Statesman, yet friend to truth! of soul sincere,
In action faithful, and in honor clear;
Who broke no promise, served no private end,
Who gain’d no title, and who lost no friend.
– Alexander Pope, Moral Essays, letter to Mr. Addison
It is impossible to consider the entire document. It is, after all, 81 pages in length. But having created such a monumental document only four years ago, it’s easy to see why the Republicans in charge of such things did not want to waste their time and effort creating another one that might, like its predecessor, be in large part ignored. In addition, had it been rewritten it would have been necessary to excise certain sections that would, in light of the events of the last four years, have made the Republican party and the trump look foolish had they remained part of the platform. And preparing a new platform with the embarrassing sections removed, would have drawn attention to the trump’s many failures. What the platform sets forth as aspirational remains aspirational and, thus, became fodder for the trump’s nomination acceptance speech.
In the section of the platform entitled: “America Resurgent,” one of the subsections is: “A Dangerous World.” That section lists places in the world that need stabilization. One of the listed places is the United States. The platform states that the United States faced: “a national security crisis, and only by electing a Republican to the White House will we restore law and order to our land and safety to our citizens.” That part of the platform was ignored during the trump tenure as recent events show, thus making it possible for him to say in his acceptance speech in late August that: “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens. And this election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”
In addressing U.S. Leadership in the Pacific, the platform said, of Taiwan: “As a loyal friend of America, Taiwan has merited our strong support, including free trade agreement status, the timely sale of defensive arms including technology to build diesel submarines, and full participation in the World Health Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, and other multilateral institutions.” Since the trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the World Health Organization on July 7, 2020, reference to Taiwan being able to join the WHO would seem to be no longer relevant.
Another part of the 2016 platform falls under the heading of “Reducing the Federal Debt.” In that section the authors state: “We must impose firm caps on future debt, accelerate the repayment of the trillions we now owe in order to reaffirm our principles of responsible and limited government , and remove the burdens we are placing on future generations. . . . Spending restraint is a necessary component that must be vigorously pursued.” In the section entitled “Balancing the Budget” the authors observe that: “The current Administration’s refusal to work with Republicans took our national debt from $10 trillion to nearly $19 trillion today. Left unchecked it will hit $30 trillion by 2026.” Thanks to the spending restraint that the trump vigorously pursued, the national debt is expected to get to $30 trillion a year sooner than the platform said it would if the democrats remained in charge. On September 3, 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that “the U.S. debt had reached its highest level compared to the size of the economy since World War II and is projected to exceed it next year. . . .” This gives the trump yet an opportunity to demonstrate his skill and bring it down to where the Republican 2016 platform thought it should be.
There is one section of the platform that, to everyone’s surprise, still applies, although during much of the four-year trump rule, none would have thought that would be the case. In the section entitled “U.S. Leadership in the Asian Pacific” the platform says the “United States will continue to demand the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program with full accounting of its proliferation activities. We also pledge to counter any threats from the North Korean regime.”
Notwithstanding that unfriendly tone and the trump’s UN speech in which he referred to Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man,” within a year they had a wonderfully friendly and almost rapturous encounter in Singapore. Before that meeting, the trump said he anticipated a “terrific relationship” with Kim and after that meeting Trump described the correspondence that followed saying: “He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters,” At a September 2018 rally in West Virginia the trump said euphorically: “We fell in love.” As probably occurred in many of trump’s relationships, falling in love can be transitory. A subsequent meeting in Hanoi was less cordial and the love affair seems to be, as often happens to trump, over. Hence the 2016 platform language remained valid and would have needed neither emendation nor elimination.
The platform was, of course, aspirational. What is now aspirational is the hope that in four months the trump presidency will follow in the steps of the platform-past, and irrelevant for the future.