A 58-page, single-spaced draft 2016 Republican Party platform was reported on earlier this week by various media outlets, including CNN and The New York Times. The poorly scanned draft we reviewed will be amended and changed before being formally adopted at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week (in fact, a new plank on pornography has already been added, according to reports). However, we believe a pre-convention analysis of the draft, similar to one NPQ performed on the draft Democratic platform last week, is important.
Three themes permeate the draft. First, the platform frequently contrasts its policy positions with those of the Obama administration. If it happened since 2008 and the federal government did it, it was probably dangerous and harmful, according to the platform. Second, the platform consistently refers to the individual and the traditional as the fundamental basis of the nation, with relatively few references to interest groups (exceptions include veterans, Native Americans, and people with disabilities). In its references to family, the platform explicitly advocates for marriage to be defined as between one man and one woman. It also extols the benefits of children living in a home with both a mother and a father. Third, the draft platform reaffirms the GOP’s decades-long assertion that government power is best exercised sparingly and at the state and local level. There are frequent references to federal regulatory overreach in several areas of domestic policy, with the need to limit or end federal intervention.
There are at least a couple of libertarian areas in the platform where factions of both Republicans and Democrats might find common ground. A call for the end to crony capitalism is one such area, though examples of the practice each party cites would likely be very different. Another area is a nod to Ron and Rand Paul supporters, who have long advocated that Congress increase oversight of the Federal Reserve and “audit the Fed.”
Unlike the Democratic platform, the GOP draft makes explicit reference to charity and philanthropy. Intriguingly, it uses its section on “Fundamental Tax Principles” to do so, addressing an issue familiar to NPQ readers: whether charitable donations should remain tax-exempt.
Because of the vital role of religious organizations, charities, and fraternal benevolent societies in fostering generosity and patriotism, they should not be subject to taxation and donations to them should remain deductible.
In addition, there are several references to faith-based organizations and how they should not be restricted or denied the ability to pursue their missions.
One troubling section for many nonprofit organizations is the observation that “Big government undermines federalism through more than 1100 grants-in-aid, programs that comprise more than one-sixth of the federal budget for matters that should be the exclusive responsibility of the states.” The platform goes on to say:
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The web of conditions and regulations—especially the requirement of matching funds—that comes with federal grants transforms recipients into appendages of the Washington bureaucracy. We call upon Congress to help a Republican president to reduce and ultimately eliminate this system of conditioned grants…
The platform reflects continued interest in reducing the size and cost of social programs while protecting access for current and soon-to-be recipients. For example, Medicare reform should not affect current recipients or those 55 or older.
On Social Security:
We accept the responsibility to preserve and modernize a system of retirement security forged in an old industrial era beyond the memory of most Americans. Current retirees and those close to retirement can be assured of their benefits while younger workers will have the option of creating their own personal investment accounts as supplements to the system.
General assistance to people in need is judged to be a failure, with new approaches needed:
We have been fighting the War on Poverty for fifty years and poverty is winning. Our social safety net—about 80 separate means-tested programs costing over $1 trillion every year—is designed to help people born into or falling into poverty. It rarely lifts them out. Its apologists judge success by the amount of money spent to keep people in the system. That is a cruel measurement. Republicans propose to evaluate a poverty program by whether it actually reduces poverty and increases the personal independence of its participants. The results are damning. Intergenerational poverty has persisted and worsened since 1966.
There is much more in the 58-page document, of course, from foreign policy to national defense to education and economic policy (including a renewed call for a balanced federal budget mandated by Constitutional amendment). We encourage you to read the draft, listen to the convention speeches, and observe which candidates espouse or reject various platform planks. Further, compare and contrast the Democratic Party platform with the GOP platform as part of being a uniquely informed voter and advocate.