Editorial: The good and bad of GOP platform

The Detroit News

Cleveland The 2016 platform adopted at the Republican National Convention reflects the best and the worst aspects of the Grand Old Party. At a time when Republicans need to appeal to a broader base—and attract a younger generation—this blueprint shows how resistant some of the party faithful are to change.

Just as Democrats have been pulled to the left in their latest platform, the GOP was also swayed by the fringe of its party when penning its 66-page agenda. Michigan’s outgoing Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema, who became notorious for offending the LGBT community, calls the platform “25 to 30 percent more conservative” than the 2012 version. Yikes.

The GOP wish list is in contrast to the moderate stance Republican nominee Donald Trump has taken on social issues. And perhaps that is what drove delegates to craft the document, as the party strives to find unity and keep its base in a divisive election.

But by clinging to hard line social positions, Republicans are only going to alienate bigger swaths of this country—the opposite of what they need to do.

As Ohio Gov. John Kasich observed Tuesday during a speech to the Michigan delegation, the party must broaden its appeal.

“With changing demographics, we can’t keep talking to the same old people,” Kasich said. “Because there’s not enough of us to talk to.”

The state of the party is reflected in the delegates on the convention floor; the GOP gets its old and white reputation for a reason. And if the party has any hope of changing that, it’s going to have to soften some of its out-of-touch positions.

The preachy tone used throughout the document is only going to make millennials roll their eyes.

For instance, the platform keeps beating the anti-gay marriage drum, at a time when both the Supreme Court and the court of public opinion have ruled in favor of it. In 2014, a Pew Research poll found that 61 percent of Republicans under 30 favor same-sex marriage. That number is only going to get higher. That’s reality.

Similarly, the platform wastes time declaring internet pornography a “public health crisis.”

Republicans also err in moving away from their consistent support of free trade. This is a hat-tip to Trump’s campaign promises, and these protectionist policies mirror those emerging in the Democratic Party. We have supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other countries, which promises to streamline commerce and boost the global economy.

The GOP gets some things right. It stays true to the party’s core principles, such as advocating limited government and individual freedom and enterprise. The document also offers good positions on school choice. That’s where the focus needs to be.

Looking ahead, if the party wants to attract young people, it should highlight how free-market ideals allow for tech-based companies like Uber and Airbnb to flourish—and how Democrats want to force them into more regulated molds that would quash their innovation.

The Republican Party would have been better off embracing a model that looks like House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “Better Way” plan. It sticks to the economic basics and highlights how conservative ideals can be compassionate while lifting all Americans to a better life.

That’s a message that could grow the GOP, but this new platform won’t win the party many new friends.