Jeff Greenfield (“Jumping ship: The party platforms no one stands on anymore“) raises an interesting question : Why do party platforms mean so little these days?
The debate has been revived recently by the drafting (and then disavowal by Romney and other Republicans) of a platform plank in the Republican platform that advocates banning abortion with no mention of exceptions in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother:
Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.
The nominee has already made clear that this platform is not his platform. He certainly wouldn’t be the first party nominee to distance themselves from their party’s platform. When asked about a similarly controversial part of the 1996 platform Bob Dole (the party nominee that year) said didn’t even plan on reading the thing.
The question is: If it’s not Mitt Romney’s platform–whose is it? Does anyone want to claim this thing?
There seem to be two possible explanations for how this box of unwanted ideas suddenly shows up on Republicans’ doorsteps.
The party platform appears to be so unimportant that it’s not worth Romney’s effort to adjust. That doesn’t say much good about party conventions. After all, our conventions produce rules, a platform, and a nominee. That’s it. There should be some meaning to what it does. Maybe parties have finally outgrown their platform.
Greenfield is right to bemoan the decline of party conventions. The two parties are terrified that a disagreement over ideas will distract voters from the pageant they put on. However, we may have come to the point that there is so little of the actual convention left that it is no longer be an event worthy of “news” coverage and the networks have only a flimsy excuse to give the two major parties big blocks of air time.