2016 Republican National Convention: Party Platform
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The Republican National Convention is delivering many messages at once. We'll find out in November if they were the right messages to appeal to a majority of Americans. The first night of the convention here included slashing attacks on Hillary Clinton, the expected Democratic nominee. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani delivered one of the primetime speeches.
(SOUNDBITE OF REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION)
RUDY GIULIANI: Who would trust Hillary Clinton to protect them? I wouldn't. Would you?
INSKEEP: Some speakers called for Clinton to be jailed, while Giuliani spoke of terrorism.
(SOUNDBITE OF REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION)
GIULIANI: We must not be afraid to define our enemy. It is Islamic extremist terrorism.
GIULIANI: I - I - for the purposes of the media, I did not say all of Islam. I did not say most of Islam. I said Islamic extremist terrorism. You know who you are, and we're coming to get you.
INSKEEP: So the party is broadly united on defining what and who it is against. There's a bit more debate on what the party stands for. Before those speeches, the Republican National Committee released its final party platform, which updates the party's support for gun rights, attacks Wall Street regulations signed by President Obama, also strengthened the party's opposition to same-sex marriage and some other LGBT rights. NPR's Scott Detrow is here. Scott, broadly speaking, how does this compare to other Republican platforms?
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Well, I think that where the focus was was how the party kind of tilted right a little bit when it came to social issues. Strong language opposing not just same sex marriage, but also that children should have a mother and father. There was also new language opposing the Obama administration's efforts to ensure that transgender students have access to the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
INSKEEP: OK, weighing in on some of the debates of the last couple of years. Now, Rachel Hoff had hoped for something different. She is a Republican delegate at the convention here in Cleveland and also the first openly gay member of the Republican Party Platform Committee, and she's in our studios. Good morning.
RACHEL HOFF: Good morning.
INSKEEP: What do you want to happen on the issues that mattered most to you?
HOFF: I wanted to have a platform that reflected an inclusive Republican Party, one that acknowledges there's a diversity of opinion on marriage within our party and that increasing numbers of Americans and specifically Republicans are coming to support marriage equality.
INSKEEP: Which is something that you see in surveys, right? You see Democrats. You see of many Republicans also supporting same-sex marriage, for example.
HOFF: That's correct. Particularly among young Americans - young Republicans, it's now a majority who support marriage equality. But the reality is, throughout the country, it's over 60 percent support for same-sex couples' right to marry. And I actually did not propose any language that would have supported that right, but simply acknowledge that there is a diversity of opinion within our party and that we should have a conversation about marriage.
INSKEEP: What happened when you proposed that conversation?
HOFF: Well, it - the amendment failed. We had - we had lots of debates on various aspects of LGBT rights, including marriage, over the two days that we - that we met. And I would say the debate overall was - was civil and respectful. And although my amendments failed, I'm pleased to report that - that folks were very supportive of me personally.
And I did, in some of my remarks, say that I was the first openly gay member of the platform committee. And especially after that, I received a lot of personal support from those in the room. Unfortunately, what came out of the platform committee itself - the document that's going to the American people this week - does not reaffirm that personal support.
INSKEEP: You know, I'm glad you're here to talk about that document because it's common for political reporters to dismiss party platforms to say they're meaningless, that the nominees don't necessarily follow them. But it is actually party activists debating serious ideas. And there's some language in front of me here from the platform describing same-sex parenting.
Can I just read this language to you? I'd like to hear what you think about it. This is from the platform. Quote, "children raised in a traditional two-parent household" - I take that to mean a man and a woman - "tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, less likely to use drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage." That's language from the platform. What do you say to that?
HOFF: Well, I mean, there's a level on which I'm hurt by it, just as a lesbian Republican who - who - you know, who - I'm not married and don't have kids. But the - the premise that someone like me, were I to start a family, would be an ill-equipped parent is personally offensive. But this isn't about me, and it's not about my personal agenda, as some might assert. This is about - this is about being a party that wants to grow and being a party that wants to appeal to all Americans who are, in increasing numbers, supporting those families that are referenced there in that language - their right to - to exist, to raise children and their ability, their capability to do so.
INSKEEP: I guess there is a counter-argument that does get made that there are lots of different kinds of families, and they all have advantages and disadvantages, and we all struggle through. Did people try to make that argument during the platform committee debates?
HOFF: Oh, absolutely. And it wasn't - it certainly - I wasn't the only one speaking up in the room in favor of LGBT rights or marriage equality. There were probably about a dozen people throughout the course of the two days who actively spoke on the issues. And the amendment, in the end, received nearly a quarter of the committee's support. That language in - in particular that you read, the word traditional is, of course, to imply man and woman. But there was a lot of conversation as well about what we're saying about same-sex - I'm sorry - about single parents and how - how we can expect to kind of appeal to a broader range of folks who - who are, like you said, just trying to get by, do the best they can.
INSKEEP: Well, are you excited by any of the language in this platform?
HOFF: I am. Actually, you referenced earlier LGBT issues. Those are the ones that are most important to me. You know, being gay is part of my identity, but it - but it is only part of my identity. And I actually work professionally on national security issues and, in previous elections, have considered myself kind of a single-issue voter on national security. So those are - those are also issues that are very important to me.
That said, there's - in some ways, the platform got closer to some of the positions that Mr. Trump has taken that I do not support. So I don't know that - that there's a lot in that section that I'm particularly excited about that's changed. But I think, overall, the platform remains strong on national security.
INSKEEP: Well, it's interesting - strong on national security. So maybe you're where Rudy Giuliani is on some of these issues. Are - yeah?
HOFF: Yeah, I would - I would identify much more closely to him, at least, than our presumptive nominee.
INSKEEP: Let me ask a question about the presumptive nominee, particularly on gay rights, because - LGBT rights because Donald Trump has been seen as someone who personally is open to all kinds of people. He spoke of the Orlando shooting specifically as an attack on on LGBT rights and gays and lesbians. What do you make of him?
HOFF: Well, I've never met him, first of all. I do - I do have the same sense that - that you just described, which is that, personally, he's - he's probably got a lot of gay friends. He - you know, he lives in New York, lived a particularly interesting lifestyle. I think he probably has more gay friends than any other Republican presidential candidate in history. He attended Elton John's wedding. The reality is, he can't just be rhetoric. He's got to show leadership.
INSKEEP: Hey, Rachel Hoff, thanks for coming by. Really appreciate it.
HOFF: Thank you so much for having me.
INSKEEP: She's a delegate from Washington, D.C., describes herself as the first openly gay member of the Republican Platform Committee.
Now, let's step outside of the convention for a moment. Many streets of downtown Cleveland are barricaded this week. You see police officers on foot, on bike, on horseback. Secret Service is around. Many protesters are converging on those streets. Demonstrations were largely peaceful yesterday, and NPR's Kirk Siegler found that protesters on both sides share a disdain for what they see as a corrupt political system.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: You can get a good feel for just how polarized politics are in this country right now by walking through downtown Cleveland's Public Square. Black Lives Matter protesters and fans of the band Prophets of Rage are mingling with pro-Trump supporters holding Make America Great Again signs. To counter that, Emina Gonzales and a small group of activists arrived waving signs saying America was never great.
EMINA GONZALES: It's just very volatile times right now. You've got - the very fact that Trump is a legitimate candidate makes the whole system illegitimate.
SIEGLER: Gonzales is specifically here to protest recent police shootings of unarmed black men. She's standing in front of a 12-foot high poster with faces of recent shooting victims from around the U.S.
GONZALES: And a lot of these faces, I just see the vast majority are black or brown.
SIEGLER: And for Gonzales, racism and the country's high incarceration rate are symptoms of a corrupt system. She says Trump and Hillary Clinton, who she calls the lesser evil, are players in it.
GONZALES: This is its normal, functioning routine. It can't be reformed. It needs to be overthrown.
SIEGLER: Police are everywhere you look downtown - on horseback, on bikes, on foot. But walk just a few feet down the sidewalk, and you'll likely bump into people from the complete opposite side of the spectrum, who share anger over what they see as a corrupt political system that needs to be undone.
TOM ERTL: When he's attacked and he attack backs, we see that as a virtue for a Republican candidate for president. That's what you would want.
SIEGLER: This is Tom Ertl, who organized an evangelical-Christians-for-Trump rally.
ERTL: He is a consummate alpha male. He's what our grandfathers and fathers were of a different generation.
SIEGLER: Demonstrators at this rally say they just can't support establishment Republicans, arguing there's just too much at stake in the country right now.
ERTL: And to have a true America-first nationalist being nominated for president from the Republican Party, I never would have dreamed that.
SIEGLER: That's what drew him here to Cleveland - to watch history being made.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Kirk Siegler. Scott Detrow is still in our studios. Scott, how would you sum up the protests so far?
DETROW: So far, it's been peaceful. In fact, the most notable rally was calling for peace. There were several thousand people from Cleveland holding hands on a bridge Sunday afternoon. That got a lot of attention.
INSKEEP: Wow, lovely image. That's NPR political reporter Scott Detrow in our studios here in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.