". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


GOP Delegates Hit Back on ‘Mockery’ of Platform Process with Rare Minority Report

July 9, 2024

By the time the Trump campaign blasted out the GOP’s 2024 platform early Monday afternoon, most people in Milwaukee had to ask themselves: what just happened? For the delegates, who were sideswiped by the unconventional, fast-tracked, secret process, the entire morning felt surreal. The outcome was so pre-determined, so tightly controlled that most of the men and women who traveled from the furthest corners of the country wondered what they were even doing there.

While the RNC’s team and the Trump camp cheered the adoption of a platform they vowed would Make America Great Again, the mood on the ground wasn’t all that celebratory. It wasn’t just the outcome that was disturbing, “Washington Watch” guest host and former Congressman Jody Hice pointed out from Wisconsin, but also “how it all went down.”

Brent Keilen, FRC Action’s vice president for Strategic Initiatives, was a guest in the proceedings and saw with his own eyes how different the situation was from 2016. Typically, he pointed out, the process of adopting and amending the Republican platform takes at least two days. There are usually five or six subcommittees devoted to certain aspects of the document. They sit down, Keilen explained, and say, “Okay, let’s analyze this. Let’s have some good discussion just to make sure [nothing’s being] left out.” Incredibly, though, in a major break with tradition, there were no subcommittees at all.

In fact, Brent said, “There were delegates going to the mic and saying, ‘Hey, I actually thought I was going to be part of a subcommittee process first. What’s going on there?’” The whole thing happened “extremely fast,” he underscored — despite the fact that delegates weren’t given the platform language “until literally” they sat down that morning. “They didn’t have a chance to read it beforehand,” and then immediately they were forced to vote on it. “Many of them traveled [a long way]. … They spend a lot of time [and] energy to get here,” and frankly, Keilen said, they never got a say in what was adopted.

Hice, who spent a lot of years in Congress, pointed out that “one of the things that aggravated my constituents — and I think Republican voters all across the country, as much as anything else — was when we would get a 1,500 piece of [legislation] two or three hours before we’re voting on it, where none of us had time to read up, but we didn’t know what was in it. And we always gripe about [former Speaker] Nancy Pelosi’s famous comment of ‘Pass it and then find out what’s in it.’ But … it sounds very much like that’s what took place even today in the platform.”

That, many said, coupled with the secrecy of the whole event and the abandonment of longtime pro-life principles, rubbed plenty of delegates the wrong way. Gayle Ruzicka, a platform committee member from Utah, told Politico that the RNC staff “didn’t allow” a discussion on the language the platform used on abortion. “They didn’t even give us a chance to read it before we voted on it,” she said.

“I’m very frustrated,” Ruzicka admitted. “I think we were treated very poorly. We spent a lot of money to get here. We were supposed to have the opportunity to study it and read it. We didn’t get even a chance to read it first,” Ruzicka said. “They gave it to us, but we kept waiting to go to our committee and then they didn’t ever do committees.”

FRC’s Travis Weber, who was also at the committee meeting, found it ironic that Republicans were vowing to fight censorship in their document while conducting the platform with an “iron fist.” “You can’t even sit there and talk about free speech when the process [was] conducted that way. It needs to be called out and reckoned.” This should be an open forum “with input, with collaboration,” Weber insisted. “None of that was present. … The RNC wanted to retain a tight control on things and stop that.”

And what do you get when you silence people, he asked rhetorically? “You get … a frustrated group of people who are not feeling heard in a process in which they should feel heard. So that was very clear. I think it was a missed opportunity. And it was very disappointing because no one’s fooling anyone. Everyone knows when someone is trying to ram something down their throat, and it was very clear that this was being rammed down the throats of everyone there today.”

If you asked most delegates, Travis said frankly, “it made a mockery of the people who were selected to go here.” And to be fair, he continued, “There [are] some good things in this document. I think you’d actually have more people rallying around it if they didn’t feel so stepped on and disrespected in this entire process.”

Of course, one of the reasons for stiff-arming delegates was the Trump team’s desire, along with the RNC’s, to water down the 1,300-plus words of pro-life priorities in the 2016/2020 document. As the former president’s advisors admitted to the press, they were worried the abortion language would create too much “drama.” And while a handful of pro-life groups accepted the 90 words in exchange for continued access to Trump, FRC Action Chairman Tony Perkins refused to accept the gutted plank. “I cannot compromise biblical truth to advance a temporal political objective. I won’t do it,” he told Hice on “Washington Watch” Monday. “I just can’t do it.”

Gathering together as many delegates as he could, the FRC Action chairman put together a minority report to RNC leadership, expressing their deep disappointment with the way the committee bypassed the process and the 112 representatives’ views. Planting a flag in the ground that was so quickly surrendered, more than 20 delegates wrote, in part:

“Today we observe the vitality of a more recent but analogous set of commitments, embodied most prominently in the promise of the Republican Party to preserve the right to life of every human being from conception to natural death. That commitment made its way into the platform of 1976, twelve decades after that original session in Philadelphia. That commitment to a human life amendment and a call for the Fourteenth Amendment’s protection application to children before birth has been repeated in every platform since and, by this declaration of principle, we extend it now.

“In no season, under no rationale spurred by the exigencies of a political moment, can or should we abandon the high principles that have created and sustained this party, with God’s grace, into a third century.

“In the coming years, we pledge ourselves to continue to work for the good of every child, every parent, and every family. We rededicate ourselves to the core policy positions endorsed through deliberation and transparency with ever-increasing clarity in previous platforms, with respect to the funding of abortion domestically and internationally, the expansion of alternatives to abortion, support for credits for adoption and all children, ending the exploitation of embryonic human beings, and above all recognizing the application of 14th amendment protections to our developing offspring. These are issues for the ages and not for any single cycle in our national life.

“With heaviness of heart but fullness of optimism that the defense of life will inevitably prevail, we resubmit these ideals to our fellow Americans. As before, we do fondly hope and fervently pray that the scourge of abortion will speedily pass away, and to that end we renew our perpetual devotion and ceaseless labor to the cause of life.”

Other conservative leaders felt similarly betrayed by the hollowed out platform. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), mid-speech at NatCon, expressed dismay at the hijacking of the process in Milwaukee. “As we speak, the Republican Party is dropping family and life from its platform. And we wonder why it lost the last elections. Work. Family. God. These are the great loves that unite Americans. Republicans need to start defending these loves.”

Princeton’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Robby George blasted those so tempted to accept these empty words in exchange for remaining in the 45th president’s good graces. “Pro-life leaders … will be tempted to go along with this without public complaint in order to retain some standing and influence in the future Trump administration. They may even claim that it is somehow a victory. In truth, it’s the opposite of that,” he posted candidly on Facebook.

“It is true that the thoroughly transactional Donald Trump appointed justices who provided the votes necessary to overturn Roe v. Wade. He kept his bargain with the pro-life movement on that one. But now Mr. Trump sees our cause — the protection of unborn children — as a political liability. He knows that seriously pro-life people cannot in conscience vote for Joe Biden and the Democrats, so he has no reason not to throw the pro-life cause under the bus. And, predictably, that is what he had now done.”

Chad Connelly, who made headlines for being summarily booted from his delegate position for being “too conservative, too Christian, too pro-life” the week before the platform committee, told Hice that “This cake was baked. [The RNC] had a desire to … steamroll.” Look, he pointed out, “Everybody I know realizes the country can’t take four more years of Joe Biden. At the same time, the process matters, the platform matters.”

The CEO of Faith Wins mentioned that “over a thousand pastors from all over the country” have contacted him concerned about the outcome with “disappointment, betrayal, shock.” “I took, I don’t know, over a dozen phone calls yesterday from concerned pastors who were now like, ‘What do we do? And how do we handle this?’ … Most pastors don’t endorse, but they do want to have a platform they can stand by…”

At the end of the day, they — like so many conservatives — understand that this is a document that transcends any one election. “No one in there is opposing the president,” Weber reiterated. “They’re just seeking to be honored and respected and around the table. … We’re raising concerns because we have to be honest. We cannot ignore things that we believe are essential for the flourishing of our nation. … But we’re going to continue to engage, to highlight the issues that we believe are essential [because] … it’s not about us,” he insisted. “… It’s about being a blessing to the world.”

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.