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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Unstable Platform

Seyward Darby has an amusing piece at the New Republic‘s site with some of the loonier provisions found in state Republican Party platform documents.
It’s all good clean fun, but does this craziness matter? No, suggests the CW; party platform committees these days, at any level, are a sandbox dominated by ideological activists, producing turgid documents that candidates feel free to ignore.
Fair enough, I guess, but what about those states where ideological activists have an unusually important role? How about, say, Iowa, whose caucuses often all but dictate one or the other party’s nominating process?
I strongly suggest a reading of the Iowa Republican Party Platform by anyone who accuses “liberals” or “the media” of exaggerating the extremism of today’s conservatives.
This 367-plank, 12,000-word document, adopted just last month at the Iowa State Republican Convention, is relentlessly kooky. Right up top, before the “statement of principles,” the platform features a long, ominous quote from Cicero about “traitors.” It’s not made clear whether said traitors are Democrats, RINOs, or Muslims, but treason sure seems to be a major preoccupation for Iowa Republicans.
Once you get to the “statement of principles,” it’s hard to miss principle number seven, which would have satisfied Ayn Rand even on one of her crankier days:

The individual works hard for what is his/hers. Therefore, the individual will determine with whom he/she will share it, not the government. No more legal plunder. Legal plunder is defined as using the law to take from one person what belongs to them, and giving it to others to whom it does not belong. It is plunder if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what that citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Given that principle, it’s not surprising that elsewhere the platform flatly calls for the abolition of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (along with minimum wage laws), and of the federal departments of Agriculture (!), Education and Energy. It also appears to oppose any anti-discrimination laws of any sort.
Beyond such basics, the Iowa GOP Platform is essentially a compilation of every right-wing consipracy theory-based preoccupation known to man. In a nod to Glenn Beck, the statement of principles mentions “Progressivism” along with “Collectivism, Socialism, Fascism, [and] Communism” as ideologies incompatible with the Founding Fathers’ design. There’s a birther plank. There’s a plank about the “NAFTA Superhighway.” There’s a plank about ACORN. There’s a plank about the “fairness doctrine.” There’s plank after plank after plank opposing the nefarious activities of the United Nations. There’s a plank calling for abolition of the Federal Reserve System. Needless to say, there are many, many planks spelling out total opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage in excrutiating detail, and attacking any limitation on campaign activities or use of tax dollars by religious organizations.
The very end of the platform holds that Republican candidates should be denied party funds if they don’t agree with at least 80% of the platform, as determined by questionnaires asking about every single crazy plank. This is something we should all be able to get behind; I’d love to see not only Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad, a notorious fence-straddler on many issues, but the entire 2012 GOP presidential field, have to check boxes next to solemn items like:

We oppose any effort to implement Islamic Shariah law in this country.

If all this madness is really out of the mainstream of Republican thinking, then perhaps the adults of the GOP should expend the minimum effort necessary to say so very explicitly.

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