The RNC’s Tough, but Tempered, Platform

The new platform made in Trump’s image reflects his bucking of Republican orthodoxy.

  • The new RNC platform exactly mirrors former President Trump’s policy priorities

  • It opposes only late-term abortions rather than advocating a federal ban

  • It represents the GOP’s centrist shift, directed by Trump’s more pragmatic populism

The story

The Republican National Committee (RNC) adopted its new political platform which — not surprisingly — echoes the priorities of party leader Donald Trump. Though nonbinding for GOP candidates, the tone reflects a new, more populist Republican party which is also softer on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

The RNC's formal embrace of Trump's 2024 "America First" agenda further signals the decline of the party's old guard. The platform is centered on economic revitalization and stringent border security, on opposing central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), and on NATO allies meeting their defense commitments. It champions lower living costs, tariffs to protect American industries, and a manufacturing resurgence.

Since 2016, the Republican Party has swung markedly in favor of a more popular agenda, shepherded by Donald Trump and his apathy for the established Republican order.

The politics

The left is seizing the chance to accentuate the platform's minimal emphasis on abortion, as well as to offer a scathing analysis of the 112 RNC delegates who approved the platform, painting them as conservative kooks and hive-mentality party shills.

Regarding abortion, GOP critics note that the platform avoids mention of a federal abortion ban, which Trump opposes. Instead, it highlights GOP opposition to late-term abortion and emphasizes support for access to birth control and in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Though the left should theoretically be celebrating the party’s softened stance, they’re using the shift to expose the party’s perceived vapidness and the unshakable control Trump wields over it.

For instance, The Washington Post editorial board observed, “Abortion is the issue Mr. Trump’s team most fears … Mr. Trump privately refers to abortion as the ‘a-word’ and recognizes that his role in overturning Roe v. Wade is a liability in the general election, even though he has boasted about it. So now Mr. Trump says he wants to leave abortion policy to the states.”

On the right side of the aisle, most are not surprised at any content in the 20-point platform, including the watered-down pro-life messaging.

Fox Business and National Review contributor David Bahnsen summed up the Republican Party’s abortion shift, saying, “There is one reason, and one reason only; Trump and his leadership at RNC got this done — they KNEW and they KNOW that they won’t lose a single pro-life vote over it because the Christian right spent eight years TELLING him he has their vote through unwavering fealty.”

Traditional conservatives, like former Vice President Mike Pence, are voicing concern about the moderated abortion stance. “The RNC platform is a profound disappointment to the millions of pro-life Republicans that have always looked to the Republican Party to stand for life.”

Since the policy blueprint’s criticism centers mostly on a single issue, it could be a sign of success — particularly in its strategic appeal to centrist voters during an election that will rely heavily on independents.

Beyond the headlines

The Republican Party's shift away from strong anti-abortion language signals its intent to moderate its stance and realign with the priorities of working people.

Much media criticism regarding perceived party malice or hypocrisy obscures the true purpose of the document, which aims to present — in 20 simple bullet points — why the Republican platform appeals more to ordinary Americans dissatisfied with President Biden's performance.

The document will not be read by millions of Americans, but it will have a rally-around-the-flag effect for GOP office-seekers. Tackling the illegal migration crisis and inflation, making America “the dominant energy producer in the world, by far” and protecting Social Security and Medicare “with no cuts” are not radical, right-wing priorities.

Donald Trump’s general aversion to political ideology is why the GOP moderated its stance, and why policy priority number 11 reads (in all caps, as is singularly Trumpian): “REBUILD OUR CITIES, INCLUDING WASHINGTON D.C., MAKING THEM SAFE, CLEAN, AND BEAUTIFUL AGAIN.”

Conservative orthodoxy would prevent a sitting president’s use of executive authority to improve American cities, delegating such tasks to local and state governments. However, Donald Trump's instinct to create "safe, clean, and beautiful" cities bucks traditional standards and resonates with normal people.

Why it matters

The new roadmap the RNC has given Republicans may help keep the party's tone moderate and tempered in an election cycle where the GOP can potentially sweep Congress and the presidency. Unlike the underwhelming 2022 performance, most down-ballot candidates in 2024 are less eccentric and are guided by the unusually relaxed influence of Donald Trump.

While Republican candidates since 2016 have often had to fully embrace or explain away the worst excesses of Donald Trump’s rhetoric, they are dealing with the more politically experienced version today — one less likely to cause electoral headaches.

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