MNGOP Platform: From Scratch

John “Policy Guy” LaPlante, writing at True North, h talks about his experience at his first-ever BPOU convention last Saturday.

It’s a good story – read the whole thing, naturally, because reading John LaPlante is just a generally good idea.

Now, my own BPOU convention – District 66 – is tonight.  An  I echo John’s misgivings about one key part of the proceedings that generates a lot of heat, but almost no light at all; the resolutions for platform changes:

You say you want a resolution? As I paged through the packet we all received upon registration, I saw what I had dreaded: Page after page of the party platform, with changes that had been suggested during caucus night.

Why did I dread this, aside from the obvious time sink? First, it meant listening to people talk about items that are of marginal interest, at best, to a state party: the federal budget, the federal tax code, federal agencies, and foreign policy.

I spent a fair amount of time at precinct caucuses trying to filter out some of these, reminding people that nobody in state government has anything to do with, say, prosecuting the war in Iraq, or approving or opposing trans-American highways.

Second, some of the proposed changes are simply bad. One proposal was to repeal the federal income tax “and replace it with nothing.” Given the dynamics of Washington, that would lead to more deficit spending and thus (perhaps) hyperinflation. The measure narrowly failed, and I noticed a delegate in front of me shake his head. Another measure called for the “separation of school and state.” I rise and speak against the resolution, pointing out that the public-good argument for taxpayer funding of schooling is very strong. This is not, I continued, mean that government needs to actually run all schools. Indeed, we would be better off giving people vouchers or tuition tax credits, and let parents choose from among privately run schools and government schools. A defender of the resolution came after me, saying, in part, “we need vouchers.” Of course that’s a rejection, not an extension, of the “separation of school and state” argument. The resolution fails, narrowly.

There are a lot of resolutions that are spawned by angry people who’ve come to precinct caucuses to try to change the world; writing a resolution seems to be a fine way to give that concern a voice.  Which is fine, except that debating them inevitably ends up sucking up an hour of time at precinct caucuses, and will eat up much of the time tonight.

A third problem with the resolutions is that some are simply redundant. There were two resolutions on term limits (again, on the federal level), with specific numbers on years and terms. A third simply says something like “Heck they ought to just go home,” which is a spurt of outrage more than anything.

I remember my first precinct caucus, where we had no less than eight different resolutions calling for the outlawing of abortion.  Which is not only redundant within the caucus, but unnecessary, since the MNGOP Platform is not a pro-choice manifesto even now.

Even though it wasn’t 2008, I did see some Ron Paul-style activists at work. I missed the discussion a resolution to “abolish the Federal Reserve Board and allow free enterprise money and banking.” Unfortunately, I think that one passed. (Just now I noticed another sentence—tell me this is NOT in the platform already, please—“Opposing any movement toward a North American Union including any NAFTA superhighway.”)

The Ronulans made for an entertaining District 66 meeting two years ago; we had to wade through a solid ninety minutes worth of debate on resolutions – most of which had little to no bearing on the state offices we were dealing with!

But here’s the LaPlante’s most interesting point – the one I really wanted to get to when I started this post:

Finally, the document is simply too long. As I told several people, God had 10 commandments; why should a political party have a 17-page (or whatever) platform? At that length, the platform becomes not the statement of general principles that it should be but an internal version of the “Christmas tree” bills, passed by Congress and Legislature alike, that Republicans say they abhor. A paragraph here, a sentence there, many an article in the present platform is an attempt to buy off the support of certain factions in the party. (Maybe I should offer a resolution to abolish the platform and start over, and limit it to 100 words!)

Which got me to thinking; come the next Precinct Caucuses, I may propose exactly that.

Something along these lines:

Whereas the Minnesota Republican Party platform has become a long, meandering collection of sops to its own internal special interests, and…

Whereas no document this long and fragmented can possibly attract people to it on its own merits,

Be it resolved that the Republican Party of Minnesota shall scrap its existing platform, and replace it with the following statement of principles:

“As the Republican Part of Minnesota stands for liberty, the free market, and individual initiative, we resolve to support and uphold in every way the following principles:

  • Liberty: lower taxes, less regulation, and a focus on freedom, whether economic, intellectual or political.
  • Prosperity: the promotion of the freedom of the market to bring the most opportunity to the most people, and the promotion of merit that drives this prosperity.
  • Security: the defense of this nation from enemies abroad, the protection of its citizens from crime and criminals at home, and the security of our borders.
  • Culture: The recognition that America is a melting pot that welcomes newcomers who come with a desire to join in our novel experiment, enjoy freedom, wealth and a brotherhood of common principle, rather than view it as a candy store to be plundered.
  • Limited Government: A government that is focusing on whether you’re smoking or eating Big Macs is a government that has too much time, money and power on its hands.
  • Family: the belief that government needs to uphold, rather than undercut, the basic building block of all healthy societies, the family. “

Yeah, I borrowed it from here; why re-invent the wheel?

Yep.  February, 2012, I’m gonna do it.

13 thoughts on “MNGOP Platform: From Scratch

  1. An enterprising gentleman in our caucus made a separate resolution for every plank in the platform: to remove it. His intent was to get rid of all the redundant and useless planks, and it may have worked if we had more time and attention (we did not get half way through). It was an interesting approach, but as John said, a time sink.

  2. I read the platform document until I came to this line

    “Opposing any movement toward a North American Union including any NAFTA superhighway.”

    then I stopped reading.

    It’s fine to invite the crazy uncle to dinner, but don’t let him write any resolutions.

  3. In 50B, we had someone proposing to terminate every government contract with anyone who had previously worked in government as of 1/1/11. I find the revolving door between Congress and K Street tiresome, but goodness, why would anyone think this was even possible? It was a lot worse in ’08, though — the Ron Paulites were far less in evidence.

  4. We had a guy proposing a specific Personal Rail Transit route. Now, whether PRT is a good idea or not, that he’d think that’d be something for a party platform was…

    …well, an education opportunity.

  5. Most of the Founding Fathers hated the notion of political parties. I agree with them.

  6. Mitch,

    To be fair a statement of principles has sort of been written. It’s not the platform, but it’s a starting point of something to replace the platform

    Just have to get the party to dump the platform and go instead to this overriding statement of principles

    You can find it here:

  7. Can we put a resolution forward at the state convention to scrap the platform and simplify it? The thing is like 3 pages long, were not Democrats, KISS (keep it simple stupid) it.

  8. I wrote about the problem with the bloated party platform after attending my precinct caucus:

    I understand there is an effort underway to try to simplify it this year. I can’t recall which BPOU was leading the charge, but they hoped to have it on the agenda for the state convention.

    I also believe that Speed Gibson was working on a more concise platform:

  9. My proposed change to the party platform at my precinct caucus (which passed 9-4) was along these lines. Eliminate the plank calling for raising gambling age to 21. I didn’t even know to look up the platform beforehand, let alone have time during the caucus to go over it, so I skimmed bits and pieces and that one stuck out at me.

    We had a guy proposing a specific Personal Rail Transit route.

    A SPECIFIC route? I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that he either lived or worked within reasonable walking distance of that route. In which case he should have been summarily mocked and derided until he left the caucus crying in shame. To liberally steal from Shakespeare:

    “Get thee to a DFL Convention’ry, why woulds’t thou be a leader of
    public dependents?”

  10. Ben, resolutions are not allowed to be proposed from the floor. There is also no such thing as a “friendly amendment”.

    So everything has to originate at caucuses and it has to be accepted or denied in it’s entirety, at each subsequent level of the party.

    Quite frankly it’s impossible to say “I support the platform in it’s entirety”. You either haven’t read it or you have a mental disorder, as there are parts that contradict other parts.

  11. Fortunately the resolution to simplify the platform will likely come forward to the State Convention. Even if it didn’t, we are about at the point where the State Party would be “getting a clean sheet of paper” just as they have twice before. On the other hand, I don’t ever want to go back to the still older way, in which the platform was developed from scratch every year. As for “100 words or less” I think you’ll find it difficult to do with a committee of 20,000 people at caucus, or 2000 people at Convention.

  12. As Chad is kind to note, yes, I’m working on a new platform, and it will take time to do it right if my idea works out. I believe Kevin is referring to a “what we believe” pamphlet, which is very well written, succinct, and on point.

    This whole idea of a platform and/or amendments bubbling up from the grassroots is entirely the wrong approach, and as such, a waste of time. Call them resolutions if you must, but keep it apart from the platform.

  13. Pingback: Shot in the Dark » Blog Archive » Convention Time – 66B Edition

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