Senator Graham: ‘If We Change Our Platform … We’re Going to Be in a World of Hurt’

The fireworks launched Thursday are expected to continue in at least one city — Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As Republican delegates descend on the site of the GOP convention this week, some have come ready for a fight. The news that Donald Trump’s team wants to “simplify” the 60-page platform isn’t sitting well with longtime conservatives who believe the document is the party’s anchor to core values. “Presidential candidates come and go,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) pointed out, but the platform “is foundational.” “There’s no reason to change it. Let’s stick with what got us here.”

Veterans of the platform debate, including Bill Gibbin — who drafted eight of the last 10 GOP documents — are increasingly troubled by what they see from the former president’s senior aides. Pointing to the secrecy with which this platform is set to be drafted, Gibbin wrote ominously in National Review, “Unfortunately, the 2024 GOP platform process is a throwback to 1972, when the Nixon White House, in its imperial-presidency phase, micromanaged everything. But even then, Nixon didn’t treat the delegates as if they were in a witness-protection program.”

Gibbin goes on to point to the history of the platform and its significance in assuring Donald Trump’s election. “The 2016 Trump campaign’s involvement with the platform text consisted of one meeting at the RNC for his representative, John Mashburn, to read the draft. He suggested two small deletions. Many would argue that the remainder of the document helped the candidate win in November by appealing to Evangelicals and others wary of his earlier behavior — an example of winning by policy commitments rather than personality.” At the end of the day, he insists, “For guidance on ensuring a good Republican platform, look to the past.” In other words, resist Trump’s pressure to “streamline.”

Like so many other Republican leaders watching the events in Milwaukee with concern, Senator Graham warns that radically changing the platform takes away an important, motivating contrast with Democrats for voters. “You try to say, ‘Here’s who I am as a Republican.’ And let’s talk about the life issue,” which, as most media outlets have pointed out, is the greatest source of contention for the party. “For over 40 years, we have stated as a platform, as a doctrine of faith, that an unborn child is a member of the human family and deserving protection under the 14th Amendment. … Democrats basically would allow abortion up to the moment of birth. They think the unborn child is a blob of cells. We believe it to be a member of the human family that is foundational to who we are,” he insisted to Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a delegate at the convention, on Friday’s “Washington Watch.”

Graham pointed to the near-dozen GOP governors who won reelection in 2022 after signing strong pro-life protections. Despite the Left trying to “demagogue the abortion issue,” he said, “they won.” “So the narrative that being pro-life hurts you politically is a false narrative perpetrated by the liberal media, who wants us to be ashamed or afraid of embracing pro-life policies. … If you listen to the chattering class, the gun issue and the life issue hurts us. It does not. … We’re going to be in a world of hurt if we don’t stick with the pro-life community. We’re going to be in a world of hurt,” he repeated.

The South Carolinian used his own reelection campaign as an example why. “People give me money, and I appreciate it,” Graham said. “I raised $112 million in my last race, the highest in the history of the Senate, except my opponent, who raised $132 million. We had money from all over the country, $5 and $10, a bunch of money coming in. You know what got me elected by over 10 points? It [was] people who knocked on doors and made phone calls on my behalf, the people who believe in the sanctity of life … the activists. All the people who write these [big] checks,” the ones, he claims who think social issues hurt the GOP, “are not going to make one phone call, and they’re not knocking on one door.”

“Do not be ashamed of being pro-life,” Graham urged. “It is a responsible position to take. It is a position the American people will understand if you advocate it right. If you look scared and you act scared, you will lose no matter what the issue is. So be not afraid. Be pro-life.”

Perkins, who this week launched a major effort, the Platform Integrity Project, to safeguard the language of the GOP’s guiding document, strongly agreed. “We’ve heard this slogan ‘Making America Great Again,’” he told Graham. “But for the United States to be great again, we must first be good morally. We must have a moral foundation. So this platform must address issues like the sanctity of human life to defend the most vulnerable, the family, religious freedom — those things that are fundamental to a strong and prosperous nation.”

He also pointed to 2022 as a perfect example of what can happen when Republicans are “confident in who we are and we can defend the positions we have.” Ultimately, it “expose[s] the weakness in the policy positions of others,” he underscored, and “we win.” “The Democrats are the ones who have the extreme positions,” Perkins reminded everyone. “And when that is exposed, abortion up until the moment of birth at taxpayers’ expense, the American people get it.”

Another thing to remember, Graham emphasized, is that this will never be “just a states’ rights issue.” For one, the Left doesn’t treat it that way. “The Democratic Party is hell-bent on nationalizing the abortion issue [by] shutting down every pro-life law in every state, federalizing abortion rights so that you can have an abortion. Literally, late-term abortions will be legal. There’ll be no limits. All the exceptions consume the rule there. They want to create a national law allowing abortion-on-demand in all 50 states up to the moment of birth.”

Exactly, Perkins said. “So just so people are clear on this, it is only one party and an element of one party talking about this being strictly a state issue.” And it’s important for Americans to know, Graham chimed in, “Democrats are saying they want to [not only codify] Roe. … They go well beyond that. The law they introduced — we voted on it — goes well beyond what the Roe standard was. What are we trying to do?” he asked. “We’re trying to take it from the courts to elected officials.” But that includes elected federal officials, Graham argued.

“I support President Trump,” the senator said. “I want him to win. I’m going to help him [by doing] everything I can. He believes this is a states’ rights issue. He talks about the downside, the [horror] of late-term abortions. What I think we should be doing is saying, ‘Yes, it is a state issue, but it’s also about the child itself.’ So what I want to do is not change our platform,” which carves out specific roles for Congress in defending life. “If we change our platform and we buy into the narrative [that] being pro-life is bad politics … we’re going to be net losers, because the people who believe like we do are going to abandon us because we’ve abandoned what makes us different.”

AUTHOR

Suzanne Bowdey

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.

EDITORS NOTE: This The Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2024 Family Research Council.


The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.

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