Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Creaky Platform

Last night's precinct caucuses turned out fairly well. Turnout was a little lighter than what I had hoped to find, but there was a lot of enthusiasm and it's always interesting to find out which neighbors share your ideological views (like the woman who's kitty-corner across the street from us). I also ran into a couple of gents who recognized me from blogging and the NARN radio show which was gratifying as well.

The night went pretty much as expected. Anyone who wanted to was able to become a delegate or alternate to the senate district convention, so I'll be seeing some of the faces again soon. I was a bit surprised when Marty Seifert collected almost all the straw poll votes in our precinct. That was really the only matter of significance that we voted on. There were a number of resolutions that were approved to be added to the state party's standing platform. Discussion of these resolutions lead to a wider debate about the merits of the party platform itself and whether candidates should be required to follow all of its precepts. The more we talked about it and the more I read through it the more I concluded that the current platform is in desperate need of a major overhaul.

That overhaul should be done with a red pen and a sharp scissors. Because more than anything, the platform needs to sliced, diced, and reduced until it becomes a concise, clear, and coherent expression of where the party stands on core issues. Right now, it has none of those qualities. It's a mish-mash of this and that. Some of the resolutions express core principles of the party on critical issues. But many--far too many--are either devoted to matters too trivial to be included in such a document or so vague that they are essentially meaningless.

I'm as big a supporter of the Second Amendment as the next guy, but is this level of detail really necessary?

E. Making the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program available annually in every Minnesota elementary and middle school.

There's already three resolutions under the "Civil Rights" plank on gun rights. Can we get by without endorsing Eddie Eagle in the "Educating Our Children" plank?

Then there's this under the "Creating an Environment for Economic Prosperity: Controlling Taxes, Spending, and Regulation" (or CREEPCOTSAR) plank:

(we support) I. A fair and honest competitive business environment and therefore we oppose corporate welfare.

We also like baseball, Mom, and apple pie. But what does it mean in reality? What does corporate welfare mean and who defines it? Such bland platitudes are a waste of words.

Which the 2008 MN GOP Platform has no shortage of. The copy of the platform that we were given last night filled almost three HUGE pages. If you print the PDF file on 8 x 11 paper, it will take up FOURTEEN pages. All in all, the nine planks of the platform contain a mind-numbing 5002 words. By comparison a fairly significant document called The Declaration of Independence chocks in at 1322 words. In order to explain why they were breaking from the King and starting a new country the Founders only needed a quarter of the words that we need today to explain to the people of Minnesota where our party stands. That's absurd.

The goal should be to winnow down the platform to one page of easily explained, clear principles on the party's position on the critical issues facing Minnesota. Instead of nine planks, there should be no more than five. Keep it simple. Keep it clear. Make it something that people (real people not just hardcore political junkies) might actually be inclined to read. Otherwise, the process of maintaining, updating, and communicating it becomes a pointless exercise that only the wonkiest of word-smithing wonks could possibly love.

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