Republican Platform Disappoints “Big Tent” Believers

Last week Republican Majority for Choice unveiled compelling new polling numbers showing that a vast majority of Republicans want the party to unite around a "big tent" message.

Republican Majority for Choice has two requests for the
Republican Party — two big steps the party can take away from the extremism
that has defined it throughout the Bush presidency. But by the time party officials, delegates, elected
officials and voters gather in Minneapolis-St. Paul
for the Republican National Convention, both will be done deals.

Last week RMC unveiled compelling new polling numbers
showing that vastly more Republicans want the party to unite around a "big
tent" message instead of using the party platform to address social issues like
abortion and same-sex marriage. And contrary to conventional wisdom suggesting
that John McCain needs to choose a vice-president who opposes abortion rights to
win over the pro-life voters who will put him in office, RMC found that more
Republicans would be more likely to vote for McCain if he chose a pro-choice
running mate than a pro-life one.

So RMC put two items on a wish list: a reformed party
platform, and a pro-choice vice president.
In a conference call, RMC national chair Jennifer Blei Stockman called
on the Republican Party to "reject constant pandering to the extreme," and RMC
has the numbers to back up their argument. Sixteen percent of Republican voters
say they would be more likely to support John McCain if he added a pro-choice
running mate to his ticket, while only eleven percent said they would be more
likely to vote for him if he made a pro-life vice-presidential pick. Seventy percent of poll respondents said that
a pro-choice running mate for McCain would have no effect on their support for
him. Meanwhile, a wide margin of
Republicans opposes inclusion of a constitutional amendment to ban abortion in
their party’s platform. But the current draft of the Republicans’ new
platform retains support for a constitutional amendment opposing abortion and a
constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Social conservatives, in fact, are more than pleased by the
new platform. John McCain supports neither a constitutional amendment outlawing
abortion nor one banning same-sex marriage, but
his party’s platform does
. It also
commends the Supreme Court for upholding federal law against so-called "partial
birth" abortion, and is perfectly happy to suggest — falsely — that increased
adoption has something to do with the incidence of abortion (this canard wasn’t
when it was in the Democratic party platform, and it’s not true now). "We salute those who provide them
alternatives, including crisis pregnancy centers, and we take pride in the
tremendous increase in adoptions that has followed Republican legislative
initiatives," the proposed platform states. That the platform could
presume to salute crisis pregnancy centers — widely debunked sources of
non-medical disinformation and intimidation
— is a sign that the Republican
Party is way out of step with the way ordinary people think about abortion and
women’s health care.

Reflecting the latest in anti-choice tactics, the draft also asserts "a
moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the
challenges of an unplanned pregnancy." Anti-choicers know that the specter of women
going to jail for seeking abortion care isn’t going to play well with the
masses — so instead, they frame their concern in soft-focus paternalism.

In fact, as the Washington Times observed, this year, the
platform lost any reference to "reducing" the number of abortions,
"underscoring their point that abortion should be eliminated" (and suggesting
that they won’t go in for common sense measures that do reduce the instance of
abortion, such as access to contraception, but that’s another story). Republican pro-choice groups acknowledge that
this won’t be their year. Ann Stone,
national chairwoman of Republicans for Choice, said,
"This is not going to be the year that we make big changes…We know that we
can’t get major things done."

Not only is the party’s platform unreflective of its
leader’s beliefs, the platform is wildly out-of-step with the vast majority of
Republicans. Seventy-four percent of
Republican voters do not support a GOP Platform that calls for a Constitutional
Amendment that would ban all abortions without exceptions for rape and the life
and health of the mother, RMC polling found.

Perhaps the most startling figure in the poll is that 66
percent of self-described pro-life
Republican voters don’t want to criminalize abortion. Rather, they say, they believe that a woman, not the government, should make the decision to have an abortion.
While he opposes a constitutional amendment outlawing
abortion, McCain has called for the reversal of Roe.

"To allow 11 percent of the Party to dictate major decisions
is a recipe for disaster. No matter what the talking heads claim, when
rank and file social conservatives search their souls they will not pull the
lever for a Democrat who would be one of the most liberal Presidents of our
time," continued Stockman. "Conversely, the millions of social
moderates, women and Independents are not single-issue voters. Many of
these voters are inclined to support Senator McCain based on his experience as
an independent leader, but they reject the GOP’s constant pandering to the extremes on social issues.
They are looking for a sign that Senator McCain really believes in common
sense and inclusiveness." Stockman and RMC believe that the Republican Party has far more to gain by moving to the center than to the right; she cites that Democrats have gained two hundred thousand registered voters
while Republicans have lost 1.4 million as proof that the popularity of the Party’s current incarnation is eroding.

The theme of this year’s Republican National Convention is "Country
First." The roster of speakers at the Convention includes John McCain, Cindy
McCain, a host of current and
former Republican governors including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, five current and former U.S. Senators, including Sen. Joe Lieberman, and McCain’s
favorite I-do-respect-women
surrogates, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina.
McCain’s vice-presidential nominee will address the Convention on
Wednesday night; McCain will speak Thursday. Those gathered will miss out on the company of nine of the twelve Republicans in close re-election races — are they really that busy, or are they avoiding association with John McCain, the Republican Party, George W. Bush, or all three? Their staff say the rigors of the campaign schedule are to blame.

On Tuesday in St. Paul, RMC will be hosting their annual
"Big Tent Celebration" honoring Republican elected officials who "support a big
tent Republican Party."