A party platform is a statement of positions or beliefs of a political organization. In general, it is adopted by the party's membership or by a national convention. The individual topics included in the platform are called "planks".
The candidates of a party are not legally bound to implement the provisions of the platform. In theory, the platform represents the beliefs of the grass roots membership of the party. Parties hold conventions in individual Congressional districts where the delegates adopt a platform or a package of policy resolutions. These positions then inform the drafting of platform for adoption at state conventions. The state platforms in turn inform the drafting of a platform for adoption at the national convention. However, the rules of the conventions frequently limit debate and amendment of the platform. As a result, party leaders or paid staff members may play a large role in drafting the platform, leaving the convention delegates with little choice but to "rubber stamp" their approval of a long document.
Historic platform controversies
At the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Hubert Humphrey lead a fight to adopt a plank supporting civil rights legislation. When the convention included his proposal in the platform, a group of 35 southern delegates walked out and formed the Dixicrat movement who supported J. Strom Thurmond instead of Harry Truman in the Presidential election.
For many years, the Republican Party platform supported adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). However, at the 1980 Republican National Convention a group lead by Phyllis Schlafly opposed the ERA, and the final platform qualified Republican support for that amendment.
At the 2012 Republican National Convention, a group of Ron Paul supporters advocated the inclusion of a plank calling for the audit of the Federal Reserve. The Romney campaign agreed, so a floor fight was avoided on the issue. However, the convention also adopted a plank calling for the prohibition of abortion in cases of rape or incest. Mitt Romney, the eventual nominee had already taken the position that abortion should be permitted in such situations, but most convention delegates took the position that he was free to advocate views contrary to the platform.
At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the party tried to pass a platform that removed all references to God and did not reference the fact that Jerusalem is the true capital of Israel. Both had been in the prior Democratic Party Platforms. Under pressure, the Democratic Party leadership rammed through an amended platform in a remarkably undemocratic fashion.
- "Republicans make annual Fed audit part of election platform", Reuters, August 21, 2012. Retrieved on September 18, 2012.
- Platform Amendment on Religious Issues Vote. C-Span (September 5, 2012). Retrieved on September 18, 2012.