Tuesday, August 21, 2012
What the G.O.P. Platform Represents
Over the years, the major parties’ election-year platforms have been regarded as Kabuki theater scripts for convention week. The presidential candidates blithely ignored them or openly dismissed the most extreme planks with a knowing wink as merely a gesture to pacify the noisiest activists in the party.
That cannot be said of the draft of the Republican platform circulating ahead of the convention in Tampa, Fla. The Republican Party has moved so far to the right that the extreme is now the mainstream. The mean-spirited and intolerant platform represents the face of Republican politics in 2012. And unless he makes changes, it is the current face of the shape-shifting Mitt Romney.
The draft document is more aggressive in its opposition to women’s reproductive rights and to gay rights than any in memory. It accuses President Obama and the federal judiciary of “an assault on the foundations of our society,” and calls for constitutional amendments banning both same-sex marriage and abortion.
In defending one of the last vestiges of officially sanctioned discrimination — restrictions on the rights of gay men and lesbians to marry — the platform relies on the idea that marriage between one man and one woman has for thousands of years “been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.”
That familiar argument ignores the fact that the number of children raised by one-parent families has been rising steadily since the 1970s, long before anyone was talking about same-sex marriage. Census figures indicate that one out of every two children will live in a single-parent family before they reach 18. Studies purporting to show that children of lesbians are disadvantaged have been shown to be junk science. Marriages between people of the same gender pose no threat to marriages between men and women.
The draft attacks President Obama for not defending in court the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages. It calls that decision a “mockery of the President’s inaugural oath,” when in fact Mr. Obama would have been wrong to ignore lawyers who concluded that the law is unconstitutional.
In passages on abortion, the draft platform puts the party on the most extreme fringes of American opinion. It calls for a “human life amendment” and for legislation “to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” That would erase any right women have to make decisions about their health and their bodies. There are no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and such laws could threaten even birth control.
The draft demands that the government “not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage,” which could bar abortion coverage on federally subsidized health-insurance exchanges, for example.
The platform praises states with “informed consent” laws that require women to undergo medically unnecessary tests before having abortions, and “mandatory waiting periods.” Those are among the most patronizing forms of anti-abortion legislation. They presume that a woman is not capable of making a considered decision about abortion before she goes to a doctor. The draft platform also espouses the most extreme Republican views on taxation, national security, military spending and other issues.
Over all, it is farther out on the party’s fringe than Mr. Romney ventured in the primaries, when he repudiated a career’s worth of centrist views on issues like abortion and gay marriage. But the planks hew closely to the views of his running mate, Paul Ryan, and the powerful right-wing. Mr. Romney has a chance to move back in the direction of the center by amending this extremist platform. It will be interesting to see if he seizes it.