It is Convention season, and some of our brightest Republican friends are again saying that “the Platform is too long.” They may be correct, but the question is, too long for WHAT? Until you know the purpose of the platform process and the platform document, you cannot say. Others call for the entire platform to be eliminated and replaced with a “Statement of Principles,” but that has the same flaw-- we must ask WHY? What does that accomplish that the current platform does not, and vice versa? Before we do anything drastic, we need to understand these things. “P” stands for “Problem” and we need FIVE “Ps”—principles, policies, a platform and a set of promises, plus a process for creating and maintaining them-- to create a solution, since our disagreements stem simply from trying to cram what should be four documents into one. Here’s how I see it.
Principles are like posteriors. They serve a necessary function and everybody needs one, but you'll never get 2000 people to agree on exactly how to describe the perfect one in just a few words. The real problem is that we are trying to do too many things with a single platform document. We (first) want to be able to explain, in a few simple terms, what Republicans in general stand for -- a "marketing document" that fits on one page and that the vast majority of voters would agree with at first glance. I've seen it done with five short sentences on a business card. Let some committee come up with one, and let it stand until somebody comes up with one vastly superior to it. Or have several. We already have one, the "We Believe document," which has been widely published and accepted, and we have the recently adopted (but longer) Principles that preface the current platform. Nothing more is needed, but YMMV—Your Mileage May Vary.
We also need a more detailed document that describes those public policies that we derive from those "principles." These “Policies” would be general statements of preference, like “taxation that is low, simple and fair.” Once established, like the Principles, they would change very little unless substantial reform of government were to occur, in which case this document would become shorter. The process would be a periodic review to verify whether or not each of those policies was implemented into law, and assure that each was based on one or more principles. If they were in conflict, then have we got the policy wrong, or have we misstated the principle? Ay, that is the rub, as Shakespeare would say. But it would quiet the arguments about “consistency.” Perhaps the preface to each of the current platform sections serves this purpose?
The closest thing we would have to a “Platform,” if that is the word we choose (and we probably should), would be completely (or largely) rewritten every two years. What is critically important, and is NOT preserved by radically reducing the platform or by replacing it with a one-page statement of principle, is to recognize the concerns of caucus attendees, as expressed in the resolutions Process. People deserve, need, and want to be "heard" in the making of public policy. Currently, the thousands of individual resolutions at caucus get whittled down to a precious few by the Herculean efforts of the State Platform Committee, and much is lost, but it is done simply to keep the standing platform from blowing up to a completely unmanageable size. By substantial rewrites every two years or perhaps even every year, we directly address people's concerns of the moment, and with substantial specificity. We will have removed from this document the general policies and statements of principle found in our current platform so that we can more effectively and specifically guide our legislators. Specific legislation, like Eddie Eagle or the NAFTA superhighway, could be placed here, and “sunsetted” in the following year (or convention), holding this new State Platform to a much more manageable size. Right now, in Second District, we create a "resolutions summary" that includes ALL resolutions, and goes from every BPOU straight to their elected officials. That would be like this proposed Platform document, and it could simply go directly to the Congressional and then State Platform Committee for consolidation and word-smithing—a much simpler, fairer and fully transparent process.
The fourth document we would like is a short, clear list of things our politicians would commit to doing in the upcoming term, if elected (to the majority). Call it the "Promises" or "Contract with Minnesota." There are two schools of thought on this, that the State Convention would write this contract, or that those who have dedicated themselves to the effort of getting elected and serving as legislators would write it themselves, based on the previous three documents and their knowledge of the issues, which to me is the only fair and reasonable way to do it.
So that's it: four purposes, four different documents, four different processes. Our disagreements stem from trying to cram all of them together into one. Okay?