A Republican platform that could be read as a Trump rally

Steve Nagel, a chiropractor and talk radio host from North Dakota, has repeatedly claimed that all types of vaccines lead to worse health problems in children.

As chair of the Maine Republican State Committee, Demi Kouzounas oversaw a party platform that defined teaching nonbinary genders in public schools as “child sexual abuse.”

David Barton, an amateur historian from Texas, has long called the separation of church and state a “myth.”

All three are among the 112 delegates serving on the Republican Party’s National Platform Committee, which meets in Milwaukee on Monday to spend the next two days writing the first GOP platform since 2016.

The primary goal is a “short form” of a 2024 document that is a pledge of allegiance to former President Donald J. Trump rather than the statement of party values ​​that the platform has traditionally been, according to interviews with a dozen platform officials and other Republicans. Trump’s top campaign advisers, Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles, have already expressed their intention to produce a “streamlined platform,” with policy details kept to an absolute minimum.

The platform is likely to be a fraction of the 60 pages Republicans produced in 2016 and is expected to echo Trump’s “America First” agenda, which included calls for increased border restrictions and tariffs on China. It is also expected to condemn the Biden administration for ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, as well as high but falling inflation.

It’s unclear whether anything will be said about abortion or other divisive social issues. But it will certainly reflect, a campaign spokeswoman said, the candidate’s penchant for punchy, outspoken messages.

Of course, all party platforms are a litany of principles that carry no legislative weight. They are not Magna Cartas. Few people outside of party activists and opposition researchers will ever be familiar with their contents. The Republican Party even refused to offer a new platform in 2020, producing instead what was essentially an exact copy of the 2016 platform.

Still, they offer a glimpse into the general direction of a political party. In this case, Republicans say, that is whatever direction Mr. Trump wants to go.

Accomplishing that effort began with selecting who would serve on the committee, consisting of two representatives from each state and U.S. territory. Typically, each state selects two representatives from the pool of delegates to the convention, based on advice from the head of the state party. The representatives are often long-standing party members.

But the Trump campaign, state party officials said, had its own ideas. “There are a lot of people who wanted to be on the platform committee but couldn’t,” said Henry Barbour, who serves as a national committeeman for the Mississippi Republican National Committee. “The Trump campaign won most of those battles.”

The campaign, Mr Barbour added, “has had more interest in who is on the committee than previous campaigns.”

Christine Vail was one of the beneficiaries. When Ms. Vail, a businesswoman from Nebraska, was informed by local Republican officials that she had been selected as one of the state’s representatives on the platform committee, she protested that there had to be a mistake. Though deeply enamored of Mr. Trump, Ms. Vail was neither a GOP activist nor a policy nerd.

“I’m more of a Trump supporter than a true Republican,” she said.

According to Ms. Vail, the answer was, “That’s exactly what we want.”

The Trump campaign’s co-opting of the platform committee follows a hostile takeover of the Republican National Committee. The previous national chair, Ronna McDaniel, was ousted on Feb. 26 and replaced days later by two close Trump allies: Michael Whatley, the former chair of the North Carolina state party, and Lara Trump, the Fox News commentator and wife of Trump’s son Eric. The new leadership fired dozens of RNC staffers. Some were rehired, but only after they gave satisfactory answers to questions, including whether they believed the 2020 election was stolen.

Mounting evidence suggests that the campaign plans to keep the platform committee on a similar tightrope. The committee’s policy director and deputy director are two longtime Trump allies: Russ Vought, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Trump administration, and Ed Martin, a prominent social conservative and co-author of a 2016 book called “The Conservative Case for Trump.”

The committee further broke with tradition by determining that the two days of meetings in Milwaukee will be closed to the media and will not be livestreamed. It also withheld the names of the representatives to insulate them from outside influence, an RNC spokeswoman said.

“When I was on the committee in 2012, I was inundated with people wanting to meet,” said Julie Harris, an Arkansas representative who is also the chair of the National Federation of Republican Women. “This time, I wasn’t lobbied at all.” The federation, she said, has 27 members serving on the platform committee.

The New York Times obtained a complete list of the party’s platform representatives and verified most of those listed by communicating with each of the state parties. One of the Florida representatives is Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancée of Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

Florida’s other representative, Kevin Marino Cabrera, was Trump’s 2020 campaign state director. In an interview, Mr. Cabrera was unequivocal about the kind of document he planned to help write. “The platform has to reflect the views of our candidate,” he said. “He became our nominee with the overwhelming support of Republican voters, and it’s important that we rally around him.”

Florida is not alone in sending associates of Mr. Trump to Milwaukee. Among the representatives on the New Hampshire platform committee is Stephen Stepanek, who led the campaign in that state earlier this year. John Fredericks was the chairman of Mr. Trump’s Virginia campaign in the previous two cycles. He has since moved to Pennsylvania and is one of the two representatives.

Jennifer Korn, of California, and Bronwyn Haltom, of Michigan, both worked in the Trump White House. Jessica Hart Steinmann, of Texas, was a lawyer in the Trump administration’s Justice Department, while Derek Harvey, a Maryland representative on the committee, worked on the former president’s National Security Council. Ohio Representative Emily Moreno Miller is the wife of Rep. Max Miller, who previously served as a senior White House adviser to Trump. Arizona Representative and attorney Alex Kolodin filed multiple lawsuits seeking to overturn Trump’s 2020 defeat in that state and was sanctioned by the state bar for doing so.

Others on the committee include Jennifer Nerbonne of Rhode Island, who said in an interview that she considers Trump rallies “a life-changing experience” and listens to the rallies she can’t attend via livestream while jogging. Ms. Nerbonne added that her goal on the committee would be to “align the platform with Trump’s priorities. I trust all of his decisions.”

In an interview, Mr. Barbour backed the idea of ​​a shorter, more restrained party platform. “Conventions are about winning,” he said, “not about publishing an encyclopedia of every opinion we have.”

But other Republicans bristled at the idea of ​​a platform tailored to the needs of one candidate. “This is not about the triumph of ideas,” said Marc Racicot, the former Montana governor who chaired the RNC from 2002 to 2004. “It’s about the triumph of Donald Trump. It’s just embarrassing.”

The prospect of a drastic ideological watering-down of the content has even rankled some Trump loyalists. “This has to be a foundational document, bigger than one individual or one race,” said Jim Dotson, a former Arkansas senator who serves on the platform committee. In particular, Dotson said, “I hope there will be broad consensus not to back down from the solid pro-life position that we’ve always had as a party.”

For several members of the platform committee meeting in Milwaukee — including Tony Perkins of Louisiana, the president of the Family Research Council, and Tim Huelskamp, ​​the former Kansas congressman — opposition to abortion remains a defining theme. Their enthusiasm is not shared by Mr. Trump, who has said abortion restrictions should be left to the states.

Still, a tepid reference to abortion in the platform is unlikely to sit well with conservative outside groups like Advancing American Freedom, founded by Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence. In a letter sent to all Republican congressional leaders earlier this week, the group insisted that the platform would be “a pledge to unborn Americans to never stop fighting for their right to life.” The group’s policy director, John Shelton, predicted the outcome in an interview, in a flippant nod to anti-abortion activists: “There will be a rebellion.”

Michael Steele, the former GOP national chairman who is now a fierce critic of his party, was skeptical of Shelton’s prediction.

“If Trump were to suddenly announce that he was pro-abortion,” Steele said, “they would say, ‘I wish you wouldn’t say that out loud, but OK, sir.’”

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