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Guest Commentary

June 28, 2012
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Oblivious to the obvious: GOP platform is loony

By Herb Strentz

Here’s an easy assignment for you:

1. Forget what GOP Gov. Terry Branstad says about the political platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties in Iowa. At worst, he’s trying to mislead you; at best, he is trying to hide his embarrassment.

2. Likewise, dismiss much of the news coverage and commentary in the press regarding the party platforms. There’s not much to deal with there anyway, because the media pretty much treat the platforms as meaningless.

If there is a third step, it is to recognize that the GOP platform is an embarrassment to the party and to the State of Iowa, while the Democratic platform is business as usual — as predictable as a union hall speech or a civil rights rally. Democratic Party candidates and voters will have little or no trouble living with their platform.

Sane Republicans will either ignore much of their platform or take Branstad’s approach and lie either to themselves or to us about the 2012 document.

Here is what Branstad told The Des Moines Register: “…(Y)ou can take either party platform and you find that parties tend to be controlled by the more ardent left or right and that doesn’t really reflect where the candidates are going to come down.”

Fact is if the Democratic Party platform were as loony as the GOP’s, the Democrats would mandate abortions, repeal the Second Amendment on the right to bear arms, and give the United Nations flag equal flagpole status with Old Glory.

But the Democratic Party platform, a bit more than 6,000 words, takes positions that reasonable people may disagree on, but nonetheless work out compromises faithful to democracy and collective decision making. The Republican platform, a bit more than 11,000 words, is peppered with positions that reasonable people flee from and decrees that don’t tolerate compromise.

Here’s what former GOP State Senator Mary Kramer wrote in a letter to the editor in the Register: “…(T)he party that calls itself Republican today appears to be a caricature of those principles (of individual responsibility). Instead, it has become an exercise in self-aggrandizement and power by people who wish to impose their beliefs on others by seizing control of processes while driving out those who disagree. Those who control the party processes refer, usually with contempt, to RINOs, meaning Republicans in Name Only.

“As a longtime Republican activist, I suggest the term RINO much better describes those who are attempting to control the party today.”

Kramer’s assessment is on point but also is one you generally find in letters to the editors or in conversations with Republican friends and not in the news coverage or commentary in the Iowa news media.

An online item in the Register said the Iowa GOP platform “touches upon” abortion, same-sex marriage, the abolition of several federal agencies, etc. touches upon?

To say the platform “touches upon” these topics is like saying the Salem trials of the 17th century touched upon ignorant fears of witchcraft, that the Scopes trial in 1925 touched upon evolution, that McCarthyism of the 1950s touched upon demagoguery.

We’re in our own version of these episodes today, thanks to the religious right and its control of the Iowa GOP, which is why it is folly to say that all political platforms are alike.

The nice part of all this is you can judge for yourself by reading the platforms, readily available at party websites.

In the meantime, one can hope that Kramer, who admits to being naïve and idealistic despite years in politics, can help get the Iowa GOP back on track — a task made more difficult because the news media seem oblivious to what’s going on. CV

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes occasional columns for Cityview.

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