P H I L A D E L P H I A, July 28, 2000 -- Playing up a “progressive” side,Republicans are adopting a more conciliatory tone toward governmentwhile hewing closely in substance to their conservativefundamentals on taxes, abortion, defense and more.
The GOP’s platform committee begins work today on a draft thatdrops the party’s call for making English the official language andproposes a stronger federal role in education and the environmentthan Republican policy has favored.
“Government does have a role to play, but as a partner, not arival, to the armies of compassion,” states the draft.
A document of the party, not the presidential candidate, it isinfused nonetheless with the optimistic bearing of George W. Bush.
On the other hand, the draft leaves unchanged the party’suncompromising stand against abortion rights. It also maintains theposition that homosexuality is incompatible with military service.
Revisions to Come
Platform committee members received the draft late Thursday andare expected to make mostly cosmetic changes. The full RepublicanNational Convention, opening Monday, will ratify the document nextweek.
Although the platform draft strays from Bush’s stand onabortion, “I think he’ll have no problem at all” endorsing it,Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson said today on NBC’sToday.
“What’s important is that we remain the party that believesstrongly in the sanctity of life,” Nicholson added. “We’re goingto have a vigorous discussion. … The majority will decide howthat document will really read.”
While the 1996 GOP platform was packed with biting, sometimesdour attacks on President Clinton, the new tome mentions Clintonand Democratic candidate Al Gore once or twice in passing.
“We want to be uplifting,” Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson,chairman of the platform committee, said Thursday on CNN. “We wantto be visionary and progressive.”
No Calls for Department Closings
Gone, too, is the zeal to close half a dozen federal departments— the draft does not propose shutting any — and a portrayal of thefederal government as not just intrusive, but practicallyvillainous.
Even so, the draft sits upon the conservative foundation thatless government is best.
“In recent years, America seemed to move away from some of thequalities that make her great, but we are now relearning someimportant lessons,” it says.
“We’re coming to understand that a good and civil societycannot be packaged into government programs but must originate inour homes, in our neighborhoods, and in the private institutionsthat bring us together.”
Same Language on Abortion
The draft gives no ground to abortion-rights advocates,asserting as before that “the unborn child has a right to lifewhich cannot be infringed,” and proposing to ban abortion througha constitutional amendment and legislation.
That topic is a likely flash point for debate in two days ofplatform meetings. Bush believes abortion should remain legal incases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman — exceptionsnot specified in the platform — but he chose not to challenge theparty’s social conservatives on the issue.
Otherwise the draft is compatible with his policies on deep taxcuts, partial privatization of Social Security and other majorareas.
Thompson said he thinks Bush “is going to feel very comfortablewith the platform. I don’t think anybody can embrace it in total.”
The draft does not propose dramatic departures in a GOPenvironmental policy that favors cooperation with private interestsand an emphasis on state regulation over mandates from Washington.
But it scales back criticism of the Endangered Species Act,celebrates advances in wetlands restoration and air and waterquality, and asserts, “There should be a strong federal role inenvironmental protection.”
A Dose of Compassion
In a section billed in advance by platform leaders as an exampleof the “compassionate conservatism” promoted by Bush, thedocument supports large increases in spending on behalf of women’shealth, in particular, and medical research in general.
Such research is “one of the few areas in which governmentinvestment yields tangible results,” the draft says.
But overall, “we will promote a health care system thatsupports, not supplants, the private sector.”
On immigration, the draft drops language from the 1996 platformthat sought to forbid giving social services to illegal immigrantsand said even legal immigrants should not depend on taxpayers forhelp.
Instead of favoring making English the official language, thenew platform would consider English “our common language.” Itencourages “respect for other languages and cultures throughoutour society.”
The draft proposes pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic MissileTreaty with the required six months notice if Russia does not agreeto change it to permit a “robust” national defense system.
It presents as the “central values of our party and ourcountry” a reduced role for government, more personal liberty,“economic freedom,” reliance on the market and decentralizeddecision-making.