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RNC, Team Trump agree not to bother with a new party platform

Republicans deciding to recycle their 2016 platform in 2020 is emblematic of their indifference to being a governing party.
Image: The Republican National Committee holds a media walkthrough for the 2020 Republican National Convention that will be held from Aug. 24-27, 2020
The Republican National Committee holds a media walkthrough for the 2020 Republican National Convention that will be held from Aug. 24-27, 2020 to choose the 2020 Republican presidential nominee in the Spectrum Center Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, Nov. 12, 2019.Jim Bourg / Reuters file

Most Americans don't pay a whole lot of attention to party platforms, but they've historically been important documents. Every four years, officials from the major parties get together to iron out the details of the party's goals, priorities, principles, and values. In many instances, the process has been contentious and difficult, with partisans quarreling over every detail.

This year, some Republicans intended to pursue a different model. Axios reported a few weeks ago that Jared Kushner and a group of Trump campaign officials had spent months working on "a radical overhaul" of the party's platform. The idea, evidently, was to shrink the 58-page document produced at the 2016 convention into "a single card" that could fit "in people's pockets." It would briefly list some of the party's core beliefs and principles -- and effectively nothing else.

Evidently, that plan has been replaced with something even stranger.

The Republican National Committee voted on Wednesday to reuse its 58-page 2016 platform instead of building a new platform for 2020, Politico's Alex Isenstadt first reported and Axios confirmed.... The RNC will not have a platform committee and only around 336 delegates are scheduled to travel to Charlotte for the convention.

To be fair, some of this is the result of unusual circumstances: Republicans have scrambled to put together a new convention plan in light of the pandemic, the rising infection rates in North Carolina, and the president's insistence on a large, adoring crowd that's ignoring his own administration's recommendations on mitigation efforts. Even if party officials wanted to have a meaningful platform-writing process, there are now logistical challenges that wouldn't ordinarily exist.

That said, if RNC officials and the Trump campaign wanted to produce a meaningful platform, alerting the public to the priorities the president and his allies would pursue if rewarded by voters, they could write such a document. There's time to make that happen.

They're choosing not to.

It's emblematic of a broader point that too often goes overlooked: Donald Trump wants four more years in power, but he doesn't appear to have much of a vision for what he'd do if that were to happen. The fact that the president is literally running on a recycled platform from four years ago reinforces the impression that Trump still has no meaningful plans or agenda.

Indeed, the Republican and his operation haven't exactly been subtle about this. Visitors to Joe Biden's campaign website will see an issues page -- labeled "Joe's Vision" -- which includes 37 policy plans on a wide range of issues, targeted to a variety of constituencies.

Visitors to Donald Trump's campaign website will see there is no issues page.

Traditionally, presidents run for re-election because they have work they hope to do on behalf of the nation. They also make every effort to tout that policy vision, in part so that they can claim a popular mandate for their agenda after Election Day has come and gone.

Trump and contemporary Republicans don't feel the need to bother with any of this. It's almost as if the party has given up on governing and become a post-policy party.