The tension over President Trump’s plan to shrink the size — if not the substance, though more on that in a moment — of the GOP platform reminds us of one of President Reagan’s most hilarious yarns. It concerned the fellow who, running for office as a Republican, found himself at a farm in an area that wasn’t known as Republican. At which Reagan would drawl:
“When the farmer heard he was a Republican, his jaw dropped, and he said, ‘Wait right here until I can go get Ma. She’s never seen a Republican before.’ So he got her, and the candidate looked around for a podium from which to give his speech, and the only thing he could find was a pile of that stuff that Bess Truman took 35 years trying to get Harry to call fertilizer.”
“So,” Reagan would say, warming to his tale, “he got up on the mound, and when they came back, he gave his speech. And at the end of it, the farmer said, ‘That’s the first time I’ve heard a Republican speech.’ And the candidate said ‘That’s the first time I’ve ever given a Republican speech — from a Democratic platform.’”
This is a situation of which Mr. Trump had best beware. Reports note that President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been for months leading work on a plan to reconfigure the party platform, which, in 2016, ran to something like 58 pages. The idea for the 2020 platform is to get it down to one card small enough to put into a pocket.
Sources familiar with Mr. Kushner’s discussions with GOP colleagues told Axios, which broke the story, that Mr. Kushner has told colleagues he wants “something like the 10 principles we believe in.” Axios quotes another source as citing the Republican platform in 1856 as a platform that is, as Axios paraphrased the source, “similarly short.”
On its face, we like the idea, though we’re not sure the 1856 election is anything the GOP wants to boast about. The Republican, Senator Frémont of California, lost to the pro-slavery Democrat, James Buchanan, who had a mixed record as president. Then again, too, the platform, at 953 words, would have been hard to fit onto a pocket card.
The key to this, in our view, is not the length or format of the platform but the actual planking on which Mr. Trump will stand. It’s important, on its face, of course, but also because it’s hard to think of a recent president who has stood by his campaign promises with more fidelity than Mr. Trump. It could be a framing element to the Trump doctrine.
After all, he cut taxes, deregulated the economy, and reworked the North American Free Trade Agreement. The latter can be debated, but any failure to do better owes as much to Congress as Mr. Trump. Same with the wall along the Mexican border. We’re not big fans of the wall to start with, but it’s hard to recall a clearer presidential campaign promise.
It’s also hard to imagine that the project wouldn’t be further along were it not for the Democrats in Congress. In any event, the President has, as promised, confronted the North Atlantic Treaty members on cost-sharing, and, as promised, stuck with Brexit. He pulled out of the Iran deal, as he told the voters he would, and moved our Israel embassy to Jerusalem.
All of this in the face of a Democratic Party that prioritizes resistance. Mr. Trump failed to deliver on monetary reform, in our view the most strategic plank in the 2016 GOP platform. Setting up the promised monetary commission, though, would be hard for the current House. All the more reason to keep the plank in the 2020 platform.
According to the report in Axios, Mr. Kushner wants to avoid language that could alienate those who might be tempted to vote for Mr. Trump. Not a bad instinct so long as the principles don’t get obscured. Axios’ sources went so far as to suggest Mr. Kushner wanted to rethink using the word “freedom” altogether, though that would be a hard job of pruning.
The fact is that the word “freedom” appears something like 45 times in the 2016 GOP platform, twice in the famous formulation: “We believe political freedom and economic freedom are indivisible.” We have a lot of regard for Mr. Kushner’s judgment. He’ll want to be careful, though, lest his father-in-law ends up, like Reagan’s farmer, giving a Republican speech from a Democratic platform.
Late edition: This edition gives a more nuanced reference, however brief, to President Buchanan's tenure than was given in the early edition.