G.O.P. Platform, Rolled Over From 2016, Condemns the ‘Current President’

WASHINGTON — When Republicans read the platform their party is using for the 2020 campaign, they may be surprised to see that it is full of condemnations of the sitting president.

“The survival of the internet as we know it is at risk,” the platform reads. “Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government.”

The warning about speech online is one of more than three dozen unflattering references to either the “current president,” “current chief executive,” “current administration,” people “currently in control” of policy, or the “current occupant” of the White House that appear in the Republican platform. Adopted at the party’s 2016 convention, it has been carried over through 2024 after the executive committee of the Republican National Committee on Wednesday chose not to adopt a new platform for 2020.

The platform censures the “current” president — who in 2016 was, of course, Barack Obama — and his administration for, among other things, imposing “a social and cultural revolution,” causing a “huge increase in the national debt” and damaging relationships with international partners.

“The Middle East is more dangerous now than at any time since the Second World War,” the platform reads. “Whatever their disagreements, presidents of both parties had always prioritized America’s national interests, the trust of friendly governments, and the security of Israel. That sound consensus was replaced with impotent grandstanding on the part of the current President and his Secretaries of State. The results have been ruinous for all parties except Islamic terrorists and their Iranian and other sponsors.”

The Republican Party has found itself in this awkward bind because of President Trump’s decision last week to move the location of his nominating speech. Under the R.N.C. rules, the convention will adjourn with the old platform serving as the official party platform until 2024.

That move came after the president reached a stalemate with Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, over what kinds of safety precautions would be put in place in Charlotte to protect attendees from the spread of the coronavirus.

Before the convention was overhauled, Trump campaign officials, along with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, had been looking at a menu of options for a new party platform, including a slimmed down, one-page rewrite as well as a reworking of the 66-page document the party passed in 2016.

When Axios first reported on efforts to rewrite the party platform that involved Mr. Kushner, grass-roots activists were livid, and some of those discussed organizing an effort to resist what they viewed as his changes — even though the options had been drafted primarily by the campaign, a person familiar with the process said.

The decision to simply let the current platform stay in effect, rather than try to pass any new platform, was ultimately driven by logistics, officials said. Republican officials decided it did not make sense to ask about 5,000 delegates and alternates to pay to fly to Charlotte, N.C., when the speeches and most of the action of the convention, including the hallmark speeches by the president and the vice president, would be happening in another city altogether.

Melody Potter, an R.N.C. member from West Virginia who sat on the party’s platform committee in 2016 and planned to run for a seat on it this August, said she was pleased the platform was being rolled over for 2020.

“The 2016 platform is the best one we’ve had in 40 years, so I’m fine with renewing it and extending it to 2024,” she said. “As a matter of fact, and you can quote me on this, I think it is a ray of sunshine in this whole messy storm.”

But what was perceived by some of the grass-roots activists as Mr. Kushner’s attempt to circumvent the people who helped elect Mr. Trump four years ago hurt efforts among other Republicans to update the platform.

Now, the party is stuck with a platform with positions that already seemed outdated to a large segment of its members four years ago. Meanwhile, Republican officials have discussed with the White House the possibility of putting out Mr. Trump’s vision for America and the platform he would have pushed for if the committee had been able to meet, and blaming Governor Cooper for making it impossible to do so.

Campaign operatives, for their part, defended the old document. “President Trump won in 2016 with this platform and he’ll win again in 2020 with this platform,” said Justin Clark, senior counsel to the campaign.

Candidates from the president down to municipal officials are under no obligation to hew to their party’s platform, and few make a point of abiding by all points of it. But a platform does serve as a party’s guiding principles, even though the document tends to be most useful for political opponents who weaponize elements of it in attack advertisements.

The 2016 platform that is being renewed was the result of messy debates in Cleveland, the host city of the Republican convention four years ago, during which a group of renegade delegates tried but failed to strip out language opposing gay marriage and condoning conversation therapy for L.G.B.T.Q. youths.

“We support the right of parents to determine the proper medical treatment and therapy for their minor children,” the platform reads. “We support the right of parents to consent to medical treatment for their minor children and urge enactment of legislation that would require parental consent for their daughter to be transported across state lines for abortion.”

The platform made a steadfast case against same-sex marriage and called for a constitutional amendment overturning the 2015 Supreme Court decision that struck down laws defining marriage between one man and one woman. And it blames “the current President” for seeking to expand workplace protections to include L.G.B.T.Q. people.

“That same provision of law is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current President of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories,” the platform reads. “Their agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power.”

Giovanni Cicione, a Rhode Island lawyer who as a 2016 platform committee delegate led a faction of delegates who fought to strip the anti-L.G.B.T.Q. language from the party platform, said he believed Mr. Trump would oppose the language condemning gay rights.

“I do think it’s unfortunate that they’re not giving the party a chance to evolve its thinking on these issues,” Mr. Cicione said Thursday. “I honestly believe that this president is probably more forward-thinking on gay rights than the party is, but I’m not sure it’s in his interest to make that public.”

The R.N.C., meanwhile, has been eager to highlight that on some of the issues, especially gay rights, the platform is hardly the only way of showing the party’s movement on a policy area. On Thursday, for instance, the R.N.C. released a memo detailing how “President Trump Has Taken Unprecedented Steps to Protect the L.G.B.T.Q. Community,” noting that he has appointed L.G.B.T.Q. people to prominent judicial and administration positions.


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