FORT WORTH, Texas–Some of the most combative debates at this week’s Texas State Republican Convention have focused on proposed amendments and additions to the official Republican Party of Texas Platform. The Platform Committee met for hours on Wednesday night, and then reconvened last night to hear forty-five minutes of public testimony, followed by about two more hours where they debated amending or adding language regarding issues like medical marijuana and common core educational standards. Both the meeting room and the hallway around both room doors were standing room only, as volunteers circulated with signs reminding the overflowing crowd to maintain order and quiet.
Current and former leadership of the state’s Young Republican chapters shared with Breitbart Texas their frustrations with the current platform, and ideas for how it should be fixed.
Part of the contentiousness stems from growing generational divide on a number of these issues. Recent Gallup polls show growing societal acceptance of gay marriage and medical marijuana, especially among the younger generations. (Notably, opposition to abortion has remained steady across most demographic categories, and remains very strong among Republicans, with almost 70% identifying as pro-life.) However, for the Texas Young Republicans attending the convention, their main problem with the platform is less about specific issues as it is about the overall length and structure of the entire platform itself.
The last revision to the RPT platform, in 2012, resulted in a document that is thirty pages long, covering over two hundred and fifty separate items, including specific positions on narrow issues like red light cameras, incandescent lightbulbs, diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, and the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Some of the items in the platform are merely broad statements of support, such as for the Boy Scouts of America (“[We] reject any attempt to undermine or fundamentally change the ideals of the organization”) or “Motherhood” (“We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children”). These commentary sections drew criticism from former Ector County Young Republicans president Matthew Stringer, who felt that they drifted from the core party philosophy, and were oftentimes contradictory with other sections. Stringer advocated for a revised platform that emphasized that “we are guaranteed a republic form of government, that we want to scale back a number of the bureaucracies, and have constitutional, limited, and efficient government.”
Both the current and immediate past chairman of the Texas Young Republican Federation expressly advocated for starting over from scratch with a new, much shorter platform. Current chairman Richard Morgan proposed not only shortening the platform to a “statement of principles,” but also requiring a higher vote threshold to approve the platform. “The common feedback I keep hearing from our members in the Texas YRs about the platform,” Morgan said, “is that we should shorten the platform to 8 or 10 things that we agree on, and increase the strength needed to pass it by to, let’s say, 60% or two-thirds, so at least there’s strong consensus on the things that we pass. That would make it a platform that better represents all Republicans in Texas, and that would have a lot of support, I believe, in the Texas Young Republicans.”
Morgan’s predecessor, immediate past Chairman Mark Brown concurred that the platform was far too long in its current form, stating his concern that “it really doesn’t serve any purpose other than to be cannon fodder for the left to pick out parts and pieces that are phrased just a little bit wrong, that they [can] twist around to make Republicans look bad.” Brown added, “We need a platform [to] serve as a rallying flag for conservatives… a small, condensed set of broad-based general conservative principles that we can all agree with, rather than get into the weeds of this particular issue. We should condense the platform down to just maybe ten principles and leave it at that.”
Former Houston Young Republicans President Dave Smith supports an even shorter platform: “Shakespeare once said that brevity is the soul of wit, and there’s that old saw about resumes, that if you can’t distill it down into one page, you’re saying too much. I believe the same about our platform.”
None of the websites for the current statewide Republican candidates link to or quote from any part of the RPT platform. Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for Governor, lists ten core issues with a short narrative description, Attorney General candidate Ken Paxton discusses eleven, and Agriculture Commissioner candidate Sid Miller has just six short blurbs. Land Commissioner candidate George P. Bush’s website focuses on education, energy and veterans’ issues. Dan Patrick’s website for his Lieutenant Governor campaign includes a pledge to take action on seven issues, such as cutting wasteful government and reforming education and passing school choice.
Sarah Rumpf is a political and communications consultant living in Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.