The Problem with a Georgia GOP Platform

A personal note: I’ve been away from Peach Pundit for a while as a front page poster. I simply had more on my plate than I could handle. It’s a privilege to be back and whether you agree with me or not, I hope you find that what I write makes you think. – Ken

“God is in the details.” – Gustave Flaubert

There is a movement – and an upcoming resolution – within the Georgia Republican Party to establish a state party platform. The argument generally emphasizes the need for all of us to have the same understanding of where the Georgia Republican Party stands on issues. Once a platform is established, the argument continues, the easier it will be to recruit party members and candidates.

Unless writing a platform is done carefully, then I would argue the opposite.

At a time when the emphasis inside the GOP should be about unity, debating a platform from the ground up may lead to an emphasis on differences. Can you imagine a GOP platform without planks on right to life, a state fair tax to replace the state income tax, Georgia’s level of participation in common core, immigration reform and another dozen contentious issues? Can you imagine positions on these topics sailing through without lengthy and passionate discussion? Frankly, I cannot.

On right to life, will there be exceptions in the case of a risk to the life of the mother? What about rape? Incest? Underage rape victims?

Should an increased state sales tax decrease or replace a state corporate tax and then personal state income tax? Would it be a gradual phasing in or a total replacement? Would unprepared food staples be exempt from the tax?

Common core has some full and partial supporters within the GAGOP. Would the platform reject the entire concept or would it embrace standards as a comparison tool? Regarding immigration, I favor the Hard Work-Cleans Hand initiative that has already passed muster in the Texas GOP. Are metro Atlanta Republicans willing to accept the idea that agri-business in South Georgia needs a more nuanced approach to illegal migrant labor?

Then there is the idea of a biennial budget for Georgia. It’s a great idea, but do enough GOP party members think it rises to the level of inclusion in a platform? Will different groups push to include a plank defunding nominees who disagree with a particular (insert your least favorite) plank or position, thus turning a platform into a litmus test?

The list of topics I chose is the tip of the iceberg. The list could easily triple in size depending upon the wording – and that is the problem. Gustave Flaubert said, “God is in the details” and according to an anonymous soul, so is the Devil. Either way, we may have the Devil to pay.

A vaguely worded, and thus meaningless, platform accomplishes little other than to irritate those who feel passionately about specific issues. An overly specific platform that allows little leeway for candidates’ own beliefs is detrimental. There is a sweet spot in the middle in most cases but it will require cautious and exacting wordsmiths and something the Republican Party does not have in abundance: restraint.

A party platform can affect election outcomes in either a positive or a negative way. If a party platform is to attract more members and candidates then it should be written with that goal in mind. If a party platform is written in such a way that the wording is reflective of those who feel the most passionately about each issue then shouting, confusion and division will win the day and reason and political expertise will be forced into the shadows.

Before we Republicans embark upon the mission of writing a platform, someone must ask, “Do we really need to do this?” If the answer is affirmative then the next question must be, “What costs are we willing to bear?”

Discuss at will.

34 comments

  1. Harry says:

    The purpose of a platform is to put issues out, have an honest debate, and determine what are the common elements of agreement that give voters a reason to support something. Doesn’t mean that everyone will agree on everything.

  2. eddiep says:

    If you place a plank in the platform that even a few members adamantly oppose you are creating a wedge.

  3. ARAR says:

    a party platform would not accomplish a thing, except real live division. there are those in the party and even those outside the party that think and believe that if you do not agree with them 100%, you will never agree on anything. A platfrorm is not needed and serves no purpose, it would bring us all to a real battle on every issue. We should allow each
    and every candidate to live or die by their own platform, as they should …

    • Doug Grammer says:

      A legislator needs to follow the wishes of his district, or lead them into agreeing with them. That relationship with the voters, regardless of party affiliation, will have a greater impact on an election.

      I am fine with the GOP working out differences between candidates in the primary. A platform might help us decide who would make the best Republican nominee, if an incumbent says one thing at home and votes another way in Atlanta.

  4. segafamily says:

    As a father of an Independent voting family, I would love if Republicans would actually put in writing the standards of the Party for use as a guide. As is, its anybodies guess what they stand for and more importantly, what they’ll do once in office.

    No disrespect intended, but note the statement above mine for elaboration of the need for a true, honest platform.

    • Ken says:

      Please understand that a party platform will not necessarily be the position of any candidate. Opponents can; however, use any differences between the candidate’s positions and the platform to drive a wedge between a nominee and his own party.

  5. Dave Bearse says:

    The purpose of a platform is election or re-election of Republicans. A platform won’t help a GaGOP that is about topped out on that account.

    A platform isn’t necessary for the GaGOP to govern, so I think a platform of little use in the near term, and I doubt the party will develop and adopt a platform that’s beneficial in the long term.

      • Dave Bearse says:

        I vote for Democrats in state and local races about 90% of the time, but I don’t think of DPG as my party, just as I didn’t think of the GOP as my party when I generally voted for GOP candidates 20 years ago.

        No, I wouldn’t give that advice to the DPG, but the DPG is at the opposite end of the spectrum with respect to being topped out in state elective offices held.

        The GOP brooks little or no compromise. The development of a platform will be an internal fight that won’t bring anyone to the tent. Have at it.

  6. Doug Grammer says:

    The DPG has a platform. It is not hard to find.

    It states that we have a right to affordable health care. Now I am not sure if someone else’s right to affordable health care force me and others to pay for their health care, or if their right to affordable health care means Doctors and medical providers work for free or below market wages, ensuring that they won’t be able to pay back their student loans.

    They affirm the importance of a strong work ethic, but actions speak louder than words.

    They support funding for nurses in our schools. Every school with a nurse. A chicken in every pot.

    Forgetting what the other party stands for, I see no problem with the GA GOP stating what it stands for. Will everyone agree on every issue? Of course not. Log Cabin Republicans may not sign on to the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Instead of delving into all possible exceptions and scenarios concerning abortion, why don’t we say we appreciate the value of human life? That could cover abortion, assisted suicide, cloning, and maybe more. I still think it’s possible to be pro-life and Ok with a death penalty for the most heinous crimes. Why not say so?

    What if the Georgia GOP states that it wants a fairer simpler tax code that doesn’t mirror the IRS? What if 2 to 4 election cycles later, something actually gets done about it? What if congress decided to follow Georgia’s example?

    Considering that the DPG does have a platform, what if we let voters see both platforms side by side and decide which party they most want to affiliate with?

    • JeffHaffley says:

      I agree with Doug.

      While I think Ken has some valid points I think he is approaching the issue from the viewpoint of “What will the Democrats do to us?” instead of “What are we going to do to them?”

      We need to clearly state our beliefs and contrast ourselves with the Obama Democrats of Atlanta.

      • Doug Grammer says:

        I don’t agree with the national platform 100%. However, I do agree with it 95% or better. I went back and re-read parts of it. It’s a much better platform than previous platforms.

        Topics covered: sanctity of life:, fairer, simpler, flatter tax code; reforming SS, Medicare,& medicade; jobs; balancing a budget; reigning in out of control spending; repealing Dodd -Frank; DOMA; prayer in schools; and a host of other issues. These are topics that cause people to think.

        I’m not thinking of a 50 page platform like this one, but I wouldn’t mind 8 to 10 pages. It’s OK with me if it’s shorter and hits all the right topics. National Platform committee members from Georgia: Sue Everhart and Sam Olens.

      • Ken says:

        Hi JeffHaffley,

        I plead guilty though I am much more concerned at what we might do to ourselves than what the Democrats might do.

    • Ken says:

      Hi Doug,

      I appreciate your points and my instinct is to proudly state what I believe loudly and clearly and argue it all out. I am not at all convinced that this wins elections.

      Issue by issue within the party there will be two arguments: what do we say and how much detail do we include. The greater the detail, the greater the number of those who do not agree.

      The slope is precipitous, perilous and perceptible.

      • Doug Grammer says:

        The platform may not win an individual election. It might win scores of local elections on a county level where there are still conservative Democrats in local seats.

        Think of the platform as a hammer. Yes, you can bang your thumb if you are careless with it. You can even kill someone with it. However, the main function of a hammer is a tool for building things.

        I’ll agree that the devil is in the details. We don’t need to write legislation. I agree that it should be broad sweeping statements and not watered down by minutia. If the final product is something that people who consider themselves as a Republican support 80 or 90% of, this is something to rally around and recruit candidates and voters with.

        It should not be a tool to try drive people out of the party, but I have no doubts that a random individual here and there will try to use it for that end. Those people are going to cause problems with or without a platform.

        Another issue is who writes it. I would suggest three names from each congressional district be sent in and one or two would be picked. Divide up topics, form subcommittees on topics, and meet again two to three months later.

        • mpierce says:

          If the final product is something that people who consider themselves as a Republican support 80 or 90% of, this is something to rally around and recruit candidates and voters with.

          By alienating 10-20% of republicans and countless independents?

          but I have no doubts that a random individual here and there will try to use it for that end.

          random individual? How about the press or the opposing party. You think they might try to use it that way?

          No doubt the platform will end up being the same old tired no new taxes, abortion, gay marriage mantra.

        • mpierce says:

          If the final product is something that people who consider themselves as a Republican support 80 or 90% of, this is something to rally around and recruit candidates and voters with.

          By alienating 10-20% of republicans and countless independents?

          but I have no doubts that a random individual here and there will try to use it for that end.

          random individual? How about the press or the opposing party. You think they might try to use it that way?

          No doubt the platform will end up being the same old tired no new taxes, abortion, gay marriage mantra.

          • Doug Grammer says:

            I’m not looking for “no new taxes.” I want a fairer, simpler, and flatter tax system not based off the IRS.

            Some of the press and opposing party, sometimes the difference is hard to tell, will be against us regardless of what we do.

            What if I told you the Georgia GOP was in favor of less government and collecting fewer taxes and that translated to no Georgia government funding of a vice principal at your local high school. How would you feel about that? What if I told you that the vice principal in question could keep his job if the school board voted to raise your tax because the Georgia GOP is about local control and accountability? And if it makes a difference, what if he or she is one of 4 vice principals and his job is apparently not needed?

            Just because someone is not with you 100% does not mean that the remainder automatically alienates anyone. They could be ambivalent about it. Not everything that every candidate says or that every party supports fires up everyone 100%. That doesn’t people automatically hate anything that they are not 100% behind. A little less drama, please.

            • Ken says:

              Some of the press and opposing party, sometimes the difference is hard to tell, will be against us regardless of what we do.

              Yes.

            • Ken says:

              Doug,

              I strongly favor taking compelling positions and arguing boldly for what is right. I believe that we should not necessarily take positions that are agreeable to a majority simply because it appeals to a majority. There is no courage there and it is not a way to change the perceptions of the public. We must have faith in our positions and in our ability to persuade people that those positions are right.

              Is it necessary; however, to use a platform to put forward those points? That is the pointed question.

              You make good points and I give you credit for those and in the end it will be what we create. IF we go forward with this, then I simply urge that we do so with an eye toward the future and winning elections in 2014 – and the the next dozen elections, as well.

              • Ghost of William F Buckley says:

                “Is it necessary; however, to use a platform to put forward those points? That is the pointed question.”

                That is indeed the pointed question, Ken. I only wish I had the time to craft a written argument as eloquently as say, Charlie, or as factually compelling as bgsmallz.

                Yet, brevity has it’s advantages.

                NO!

                We should never abandon, diminish, or forget that some issues that are not in vogue, or are held only by a minority, yet Losers don’t Legislate.

                I am very pleased leadership is contemplating these matters. While an iceberg sank the Titanic, not listening to reason got her to that fatal place in time.

  7. NoTeabagging says:

    Both Parties have the same platform, “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It!”
    cue Groucho:

    • NoTeabagging says:

      when it concerns the ‘other’ party platform, or proposed legislation, that is.

    • Ken says:

      Plus 1400 for any reference to the Marx Brothers – with additional bonus points for references that include Zeppo or Gummo.

  8. saltycracker says:

    Taxes: Overhaul it. keep it simple/flat, so that folks can see some attempt at fairness.

    Currently taxes are like MSRP in a store. The discounts, rebates & benefits are parceled out to those in the lobby (pun intended).

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