tend to be for internal consumption, are written by extremists, and have virtually no practical effect.

Further, the fact that the parties “make soothing noises and put friendly faces” on their agendas is a very good thing. We live in a land of single member districts and thus catch-all parties. At the national level, neither party can afford to be very far from the mainstream. Individual party members may be “out there,” but they seldom gain substantial power within the party, have most of whatever impact they do have taken out via the compromise nature of legislative politics, get diluted further by the conference committee, and the filibuster threat. Then they have to survive inter-branch checks and balances, including passing constitutional muster with the courts.

Certainly, the two parties have different agendas. Few of us are thrilled with all of the aspects of the platform of the party that we’re forced to align with in a de facto two party system. But it’s hard to argue that, if the Republicans get elected to national office, they’re going to enact the Texas GOP platform. As Exhibit A, I’d point to the fact that the Republicans did get elected to national office and haven’t. George W. Bush, a Texas Republican no less, has been president for three and a half years. Republicans have controlled the House since 1995 and, except for a brief period caused by a post-election defection, have had a majority (if not “control”) of the Senate since 1995 as well. If anything, gay rights have expanded and the public practice of Christianity has diminished over that period.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bryan says:

    Hmmm. public practice of christianity has decreased? I’d suggest the Passion of the Christ is at least one strong indicator against that assertion.

    But your overall point is valid: party platforms are useless. And yes, for fairness, Kevin Drum should wheel out the Mass. democrat party platform (or Calif. for that matter). neither of those states represent “mainstream” America.

  2. Eric Akawie says:

    On the other hand, if it’s all right to criticize mainstream liberal anti-war activists, for example, for relying on International ANSWER to hold their rallys, criticism of extremists within the Republican party is equally valid, and more moderate Republicans have a duty to, well, moderate the party’s internal discussions as well as actual policies.

    In addition, clearly the extreme activist wing of the Republican party has a much better track record of getting their people elected than the extreme left wing of the Democrats.

    One of Clinton’s great tricks was that he never actually gave far-liberal groups what they wanted, while keeping them strung along that it was just around the corner.

  3. A national talker recently said he’s never met a secular, conservative Republican, and, I might add, nationalistic patriot?

    That’s me. The Texas GOP is under the control of Constitutional radicals, not conservaatives., And it’s the GOP’s abandonoment of our historic support of separation of church and state, promotion of small government and believe in personal privacy that make call the radicals disloyal Republicans.

    I strongly support President Bush, because he’s the best war president we could have had during the last three years, and John Kerry doesn’t even think we’re in a war. But I only voted for Bush because I believed the Democrats would make sure no radical judges were confirmed, and they’ve done a great job. So, most likely, I’ll vote for Bush and a Democrat for the Senate in Colorado, because I want a good old fashioned gridlocked, do nothing Congress and a non-radical Supreme Court.

    If it looks like Kerry will win and we have a tight race in Colorado, I’ll hold my nose and vote for a radical GOP Senate candidate who’s good on economics and national security but not my kind of guy on the social issues.

    I think the social issues could be bigger than the GOP thinks and against them instead of for them. Call me abandoned by the GOP and not ready for unpatriotic Dems.

  4. James Joyner says:

    By “public” I meant “state-sponsored.” No dimunition of public as in “visible” religious practice has been noted. :0

  5. The URL is a link to the MA Democratic platform. I didn’t read the whole thing (yet), but my skimming so far didn’t find anything in it that far out of the mainstream (e.g. no constitutional amendments, no proposed invasions, etc.). The least mainstream thing I found was the goal of single-payer health care, but even that was couched in language that suggested the party understood it was unlikely and supported alternative means of increasing access to health care.

    Notably (I searched for “marriage”), despite the high visibility of the issue in MA, the MA Democratic party did not take a strong stand on the issue (they’re still splitting the difference between marriage and civil unions). The Texas GOP, on the other hand supports the criminalization of sodomy (I’d say that a small mitigating factor is that the 2000 platform is before Lawrence v. Texas, but their position on judicial review makes their reaction to Lawrence easy to predict, I think), and thinks that homosexuals are child molesters.

  6. I was at the convention and was rather surprised by the platform. It wasn’t that I didn’t agree with many parts of it, but taken as a whole, it makes quite a lump for the opposition to swallow.

    One thing that must be understood is that the entire platform process starts in the precincts and moves up. The people who write and assemble the platform are truly the common man and not elected officials.

    Once someone is elected to office, they have to become more moderate in order to survive. Nothing gets done without some sort of compromise. I would not fear the platform too much…it merely serves to indicate how conservative the active members of Republican Party of Texas are.

  7. I think “mainstream” is a rather poorly defined term. If you consider the mainstream to be “views shared by at least 20% of Americans,” rather than “views shared by at least 20% of college-educated professionals who read blogs” (which I gather to be the Kevin Drum definition of the term), I think the TX GOP platform would probably be about as close to the alleged “mainstream” as the MA Democratic platform… most notably, absolute abortion on demand (the Democratic position) is less popular than an absolute ban on abortion (the TX GOP position).

    Of course, a lot of these things will never show up on a survey. I’ve never seen a question about the gold standard, for example. I doubt 20% of Americans know the difference between fiat money (i.e. what we have now) and the gold standard anyway.

  8. James Joyner says:

    Chris: It’s difficult to operationalize the concept “mainstream.” I basically mean not taking positions that will make getting a plurality of voters difficult. One can take more doctrinaire positions on things, such as the gold standard, that few people care about but not on voting issues.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Ravi,

    This isn’t exactly non-commital:

    We support equal treatment of domestic partners in health insurance, pension access, and inheritance, and we support the provision of domestic partnership benefits in the private and public sectors, including for both state and federal employees. We oppose actions that would define marriage solely as a relationship between a man and a woman, and that would ban the recognition of any other relationship as marriage or its legal equivalent. We oppose efforts that would ban the provision of any benefits to gay and lesbian families that are now granted exclusively to married couples under Massachusetts law.

    The overall tone of the platform is that they support pandering to all groups, providing unspecified grand benefits, and not acknowledging that there are any trade-offs. It’s quite mainstream in that regard, I guess.

  10. forgetting says:

    While the religion question is being hashed, I thought I’d bring to attention Bush’s June 1st, 2004 executive order.

    This is the official document
    This is his speech to a compassionate crowd
    This is the NYT story

    I don’t know if this executive order adds up to anything significant, but thought it went largely unnoticed so am bringing it up.

  11. Ravi Nanavati says:

    I didn’t say that they didn’t address the issue – I said they didn’t take a strong stand. Note, in particular, the caveat “marriage or its legal equivalent.” There’s a sizeable contigent (~40-60 out of 200 legislators, IIRC) who are to the *left* of the Massachusetts Democratic party on the issue: they would not accept the caveat “or its legal equivalent” and fought against the proposed state constitutional amendment (which would give all the benefits of marriage the state can give except the name).

    Contrast this with the Texas GOP. Is there 20% of the legislature is to the *right* of the Texas GOP platform on gay rights (sodomy should be a crime, homosexuals should be treated like child molesters)? I’m not even sure I know what that position *is*! The only alternatives I can think of are too horrible to contemplate.

  12. Ravi Nanavati says:

    Having completed a reread, I will admit I found what (I suspect) one other not-so-mainstream position: opposition to the death penalty (though, given the legislature has tried and failed to enact a death penalty it is a mainstream position for the state).

    But, again, I think the contrast with the Texas GOP is instructive. The MA Democratic party states their opposition to the death penalty (and their intent to oppose it in their state), but does *not* call for a constitutional amendment banning the death penalty. This is unlike the Texas GOP on abortion – which wants a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, not just in their state, but nationwide (granted the legal status quo is different, but the Texas GOP could have endorsed an amendment which allows different states to chose different abortion policies or only supported overturning Roe v. Wade – they *chose* to go farther).

    My point is not that the Massachusetts Democratic platform is a perfect wonder of deliberation, but merely that to the extent that these platforms represent two different extremes of US politics, that one side is clearly *far* more extreme than the other.

  13. James Joyner says:

    Ravi,

    The reason the GOP is calling for Constitutional amendments is that the courts have imposed their will on the people–overriding the democratic result of the legislative process. If one believes abortion must be outlawed and that marriage should only be one man to one woman, the Constitution is the only route. So, the GOP calls for amending the Constitution to preserve mainstream views.

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