For the first time in memory, the Republican National Committee has dodged the task of crafting any party platform. As superfluous as these airy documents may be, this refusal makes a collective statement of its own — in support of President Donald Trump’s one-man, philosophy-free, whim-driven control of the party he has taken over.
For Republican lawmakers, for leaders such as Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, and for all the down-ballot GOP candidates, the lack of a national platform might give them, like the president, the flexibility to define their own platforms.
The philosophical purpose of having a party at all is a different discussion.
Under pressure from Trump's campaign team, GOP officials in 2016 softened their tough-on-Russia, pro-Ukraine platform plank. The White House has never clearly come to terms with key GOP members of Congress over the explosive question of how to respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin's internet and military power plays.
This year the president and the Senate majority can avoid calling attention to their differences over just what policies the party supports.
They also won’t need to resolve in a platform process the looming intraparty conflicts over "free trade" versus tariffs.
Or deficits versus ramped-up spending.
Or pandemic control.
Or the flailing border wall project.
Or the future administration of Social Security, health insurance and immigration.
For what it's worth, Democrats released a 91-page platform. In contrast, Trump's national party issued an unusual statement on the eve of the convention that in part gave this peculiar rationale:
"All platforms are snapshots of the historical contexts in which they are born, and parties abide by their policy priorities, rather than their political rhetoric. The RNC, had the Platform Committee been able to convene in 2020, would have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration … ”
The RNC deferred to a series of Trump promises issued by his campaign Sunday night as his "agenda." It touches on jobs, tax cuts, health care, law enforcement and other issues. It sets a goal of eradicating COVID-19 by November 2021.
But without even his own political party's consensual input, how does any of it come about? Trump does not build coalitions and does not negotiate policy.
The business of a national political party is now the business of one person. Trump is due to speak on each of the four nights of the convention. In an unprecedented move, he uses the White House as a backdrop. His family members make up nearly half the "key" speakers announced. Breaking precedent, even his secretary of state will make a campaign speech.
Skipping a platform shows again how Trump gets around what other presidential candidates consider normal disclosure and accountability.
On Monday, Trump's private attorneys fought again in court to prevent or delay the long-routine practice of disclosing his income taxes. They've lost every round, but they will argue it again before an appeals court.
Earlier in the election season, the GOP canceled primaries in several states, including New York, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, Virginia and Hawaii.
As titular party leader, Trump does not even give the usual lip service to the goal of having all eligible citizens vote. Nor does he pledge to abide by the results. That means, as critics and fans know by now, it really is all about him — not any democratic process.