Published August 24, 2012
From calls for a commission to study the gold standard to the inclusion of a guest-worker program plank, the emerging Republican Party platform offers what is perhaps the most cohesive statement on where the diverse and difficult-to-corral conservative movement stands.
This year's platform won't be formally approved until the start of the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa. But it's already generating headlines, as conservative groups who've been pushing for one plank or another declare victory after having won a mention - and as Democrats pick over the language for examples of what they bill as an "extreme" ideology.
Amid the chatter, some Republicans note the document is largely meaningless. Mitt Romney is not bound to implement any of it if elected president. It's a vision document, not a party constitution.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the convention keynote speaker, told WNYC earlier this week that most Republicans probably don't know what's in the platform, nor do they care.
"I don't really care about the platform. And I don't think most Republicans care about the platform," he said.
The planks, though, do matter to the groups who've fought for them.
Moves this week to include two provisions -- one to create a commission studying the gold standard and another calling for an audit of the Federal Reserve -- were hailed in some corners of the party.
The still-active campaign site for Ron Paul, who has made the gold standard and Fed scrutiny a centerpiece of his calls for monetary reform, highlighted coverage of the provisions.
The nonprofit American Principles Project likewise praised "the Republican Platform Committee's commitment to the stability and constitutional integrity to our national currency."
Reflecting the reality that none of this is binding, APP Chairman Sean Fieler said: "Now, it is up to our leaders to follow through and make the platform a reality."
The platform reportedly also includes some tough language on illegal immigration, at a time when several Republican-led states are battling the federal government in court over the right to enforce illegal immigration laws.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach fought to include provisions calling for a border fence and the withholding of federal funds from sanctuary cities. Kobach helped draft the Arizona immigration law and is a Romney adviser -- he's also the attorney in the lawsuit filed Thursday by immigration agents against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano over the policy giving some illegal immigrants a deportation reprieve.
The GOP platform, though, includes some conciliatory language on the immigration issue -- supporting a guest-worker program giving temporary worker status to those who don't have green cards, something the 2008 platform did not contain though GOP leaders like former President George W. Bush have expressed backing for it in the past.
Brad Bailey, co-founder of immigration reform group The Texas Immigration Solution, hailed the "unprecedented move," saying it echoes language in the Texas GOP platform.
"The immigration debate inside the GOP has changed," he said in a statement. "A guest worker plan is an important component of addressing the immigration crisis. It is time that we apply our free-market approaches to the immigration problem by putting a priority on securing the border and listening to the needs of American business owners and American farmers."
Meanwhile, the platform serves as a goldmine for Democratic operatives. Coincidentally, the RNC moved to approve language on abortion this week just as the controversy over Rep. Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" remarks boiled up. The Republican Missouri congressman and Senate candidate had suggested that women can fend off pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape," as he argued against any exception for rape when it comes to opposition to abortion.
The Republican Party then finalized language expressing its opposition to abortion, without including an exception for rape. It's similar to language the party has approved in the past, and the nominee is on record supporting exceptions for rape, but Democrats used it all the same to link the broader GOP with Akin's comments.
The Obama campaign accused Republicans of having just passed "the Akin amendment."
"In a year that has shown us no shortage of Republican candidates trying to prove themselves more extreme than the other on issues affecting women's health, Republicans have finally hit rock bottom," Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.