“I get the feeling this is just a trial balloon,” Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, told RealClearPolitics. “Except it’s a trial balloon that’s got to be popped right away.” And toward that end, conservatives are slowly mounting a response. They don’t mind a condensed platform; one said it could be “shortened by pages, not by chapters.” They do worry about ideological concessions; another added that “what some people call alienating language is actually defining language.” They are preparing for a fight while the Republican National Committee is still working out how to have a national convention in the COVID-19 era.
While campaigns view platforms as unwieldy and often controversial documents, activists and stakeholders see them as their chance to direct the party. At the 2016 convention, social conservatives on the platform committee fought to codify the party’s stance on abortion and traditional marriage and even single-sex bathrooms in public places. The document also dealt with everything from diplomacy to energy policy, providing an exhaustive roadmap for how delegates expected Republicans to govern if elected.
Conservatives fear that if Kushner tries to turn the platform into a sales pitch, Republicans will move in a more moderate direction. They say this is unacceptable and also a misunderstanding. The document isn’t about attracting new voters. It is a paper cudgel, they insist, a sort of contract they can use to hold the party accountable.