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A Republican revolt over Trump’s abortion flip-flop threatens to blow up the GOP convention

One of the more obvious signs that the Republican Party had devolved into a cult of personality came in 2020 when the party decided to abandon writing a platform in advance of the election. GOP officials said that whatever Donald Trump wanted to do was fine with them. I don’t think that’s ever happened before but in the MAGA-fied GOP that sort of thing certainly isn’t unusual. This year, however, they’re going back to the tradition of writing an actual platform— and it’s causing some unexpected heartburn. 

After all, just because party members want a platform doesn’t mean Trump does. Yet he and his campaign have acquiesced within certain parameters. The New York Times reported that Trump’s campaign managers, Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles, sent a memo ordering the platform committee and demanding they pare down the document “to ensure our policy commitments to the American people are clear, concise and easily digestible” because “publishing an unnecessarily verbose treatise will provide more fuel for our opponent’s fire of misinformation and misrepresentation to voters.” They made it clear that while it’s probably ok for the minions to have their little ideological exercise, it’s still Dear Leader’s “principled and popular vision for America’s future.” 

There are some grumblings in the ranks about this, mostly from anti-abortion activists who want to ensure that the party doesn’t deviate from its long-held goal of banning abortion nationwide despite Trump’s attempts to hide those intentions with his fatuous declarations that by overturning Roe v. Wade, he “sent it back to the states which is what everyone on both sides always wanted.” One staunch anti-abortion activist, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, recently appeared on CNN and made it clear that she believes the GOP platform should remain what it has been for 40 years.

As Dannenfelser points out, the campaign actually blocked a pair of anti-abortion delegates from participating in this year’s Republican National Convention and it’s not sitting well with that faction of the party, as Politico reports:

According to the affidavits prepared for the RNC’s committee on contests, obtained by POLITICO, the Trump campaign and RNC staffers held a separate vote to elect a different slate of platform committee delegates. 

The documents allege that at least two GOP staffers who were formerly employed by the Trump campaign “[pressured] them to vote against” Ryggs and Connelly and tried to “circumvent” the official vote.

Gosh, I wonder where they ever got the idea to do something like that. 

Even big guns like Ralph Reed, founder and chair of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, are very concerned that this could demobilize the evangelical vote, as he told Politico:

I would strongly urge the leadership of the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign to proceed with great caution on the platform and avoid doing anything that would discourage or in any way deflate the enthusiasm of pro-life and evangelical vote. Right now, sitting here today, they are prepared to crawl across broken glass, to do everything in their power to see President Trump re-elected. I don’t want to see anything happen that would change that current dynamic.

A similar warning came from Tim Chapman, incoming president of the social conservative group Advancing American Freedom, who told ABC News  that “the talk of changing the Republican party’s pro-life platform is deeply concerning for pro-life Americans across the country,”

Reed, for his part, is now leading what he calls the “Platform Integrity Project” in which he’s calling on the faithful to weigh in and demand that the platform holds to its hard-line position. The New York Times reported that a coalition of 10 conservative groups, including the Family Research Council, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and Concerned Women for America, have urged Trump to “make clear that you do not intend to weaken the pro-life plank” while also praising him as “the most pro-life president in American history.”

And it isn’t just obfuscating the party’s radical position on abortion that has them upset. They don’t want anyone touching their other extremist policies either. As LGBTQ Nation reported, Suzanne Bowdey of the Family Research Council’s site is worried that the slimmed-down platform might not include their opposition to “extremism like same-sex marriage and transgenderism which is currently part of a long section “that accuses the Supreme Court of “rob[bing] 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” They are all in on outlawing IVF and using the Comstock Law to ban contraception and pornography as well. 

They’re just playing the roles of anti-abortion activists for their flocks to show that they haven’t given up the fight.

Semafor reported that the campaign will attempt to keep this all under wraps by moving the writing of the platform behind closed doors, another break from tradition. Both parties have always written their platforms publicly for the delegates to see and offer input and they’ve allowed the press to have access and report on it. The meetings are usually aired on CSPAN. The Democrats plan to do that at their convention in August as they always have but the prospect of any kind of argument with the Trump campaign, or one suspects, the public airing of the campaign swatting down members of the rank and file will not be tolerated at the RNC. Keep the family squabbles behind closed doors at all costs. Their leader wants a united front. 

None of this is to say that Trump has actually moderated his views. The truth is that he doesn’t really care about any of this culture war stuff but he is worried that overturning Roe v Wade is going to hurt him. He says at his rallies and in speeches, “you have to follow your heart but we need to win elections” which translates to, “don’t worry, I’m just saying this to win over voters, I’ll do whatever you want once I win the election.” 

These folks shouldn’t worry too much. The men in charge of the Platform Committee are dedicated, far-right extremists. One of the top drafters is Christian nationalist Russ Vought, who I wrote about here. Another is Trump loyalist Ed Martin, a longtime right-wing operative who is best remembered in the general public for being fired by CNN for racist comments. As it happens CNN’s Kfiles turned up some footage of Martin that should come as a huge relief to the anti-choice activists: He’s so extreme that he wants to jail women who get abortions and ban the procedure with no exceptions: 

These men are hardcore Christian nationalists who are involved in the planning for a second Trump term. And they are very practical about doing whatever it takes to regain power for that purpose. A little fudging on the platform, letting the Republicans pretend to the mainstream press that they aren’t radical in order to win over some of those valuable suburban moms is just the price of doing business. And frankly, political professionals like Ralph Reed and Marjorie Dannenfelser know that as well. They’re just playing the roles of anti-abortion activists for their flocks to show that they haven’t given up the fight. I’m confident they’ll all be on board the Trump train with full enthusiasm when the time comes.

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