Last night, the Internet exploded with allegations that Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech was plagiarized from a 2008 Democratic National Convention speech by Michelle Obama. This morning, Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s chief strategist, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that "Melania Trump said ‘the strength of your dreams and willingness to work for them.' Twilight Sparkle from 'My Little Pony' said, 'This is your dream. Anything you can do in your dreams, you can do now.’”
We’ll soon find out who wrote the speech, and that will be another explosion. Here’s the problem with this schadenfreude moment: It doesn’t matter, not at all. No one writes 100% of their own speeches; they have professionals do it for them. Why would a nonpolitical person dragged into the political spotlight be the exception? And we already know Trump’s campaign is sloppy — it has been from the jump.
While everyone is talking about Melania, a person who doesn’t court exposure and is not running for our nation’s highest office, we’re taking our eye off the conversation we should be having: that the man who is running is a self-involved bully, and that the party platform he’s running on is deeply disturbing.
All right, so some of us have been having the self-involved bully conversation for a while now. But the 2016 Republican platform has been badly under-covered. It’s gotten some pickup here and there, but it’s far from water-cooler conversation. We’re talking about a 66-page policy document; I get that it’s less meme-able than a plagiarism gaffe. But stay with me for a moment. Because here’s what the official document — a document that, unlike Melania Trump, addresses numerous important national issues — says the Republican Party aims to do. I want to directly quote the platform’s language without interpretation, so that I can’t be accused of sensationalizing or misstating it.
On religion, the platform states: “Republicans believe the federal government, specifically the IRS, is constitutionally prohibited from policing or censoring speech based on religious convictions or beliefs, and therefore we urge the repeal of the Johnson Amendment.” The Johnson Amendment is a tax code revision that was made in 1954. It prohibits tax-exempt groups, such as churches, temples and synagogues, from making explicit political endorsements. It is a legal protection that reinforces the separation of church and state, a separation that is dictated by the Constitution’s 1st Amendment. The platform also states, “A good understanding of the Bible [is] indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry,” and it “support[s] the public display of the Ten Commandments.”
On guns, the platform states: “We support firearm reciprocity legislation to recognize the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms to protect themselves and their families in all 50 states. We support constitutional carry statutes and salute the states that have passed them. We oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle. We also oppose any effort to deprive individuals of their right to keep and bear arms without due process of law. We condemn frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers and the current Administration’s illegal harassment of firearm dealers. We oppose federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners, registration of ammunition, and restoration of the ill-fated Clinton gun ban.” This is an argument against all types of gun control.
On Obergefell vs. Hodges, the case that legalized gay marriage, the platform states: “five unelected lawyers robbed 320 million Americans of their legitimate constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” Therefore, the platform does “not accept the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage and we urge its reversal, whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states. We oppose government discrimination against businesses or entities which decline to sell items or services to individuals for activities that go against their religious views about such activities.” This is an argument to abolish gay marriage and nationalize Mississippi’s law allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT people.
On education, the platform states: “The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans. In order to bring down college costs and give students access to a multitude of financing options, private sector participation in student financing should be restored.” This is an argument against the current federal student loan program, which has cut borrowing costs dramatically for college students. (Whether that’s a good thing depends on whether you think the rise in student-loan debt stems from the availability of affordable credit or the inavailability of good jobs.)
On abortion, the platform states: “We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.” This is an argument to amend the constitution in order to make abortion illegal.
On intellectual property rights, the platform states: “Protecting intellectual property is also a national security issue. We must guard against counterfeit parts that can compromise the reliability of our weapons systems and the safety of military personnel. Today, the worst offenses against intellectual property rights come from abroad, especially in China. We call for strong action by Congress and a new Republican president to enforce intellectual property laws against all infringers, whether foreign or domestic.” This is an argument for U.S. law to be applied in other sovereign nations, which by definition have their own laws. This issue is being handled in the negotiations over trade agreements, where it belongs.
On foreign affairs, the platform states: “The Republican Party does not accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. We support statutory protection for U.S. personnel and officials as they act abroad to meet our global security requirements, and we deplore the current inaction of the Administration in that regard. Our service members must be subject only to American law.” This would guarantee that only U.S. military courts will decide whether Americans engaged in war crimes.
On the environment, the platform states: “The central fact of any sensible environmental policy is that, year by year, the environment is improving. Our air and waterways are much healthier than they were a few decades ago. As a nation, we have drastically reduced pollution, mainstreamed recycling, educated the public, and avoided ecological degradation. Even if no additional controls are added, air pollution will continue to decline for the next several decades due to technological turnover of aging equipment. These successes become a challenge for Democratic Party environmental extremists, who must reach farther and demand more to sustain the illusion of an environmental crisis. That is why they routinely ignore costs, exaggerate benefits, and advocate the breaching of constitutional boundaries by federal agencies to impose environmental regulation.” This is an argument against the existence of global warming and for rolling back environmental regulations.
On immigration, the platform states: “We support building a wall along our southern border and protecting all ports of entry. The border wall must cover the entirety of the southern border.” The platform also states: “Asylum should be limited to cases of political, ethnic or religious persecution.” That would rule out asylum for those terrorized by crime, women discriminated against because of their gender, and those persecuted for being LGBT.
There are many other pieces of this platform — such as paving the way for Puerto Rico to become America’s 51st state, cutting welfare, nationalizing the death penalty, increasing military spending, the two paragraphs on our proposed partnership with the African continent which, unlike the other continents listed in the document, is not broken out into separate countries — that merit serious attention and analysis.
This isn’t merely a statement of Donald Trump’s wacky personal beliefs. This isn’t a statement written by some fringe tea partyers. This is a statement of the beliefs of the Republican Party, one of the two major parties in American politics. This is what the contemporary Republican Party stands for, in its own words.
If that doesn’t disturb us more than which amateur-hour politico “wrote” Melania’s speech, then Trump is the president we deserve.
Batchelor Warnke is an intern in The Times' Opinion section. Follow her on Twitter @velvetmelvis.
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5:48 p.m.: Language in this post was altered to better reflect Times guidelines.