"Trumpified" platform bodes ill for final #NeverTrump push

Don’t look now, but the Republican Party shows signs of moving toward Donald Trump than the other way around … to some degree, anyway. The proposed GOP platform contains two new provisions that mirror Trump’s campaign pledges over the past year, and which generated most of the controversies that swirled around his candidacy. The Hill’s Jonathan Easley reports that the platform has been “Trumpified”:

Republican Platform Committee members on Tuesday voted to include language calling for the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico

And in a nod their presumptive presidential nominee’s support for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration, they also endorsed language that would impose “special scrutiny” of foreign nationals seeking to enter the U.S. from “regions associated with Islamic terrorism.”

Both provisions are departures from the GOP platform of 2012, when Republicans nominated Mitt Romney for president.

That party platform then called for completing “double-layered fencing” on the border, which was ordered by Congress in 2006 but never completed. It was silent on any special scrutiny of Muslims or other people from countries associated with Islamic extremism.

The language on a border wall is a significant shift away from the “autopsy” report written by the Republican National Committee after Romney’s defeat. That report emphasized the need for the party to appeal to Hispanic voters to win back the White House.

Not to quibble, but the autopsy didn’t suggest that the GOP end its decade-long support for a wall on the southern border. In fact, it never mentions the word “border,” nor does it demand any significant changes to core values — although it does note the need for “comprehensive immigration reform” on conservative principles to get the issue off the table. What it did prescribe was more resources and more focus on effective outreach to Hispanic communities to provide better engagement, along with more care in the tone used for immigration-policy debates.

The Washington Post sees the platform outcome a bit differently:

The Republican Party on Tuesday moved closer to firmly embracing a series of staunchly conservative positions on abortion, gay rights, gun rights and immigration reform in a platform document that takes sharp aim at Obama administration policies and reinforces long-standing party orthodoxy on major issues.

Among the specific policies the platform committee endorsed here is a “border wall” that would cover “the entirety of the Southern Border and must be sufficient to stop both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.” Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has made a proposed border wall a cornerstone of his campaign. …

There was widespread agreement on the party’s position on economic and national security issues and the tougher stance on social issues reinforced the party’s conservative view despite Trump’s calls for relaxed abortion restrictions and his support for some rights for gay and transgender Americans.

Trump was barely mentioned by the 112-member platform committee, composed mostly of longtime conservative activists. The candidate and his team had little presence during the discussions, ceding the details of the platform to party faithful.

Given that Trump got his two major issues into the platform, it appears he didn’t need to have much presence in the debate. The delegates on the platform committee got the message loud and clear from the primaries.

That’s why the ballyhooed effort to kick Trump off the ticket next week has as much promise as Fitzmas. It’s not a plan, it’s a concept, and it’s far too late in the game to throw stuff against the wall and see if it sticks, as I argue in my column at The Week:

In 1976, the opposition to delegate leader Gerald Ford had a candidate around which to rally: Ronald Reagan. In fact, Reagan came close to wresting the nomination from Ford, but narrowly missed his chance even with a clearer basis on which to challenge the presumptive nominee.

Forty years later, the opposition to the presumptive nominee has no consensus candidate around whom to rally. The #NeverTrump movement tried repeatedly to get a candidate to declare against Trump, either as a convention challenger or as an independent, and no one volunteered for the effort. Even now, no one has stepped up to fill the void, which leaves suddenly unbound delegates with no specific direction in a challenge to Trump.

And who would get drafted in such an effort? The 2016 class of primary candidates would have to argue that they could do better running a general election campaign against Clinton than they managed in the primaries against Trump. That includes Ted Cruz, who comes into the convention in second place with 563 delegates, a fraction of what Trump has. Marco Rubio has shifted his attention to the Senate campaign in Florida, getting in under the wire and leaving Republicans with no candidate at all if he changes his mind again. John Kasich only won Ohio in the primaries and has repeatedly repudiated the dump Trump effort (while refusing to endorse the nominee).

But let’s just say this effort still somehow succeeded in producing a consensus nominee not named Trump. There’s the not-inconsequential issue of having a nominee with no campaign less than four months before the election. Trump may have gotten off to a slow start on fundraising and may be risking a landslide defeat by refusing to turn his campaign into a granular ground-up organization, but he does have an organization in place. Four months is barely enough time to start organizing a pre-primary campaign, let alone a national election.

As the platform moves this week shows, the current mood of the GOP electorate would demand a Trumpian candidate even if the #NeverTrump activists pulled off a miracle and denied Trump the nomination. Who would that be? Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum both ran for the brass ring twice and failed, and have only a fraction of Trump’s pull in the media.

It’s not going to happen. The GOP built this platform for its nominee to stand on. For better or worse, they’ll march to November from that platform behind Trump as the nominee.



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