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May 26, 2016

Will Trump Change the GOP Platform?

Come July, the Republican Party will do more than officially name its presidential nominee.

Come July, the Republican Party will do more than officially name its presidential nominee; the party will also formalize its 2016 platform. That platform will not only guide the ideological future of the party. It can be used as criteria for party endorsement of candidates from national to local levels. In other words, as goes the platform, so goes a lot.

Consider, for example, the 2012 Republican Platform, which unequivocally defended the fundamental right to life of the unborn, affirmed belief in the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, and ascribed to the Constitution as the blueprint for government’s proper role. For all the many shortcomings of Republicans today, the platform lays out the official principles of the party.

The issue here isn’t that the Republican nominee must adhere to the party platform point by point. But, for better or worse, the nominee is the standard-bearer of a platform meant to unite the party. And right now, the party is anything but united. A wide chasm separates the Trump and #NeverTrump factions — almost as wide as the chasm between Trump and the current platform.

As The Hill notes, issues like abortion, constitutionalism and small government are “the foundation of the Republican party, and Trump’s perceived disinterest in them is a major concern.” Remember, if these issues disappear from the Republican platform, they are no longer part of any major party.

And, indeed, Trump’s disconnect from the current platform is stark. For example, The Hill notes Trump is more likely to cite his book “The Art of the Deal” than he is the Constitution. On abortion, while he’s claimed to be pro-life, he outright said he “absolutely” wants to change the party platform to make exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. And when it comes to firmly supporting time-honored marriage, well, Trump’s position depends on what day you ask him.

But that’s not all. The Republican platform also endorses free trade as “crucial for our economy.” Trump, meanwhile, claims to be a “free trader, 100%” but wants to crush trade via protective tariffs. It’s amazing Trump has managed to find time to change his views so often, given the time he spent trying to use big-government eminent domain to disregard the right to private property and oust a New Jersey widow from her home.

Then again, perhaps Trump views the platform like some view the Constitution: a living, breathing document that changes with the times — or with Trump’s mood.

What does all this mean for the platform and the party? Conservatives are already lining up to ensure the 2016 platform doesn’t summarily discard everything that’s defined the conservative movement for decades. As Iowa GOP congressman Steve King said, “I have one goal now, and it is simple — to get as many solid, constitutional conservatives to Cleveland and onto the platform and rules committee. … I have not yet seen a real effort to change the platform. But my point from the beginning is that we have to be prepared.”

Meanwhile, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, who will lead the platform committee at the GOP convention, said the platform is “going to be a conservative platform that reflects our values, freedom, liberty and limited government.” Barrasso added, “No presidential candidate has ever fully embraced the platform, but we expect absolute acceptance of it.” Of course, the Trump camp has said Trump has no intention of changing the platform — but with his ever-changing stances, who knows what another day will bring?

Ben Key, the executive director of the GOP’s platform committee, reportedly said Trump’s influence on the platform would be limited and that the platform will serve the whole party. But with a party as divided as the Grand Old one, some might question the possibility that any platform can achieve that aim.

One thing’s for sure. Although the platform is often forgotten between presidential elections, its importance in upholding conservatism shouldn’t be underestimated. A Trump nomination may be concerning; a Trump platform is downright frightening.

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