Of party platforms and politics
By Tony Perkins
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Washington Times on September 6, 2012.
Every four years, America's two major political parties gather separately for what easily can be dismissed as political pageantry. In the midst of speeches and soirees, each party sets a standard to which it will aspire and by which it will or should be judged.
As long as there have been political parties and political conventions, there has been a need for political platforms. They give the candidates a clear political position with which they can campaign. In a sense, the platform is a party's "wish list" that explains what, in a perfect situation, the party would like to accomplish. For outside organizations such as the Family Research Council (FRC), the platform provides a standard that can be used to measure candidates and elected officials. This is a standard ignored far too often, but effective when lobbying on various issues.
For the past two conventions, I worked with my colleagues at FRC Action, along with Phyllis Schlafly and her team, to help shape the platform. This year, however, because of concerns that the GOP might drift from its conservative principles, I served as a delegate from Louisiana on the platform committee.
The draft platform assembled under the leadership of Gov. Bob McDonnell, the Republican National Committee and Mitt Romney's campaign was well-done. What my fellow delegates and I did was make a good document even better. On the issue of marriage, the plank was rewritten to make clear that marriage between one man and one woman is the foundation of civil society. Thanks to the research in FRC's MARRI project, I was well-equipped to point out that the best social program we can promote is a healthy marriage. Government policy shouldn't be formed that redefines what works.
Thanks to the hard work of Elaine Donnelly from the Center for Military Readiness, the Republican platform reflects the great debt we owe our nation's men and women in uniform. Her work ensured that the Republican Party will be known as one that stands up for military chaplains and the religious liberty of all our troops. The platform affirms that the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act applies to our military as well.
We worked closely with Americans United for Life not only to strengthen the pro-life plank but to make sure that pro-life principles are applied throughout the document, including in health care and science. The platform reiterates that the Republican Party is one that supports ethical stem-cell research and opposes the failed attempts at human embryonic stem-cell experimentation. Additionally, there is strong language that condemns the president's mandate forcing religious entities to violate their beliefs. The biggest pro-life victory came from the hand of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican and co-chairman, who proudly proclaimed that it was the unanimous opinion of everyone in the room that Obamacare should be repealed.
My only lament is that pro-life and pro-marriage Democrats do not have the same influence on their own party platform. The Democratic platform contains a plank supporting a woman's "right" to abortion "regardless of ability to pay." This easily opens the door to calls for taxpayer funding of abortion on demand. President Obama also has ensured that the official stance of the Democratic Party will be to overturn and redefine marriage as he sees fit.
Never in our nation's history has there been such a difference between the two party platforms. The message from the Democrats is that there is no place for pro-family groups in the party. As a delegate, I voted for the Republican Party platform. As president of FRC Action, I will work to ensure that the principles stated in that platform are pursued by President Mitt Romney and a Republican-majority Senate.