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A Republican Platform That Could Read Like a Trump Rally

A Republican Platform That Could Read Like a Trump Rally

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Steve Nagel, a chiropractor and talk radio host based in North Dakota, has frequently claimed that vaccines of all types lead to worse health outcomes for children.

Demi Kouzounas oversaw a party platform as the chairwoman of the Maine state Republican committee that defined the teaching of nonbinary genders in public schools as “child sexual abuse.”

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

All three are among the 112 delegates serving on the Republican Party’s national platform committee, which will assemble in Milwaukee on Monday to spend the next two days writing the first G.O.P. platform since 2016.

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

The platform will likely run to a fraction of the 60 pages Republicans produced in 2016 and is expected to echo Mr. Trump’s “America First” agenda, with calls for heightened border restrictions and tariffs on China. It is expected to condemn the Biden administration for the enduring conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, as well as for the high although declining inflation rate.

It is unclear whether there will be any mention of abortion or other divisive social issues. But it is certain to mirror, a campaign spokeswoman said, the candidate’s penchant for punchy, plain-spoken messages.

To be sure, all party platforms are a litany of principles that carry no legislative weight. They are not Magna Cartas. Other than party activists and opposition researchers, few people will ever be familiar with its contents. The Republican Party even declined to offer a new platform in 2020 and instead produced what was essentially a carbon copy of the one in 2016.

Still, they offer a glimpse of a political party’s overall direction. In this case, Republicans say, that is whatever direction Mr. Trump would like.

Achieving that effort began with selecting who would serve on the committee, composed of two representatives from every state and U.S. territory. Typically, each state picks two representatives from the pool of convention delegates, based on advice from the head of the state party. The representatives are often longtime party stalwarts.

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

The campaign, Mr. Barbour added, “has had more interest in who’s serving on the committee than previous ones.”

Christine Vail was one beneficiary. When Ms. Vail, a Nebraska businesswoman, was notified by local Republican officials that she had been selected to be one of the state’s representatives on the platform committee, she protested that there must be some mistake. While deeply enamored of Mr. Trump, Ms. Vail was neither a G.O.P. activist nor a policy nerd.

“I’m more of a Trumplican than a true Republican,” she recalled saying.

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

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

Growing evidence suggests that the campaign intends to keep the platform committee on a similarly short leash. The committee’s policy director and deputy director are two staunch Trump allies: Russ Vought, the former director of Office of Management and Budget during the Trump administration, and Ed Martin, a prominent social conservative and co-author of a 2016 book titled “The Conservative Case for Trump.”

The committee has further broken from tradition by decreeing that the two days of meetings in Milwaukee will be closed to the media and not live-streamed. It has also withheld the names of the representatives in order to insulate them, a spokeswoman for the R.N.C. said, from outside influence

“When I served on the committee in 2012, I was inundated with people wanting to meet,” said Julie Harris, an Arkansas representative who is also the president of the National Federation of Republican Women. “This time around, I haven’t been 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 who are on it by communicating with each of the state parties. One of the representatives from Florida is Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancée of Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.

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

Florida is not alone in sending affiliates of Mr. Trump to Milwaukee. One of New Hampshire’s platform committee representatives is Stephen Stepanek, who ran the campaign’s operations in that state earlier this year. John Fredericks was the chairman of Mr. Trump’s campaign in Virginia during the previous two cycles. He has since relocated to Pennsylvania and is one of its two representatives.

Jennifer Korn, from California, and Bronwyn Haltom, from Michigan, both worked in the Trump White House. Jessica Hart Steinmann, from Texas, was an attorney in the Trump administration’s Department of Justice, while Derek Harvey, a Maryland representative on the committee, worked in the former president’s National Security Council. A representative from Ohio, Emily Moreno Miller, is the wife of Representative Max Miller, who previously served as a senior White House adviser to Mr. Trump. Alex Kolodin, an Arizona state representative and attorney, filed several lawsuits seeking to overturn Mr. Trump’s defeat in that state in 2020 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 regards Trump rallies as “a life-changing experience” and listens to ones she is unable to attend on a livestream as she jogs. 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 supported the idea of a shorter, more restrained party platform. “Conventions are about winning,” he said, “not putting out an encyclopedia of every view that we have.”

But other Republicans bridled at the idea of a platform tailored to suit the needs of a single candidate. “This isn’t about the triumph of ideas,” said Marc Racicot, the former governor of Montana who served as the R.N.C. chairman from 2002 through 2004. “It’s about the triumph of Donald Trump. It’s frankly an embarrassment.”

The prospect of a drastic ideological watering-down of its content has stirred discontent even among some loyalists of Mr. Trump. “It has to be a foundational document, bigger than any one individual or any one race,” said Jim Dotson, a former state senator from Arkansas who is serving on the platform committee. In particular, Mr. Dotson said, “my hope is that there’ll be broad-based agreement on not walking anything back from the solidly pro-life stance we’ve always had as a party.”

For several of the platform committee representatives convening in Milwaukee — among them Tony Perkins of Louisiana, the president of the Family Research Council, and Tim Huelskamp, the former Kansas congressman — opposition to abortion remains a defining issue. Their fervor is not shared by Mr. Trump, who has said abortion restrictions should be left to the states.

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

Michael Steele, the former G.O.P. national chairman who is now a vehement critic of his party, was skeptical of Mr. Shelton’s prediction.

“If Trump suddenly announced he’s pro-choice,” Mr. Steele said, “they’d say, ‘I wish you wouldn’t say it so loudly, but OK, sir.’”

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