Let’s Abolish Party Platforms

One of the lessons of both 2012 conventions is it's time to consider doing away with party platforms altogether.  Maybe the conventions as well, but that's another story. The platforms are just a bad joke.  Rank and file are told that these documents represent the policies and positions of the parties, but they don't and all but the terminally naïve know that.

The top Republican in Congress, Speaker John Boehner, said he didn't read this year's GOP platform and in fact, he told PBS's News Hour,  he has "never read one."  

"I'm not sure anybody's ever read one, other than maybe the chairman of the platform committee," he said.  He could add to that short list journalists who cover politics, some diehard party faithful, opposition researchers looking for "gotcha" material, political junkies and a few people with too much time on their hands.

Boehner suggested boiling it all down to a single page, but one page or a dozen really makes no difference.  It's still meaningless.

Mitt Romney made that clear when he said he intends to ignore his party's plank that calls for a ban on all forms of abortion; his running mate, Paul Ryan endorses the no-exceptions rule, but the party standard bearer said he thinks there should be exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. 

There are probably many more parts of the document he rejects, and the same is true of Barack Obama and the Democratic version, and I doubt either man has bothered reading his party's platform.

If the presidential candidate doesn't take the platform seriously, why should anyone else?

Platforms are a throwback to the days when presidential candidates did not have as much control over the party machinery and the bosses wanted to keep them in line.

I have a 21st Century alternative: require each presidential candidate to submit to the convention — it wouldn't have to be prepared until late in the race for the nomination so only one or two candidates would have to comply — a detailed policy statement, his or her personal version of the platform to run on and be held accountable for.

Romney had the nomination sewn up on May 29 when he reached the required 1,144 delegates, and Obama never had any competition, so both men would have had sufficient time to present their respective parties – and the voters — with a platform that could be used over the next four years to measure their performance in office.

Of course, that could be a problem since most politicians are loathe to commit themselves to anything in much detail. And what if voters would actually read the presidential platform and take it seriously? 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.