As anyone who listens to my commentaries or reads some of my opinion pieces likely suspects, I tend to fall on the liberal side of the political spectrum. That said, next week I will definitely be watching the political three-ring circus that is the Republican National Convention.
This election cycle has been one for the history books, with the Grand Old Party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan bucking tradition and defying expectations by selecting opinionated billionaire Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee. More importantly, the 112 members of the Republican National Committee Platform Committee have drafted a staunchly conservative political platform that outlines their vision for America. This platform will now be presented to the delegates of the Republican National Convention for approval on Monday.
That the platform itself is politically conservative should come as no surprise, particularly as the Republican Party has become increasingly beholden to right-wing ideologues and organizations like the Tea Party, the Family Research Council, and the National Rifle Association. I expect the Democratic Party Platform to be equally progressive, particularly as the Clinton campaign struggles to recruit the disaffected supporters of Bernie Sanders.
What’s surprising about the GOP’s 2016 platform is this: it is an ultra-reactionary platform that runs counter to a century of progress in civil rights, ignores some of the basic premises of our Nation’s founding and previous Republican philosophies, and outwardly ignores conclusive data on public health and climate change.
Consider, for example, the numerous and tone-deaf provisions that target the LGBT community. Coming exactly one month after a single gunman killed 49 people at a gay club in Orlando, and despite claims by the Platform Committee that it didn’t not want to engage in “identity politics”, social conservatives who were still bristling over Supreme Court rulings like United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges were able to include a number of discriminatory provisions in the platform documents.
Included among these discriminatory provisions was a reaffirmation of marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman, a call for a Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage, a requirement that transgendered individuals use the bathroom or changing room that aligns with the sex on their birth certificates, and support for state- and federal-level legislation that would allow any person or company to legally discriminate against the LGBT community on the basis of religious freedom.
Worse yet, the GOP Platform also expresses support for so-called “conversion” or “reparative” therapy, psychiatric treatment that aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation. In pushing that political plank, the members of the Platform Committee – which includes the head of an anti-gay organization described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an official hate group – ignored decades of medical research. In 2009, for example, the American Psychological Association engaged in a comprehensive review of all of the then-available research on reparative therapy. They reviewed all studies on gay conversion therapy conducted between 1963 and 2007, and concluded that a person’s sexual orientation could not be changed with therapy. That review also found that individuals who underwent reparative therapy were likely to have higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicide than other members of the LGBT community.
So compelling are these data that the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Counseling Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of Social Workers have all condemned reparative therapy. The American Psychiatric Association goes even further, calling the practice unethical and stating that, “the potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self hatred already experienced by the patient.” Five states have also banned the practice. It should not be surprising then that the even the Log Cabin Republicans – a group of LGBT conservatives that frequently ignore the anti-gay rhetoric of their own party – have spoken out against the platform, calling it “the most anti-LGBT Platform in the Party’s 162-year history.”
Lest you think the GOP’s 2016 platform only targets the LGBT community, however, consider these other planks. Ignoring the spate of gun violence, particularly crimes committed using legally obtained semi-automatic weapons, the Platform Committee passed an amendment opposing any law that would restrict magazine capacity. The traditional anti-abortion language was also strengthened to exclude abortion even when the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest or threatens the health of the mother. Contrary to the opinion of most military experts, and the experience of the Israeli Defense Force, the members of the Platform Committee continue to oppose women occupying combat positions in the US military. Finally, and in direct contravention of the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment, the GOP platform demands that lawmakers use religion as a guide when legislating by stating that, “man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights.”
Despite dubious claims by Donald Trump and his supporters that he would be better for women, for minorities and for the LGBT community than Democratic-nominee Hillary Clinton, this platform (which the Trump campaign has already endorsed) seeks to overturn the hard won civil rights of all Americans. For a party that condemns so-called ‘identity politics’ and claims to offer a ‘big tent’ that welcomes all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or political views, the proposed 2016 platform suggests the exact opposite.
[This blog entry was originally presented as an oral commentary on Northeast Public Radio on July 14, 2016, and is available on the WAMC website.]