HAD THE “REPUBLICAN PLATFORM 2016” BEEN WRITTEN TODAY, IT WOULD BE INTERPRETED, LARGELY, AS PARODY*
ON KEY ISSUES THE GOP BARES LITTLE RESEMBLANCE TO ITS FORMER SELVES
That’s Not A Good Thing, Even For The Non-GOP
Untitled, Watercolor, 28” x 30”, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Robert A. Bero**
The Republican Platform 2016 (“PLATFORM”) proclaims: “With this platform, we the Republican Party reaffirm the principles that unite us in a common purpose.” At page 39, the Party vows:
“The men and women of law enforcement — whether patrolling our neighborhoods or our borders, fighting organized crime or guarding against domestic terror — deserve our gratitude and support. Their jobs are never easy, especially in crisis situations, and should not be made more difficult by politicized second-guessing from federal officials. The current [Obama] Administration’s lack of respect for them . . . has been unprecedented. . . . [W]e recommit ourselves, as individuals and as a party, to the rule of law and the pursuit of justice. The conduct of the Department of Justice has included refusal to enforce laws, stonewalling congressional committees, destroying evidence . . . and defying a citation for contempt. . . . A new administration must ensure the immediate dismissal and, where appropriate, prosecution of any Department officials who have violated their oath of office. The next president must restore the public’s trust in law enforcement and civil order by first adhering to the rule of law himself. Additionally, the next president must not sow seeds of division and distrust between the police and the people they have sworn to serve and protect. The Republican Party [is the] party of law and order.”
See PLATFORM, Great American Families, Education, Healthcare, and Criminal Justice, Ensuring Safe Neighborhoods: Criminal Justice and Prison Reform at 39.
Yesterday, I saw Andrew Sullivan’s Tweet asking, “Is there any institution in the West that is currently less conservative than the GOP?” I went back to the 2016 Republican Platform for a refresher on those core principles to see how this GOP-controlled regime’s behavior could possibly be interpreted as anathema to conservative values, hypocritical or both.
As difficult as it was to read a document so openly misleading, deceptive, racist, misogynistic, anti-LGTBQ, science-denying, counter-intuitive, intellectually dishonest, repressive and regressive — directly, by omission and by implication — I reached a similar conclusion to that of Mr. Sullivan. The current GOP may be “non-conservative” but otherwise categorizing it is difficult. Mr. Sullivan — who I respect and with whom I sometimes disagree (and who is much smarter than I am) — IS a conservative and clearly understands the principles and doctrines which underlie the political philosophy the GOP has historically claimed to espouse. When conservatives, moderates, liberals and independents (that is, everyone but a current GOPer) attempt to evaluate the current nominally inscribed GOP regime, the party’s mind-numbing incoherence forces a complete loss of focus. If only the current regime — led by a mind-numbing incoherent and aided and abetted by knowing and willful cowards — would return to some of those conservative principles. According to a recent article in The Atlantic, there may be a way:
“The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).”
Have I cherry-picked the PLATFORM and reorganized it to parade the GOP’s betrayal of The United States and the so-called “conservative” values of exceptionalism and optimism it purports to espouse? Do I call out the GOP by propping it against its own proclaimed principles — its historic role as a refuge, defender and exemplar of liberty for the world to see; as preserver of the U.S. constitutional system of separation of powers and insurer of accountability to the people on whose behalf its elected leaders purport to serve; as defender and espouser of the rule of law and protector of the integrity of criminal investigative and prosecutorial agencies and institutions; as champion for America’s standing in world affairs and guarantor that the United States continues as the most respected country in the world, a country that seeks, and keeps the friendship of all peoples from all nations; as advocate for shrinking the national debt and living within means; as adherent to the oaths of office its elected officials take to protect and defend the Constitution? Guilty. I have also left for another day many of the PLATFORM’s sections which, like those mentioned above and below, do not resonate with today’s nominal GOP.
Untitled, Watercolor, 20” x 28”, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Robert A. Bero**
Had the Republican Platform 2016 been written today, it would be appropriately seen as parody. When compared with the PLATFORM’s representations, boasts, warnings, promises, threats, platitudes, assurances and grand-standing, the GOP’s quality and character speak for themselves.
The PLATFORM prologue includes:
“We believe in American exceptionalism.
We believe the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth.
We believe America is exceptional because of our historic role — first as refuge, then as defender, and now as exemplar of liberty for the world to see. . . .
We believe our constitutional system — limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people — must be preserved uncompromised for future generations. . . .
We will make America safe. We seek friendship with all peoples and all nations, but we recognize and are prepared to deal with evil in the world.
Based on these principles, this platform is an invitation and a roadmap. It invites every American to join us and shows the path to a stronger, safer, and more prosperous America.
This platform is optimistic because the American people are optimistic.
This platform lays out — in clear language — the path to making America great and united again.
For the past 8 years America has been led in the wrong direction.
Our economy has become unnecessarily weak with stagnant wages. People living paycheck to paycheck are struggling, sacrificing, and suffering.
Americans have earned and deserve a strong and healthy economy.
Our standing in world affairs has declined significantly — our enemies no longer fear us and our friends no long trust us.
People want and expect an America that is the most powerful and respected country on the face of the earth. . . .
The President and the Democratic party have abandoned their promise of being accountable to the American people.
They have nearly doubled the size of the national debt.
They refuse to control our borders but try to control our schools, farms, businesses, and even our religious institutions. They have directly attacked the production of American energy and the industry-related jobs that have sustained families and communities.
The President . . . defies the laws of the United States by refusing to enforce those with which he does not agree. . . .
We, as Republicans and Americans, cannot allow this to continue. That is why the many sections of this platform affirm our trust in the people, our faith in their judgment, and our determination to help them take back their country.
This means removing the power from unelected, unaccountable government. . . .
This platform is many things: A handbook for returning decision-making to the people. A guide to the constitutional rights of every American. And a manual for the kind of sustained growth that will bring opportunity to all those on the sidelines of our society.
Every time we sing, ‘God Bless America,’ we are asking for help. We ask for divine help that our country can fulfill its promise. We earn that help by recommitting ourselves to the ideas and ideals that are the true greatness of America. . . .”
Untitled, Watercolor, 16” x 36”, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
Under Restoring the American Dream, Fair and Simple Taxes for Growth, the PLATFORM explains:
“The current tax code is rightly the object of both anger and mockery. Its length is exceeded only by its complexity. We must start anew. That will be an enormous undertaking and, if it is to succeed, it must command the attention and approval of the American people. It cannot be engineered from the top down, but must have a common sense approach, and be simplified. . . .”
“Reducing the Federal Debt. Our national debt is a burden on our economy and families. The huge increase in the national debt demanded by and incurred during the current Administration has placed a significant burden on future generations. We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government, and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations. . . .”
Continuing its fiscally conservative position under Government Reform, Balancing the Budget, the PLATFORM ominously warns then reassures:
“The federal fiscal burden threatens the security, liberty, and independence of our nation. The current Administration’s refusal to work with Republicans took our national debt from $10 trillion to nearly $19 trillion today. Left unchecked, it will hit $30 trillion by 2026. At the same time, the Administration’s policies systematically crippled economic growth and job creation, driving up government costs and driving down revenues. When Congressional Republicans tried to reverse course, the Administration manufactured fiscal crises — phony government shutdowns — to demand excessive spending. The Administration’s demands have focused on significantly expanding government spending and benefits for its preferred groups, paid for through loans that our children and grandchildren will have to pay. This is the path to bankrupting the next generation. The Republican path to fiscal sanity and economic expansion begins with a constitutional requirement for a federal balanced budget. We will fight for Congress to adopt, and for the states to ratify, a Balanced Budget Amendment which imposes a cap limiting spending to the appropriate historical average percentage of our nation’s gross domestic product while requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, with exceptions only for war or legitimate emergencies. Only a constitutional safeguard such as this can prevent deficits from mounting to government default. Republican budgets will prioritize thrift over extravagance and put taxpayers first. We support the following test: Is a particular expenditure within the constitutional scope of the federal government? If not, stop it. Has it been effective in the past and is it still absolutely necessary? If not, end it. Is it so important as to justify borrowing, especially foreign borrowing, to fund it? If not, kill it. . . .”
This NYT Op-Ed gives a glaring analysis of the GOP shift:
See also Rand Paul calls out hypocrisy of GOP in the Trump era. Trump has shifted the GOP’s values since heading into office.https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/02/09/rand-paul-calls-out-hypocrisy-of-gop-in-the-trump-era/
Under A Rebirth of Constitutional Government, Honest Elections and the Right to Vote, the PLATFORM reassures:
“Honest elections are the foundation of representative government. We pledge to protect the voting rights of every citizen . . . .We are concerned, however, that some voting procedures may be open to abuse. . . . To guard against foreign involvement in our elections, we call for vigilance regarding online credit card contributions to candidates and campaigns. . . .”
Under America Resurgent, Facing 21st Century Threats, Cybersecurity in an Insecure World, the PLATFORM warns:
“Cyber attacks against our businesses, institutions, and the government itself have become almost routine. They will continue until the world understands that an attack will not be tolerated — that we are prepared to respond in kind and in greater magnitude. Despite their promises to the contrary, Russia and China see cyber operations as a part of a warfare strategy during peacetime. Our response should be to cause diplomatic, financial, and legal pain, curtailing visas for guilty parties, freezing their assets, and pursuing criminal actions against them. We should seek to weaken control over the internet by regimes that engage in cyber crimes. We must stop playing defense and go on offense to avoid the cyber-equivalent of Pearl Harbor. The Republican Congress has passed important legislation to advance information-sharing among entities endangered by cyber attacks. We will explore the possibility of a free market for Cyber-Insurance and make clear that users have a self defense right to deal with hackers as they see fit. It is critical that we protect the cyber supply chain to ensure against contamination of components made all over the world, sometimes in offending countries. Our own cyber workforce should be expanded with the assistance of the military, business, and hacker communities to better protect our country. . . .”
Under America Resurgent, Renewing the European Alliance, the PLATFORM warns:
“For the people of Russia, we affirm our respect and our determination to maintain a friendship beyond the reach of those who wish to divide us. We have common imperatives: Ending terrorism, combating nuclear proliferation, promoting trade, and more. We also have a common problem: The continuing erosion of personal liberty and fundamental rights under the current officials in the Kremlin. Repressive at home and reckless abroad, their policies imperil the nations which regained their self-determination upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will meet the return of Russian belligerence with the same resolve that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. We will not accept any territorial change in Eastern Europe imposed by force, in Ukraine, Georgia, or elsewhere, and will use all appropriate constitutional measures to bring to justice the practitioners of aggression and assassination. . . .”
Under America Resurgent, A Dangerous World, Trump’s team weakened the PLATFORM’s commitment to Ukraine, NATO and the European Alliance by softening the language, benefitting Russia while also condoning and enabling the very kinds of aggression the GOP claimed the Obama Administration had invited:
“In the international arena, a weak Administration has invited aggression. The results of the Administration’s unilateral approach to disarmament are already clear: [A] resurgent Russia occupying parts of Ukraine and threatening neighbors from the Baltic to the Caucasus . . . . We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies, against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraineand greater coordination with NATO defense planning. All our adversaries heard the message in the Administration’s cutbacks: America is weaker and retreating. Concomitantly, we honor, support, and thank all law enforcement, first responders, and emergency personnel for their service.”
Under A Rebirth of Constitutional Government, We the People, the PLATFORM boasts:
“We are also the party of the Constitution, the greatest political document ever written. It is the solemn compact built upon principles of the Declaration that enshrines our God-given individual rights and ensures that all Americans stand equal before the law, defines the purposes and limits of government, and is the blueprint for ordered liberty that makes the United States the world’s freest and most prosperous nation. We reaffirm the Constitution’s fundamental principles: limited government, separation of powers, individual liberty, and the rule of law. We denounce bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, and religious intolerance. Therefore, we oppose discrimination based on race, sex, religion, creed, disability, or national origin and support statutes to end such discrimination. As the Party of Abraham Lincoln, we must continue to foster solutions to America’s difficult challenges when it comes to race relations today. . . .”
“Our Constitution is in crisis. . . . The current Administration has exceeded its constitutional authority, brazenly and flagrantly violated the separation of powers, sought to divide America into groups and turn citizen against citizen. The President has refused to defend or enforce laws he does not like, used executive orders to enact national policies in areas constitutionally reserved solely to Congress, made unconstitutional “recess” appointments to Senate-confirmed positions, directed regulatory agencies to overstep their statutory authority, and failed to consult Congress regarding military action overseas. He has changed what John Adams called ‘a government of laws and not of men’ into just the opposite.”
“Democrats in Congress have enabled, supported, and defended each of these breaches. They have applauded the President’s efforts to do an end-run around Congress and stymied Republican efforts to restrain executive lawlessness. . . .”
“Our most urgent task as a Party is to restore the American people’s faith in their government by electing a president who will enforce duly enacted laws, honor constitutional limits on executive authority, and return credibility to the Oval Office. We need a Republican president who will end abuses of power . . . by the White House itself. Safeguarding our liberties requires a president who will respect the Constitution’s separation of powers, including the authority of Congress to write legislation and define agency authority. Americans also deserve a president who will speak for our nation’s history and values, not apologize for them to our enemies*.. . .”
The rule of law is the foundation of our Republic. . . . We believe in the constitutional checks and balances . . . .”
For the most part I leave out discussion of the section under America’s Natural Resources: Agriculture, Energy and the Environment. The GOP is doing precisely what it promised under its policies of science denial and fossil-fuel energy production (rather than clean, sustainable energy production), resulting in accelerated climate change and the reneging of its predecessors’ responsible agreements and alliances.
“Information concerning a changing climate, especially projections into the long-range future, must be based on dispassionate analysis of hard data. . . .”
Under Government Reform, Audit the Pentagon, the PLATFORM promises every Pentagon dollar will be spent to “truly benefit our national security”:
“No major part of the Department of Defense has ever passed an audit. Republican leaders in Congress have called for a full financial audit of the Pentagon to ensure that every dollar spent is truly benefitting our national security. Every taxpayer must be prepared to pass an audit, and we urge Congress to demand the same level of accountability from the Pentagon and the Department of Defense. . . .”
And now for the respect the GOP-led regime shows American Indians (Bears Ears?), Puerto Rico and the other “Shithole” places whose occupants are not lily-white Normegians.
Under Government Reform, Honoring Our Relationship with American Indians, the PLATFORM lip-serves as follows:
“Based on both treaty and other law, the federal government has a unique government-to-government relationship with and trust responsibility for Indian Tribal Governments, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. These obligations have not been sufficiently honored. The social and economic problems that plague Indian country have grown worse over the last several decades; we must reverse that trend. Ineffective federal programs deprive American Indians of the services they need, and long-term failures threaten to undermine tribal sovereignty itself. . . . We respect the tribal governments as the voice of their communities and encourage federal, state, and local governments to heed those voices in developing programs and partnerships to improve the quality of life for American Indians and their neighbors in their communities. . . . Republicans recognize that each tribe has the right of consultation before any new regulatory policy is implemented on tribal land. To the extent possible, such consultation should take place in Indian country with the tribal government and its members. Before promulgating and imposing any new laws or regulations affecting trust land or members, the federal government should encourage Indian tribes to develop their own policies to achieve program objectives, and should defer to tribes to develop their own standards, or standards in conjunction with state governments. . . .”
Under Government Reform, The Territory of Puerto Rico, the PLATFORM further lip-serves:
“We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state. We further recognize the historic significance of the 2012 local referendum in which a 54 percent majority voted to end Puerto Rico’s current status as a U.S. territory, and 61 percent chose statehood over options for sovereign nationhood. We support the federally sponsored political status referendum authorized and funded by an Act of Congress in 2014 to ascertain the aspirations of the people of Puerto Rico. Once the 2012 local vote for statehood is ratified, Congress should approve an enabling act with terms for Puerto Rico’s future admission as the 51st state of the Union. . . .”
Under America Resurgent, Africa: The Promise and the Challenge, the PLATFORM reassures:
“We recognize Africa’s extraordinary potential. Both the United States and our many African allies will become stronger through investment, trade, and promotion of the democratic and free market principles that have brought prosperity around the world. We pledge to be the best partner of all African nations in their pursuit of economic freedom and human rights. . . .”
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to lastamendment.com
**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed nearly 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in lastamendment.com are hers.