GOP Platform Committee Gets Bitter Taste of Trump’s Authoritarianism

Former President Donald Trump (Image from online fundraising page.)

Donald Trump’s dictatorial impulses were on full display in Milwaukee Monday, as Trump’s team at the Republican National Committee steamrolled the platform committee into endorsing language drafted by the Trump campaign. The bare-knuckled pressure deployed by Trump’s operatives against his own allies was more revealing about the threat of a Trump presidency than the platform language itself.

The drafting and adoption of the GOP platform used to be a decentralized and democratic process. Each state party elects two delegates to the platform committee. In the past, sections of the platform were worked on in subcommittees, and the committee met over multiple days to discuss, amend, and vote on the drafts. Those meetings were open to the media and broadcast on C-SPAN.

Not in the MAGA era.

Trump’s operatives reportedly ignored, bent, and broke RNC rules in order to purge two South Carolina delegates they deemed too committed to the anti-abortion platform language Trump wanted to soften. One of them, former state GOP chair and former leader of faith outreach for the RNC Chad Connelly, describes an operation  similar to the fake elector scheme Trump operatives used to try to overturn the 2020 election: Although Connelly was elected to the committee according to the state GOP process, RNC operatives convened their own meeting, elected their own delegates, and then got Trump loyalists at the RNC to accept the Trump team’s bogus delegates.

When Trump’s RNC announced that the platform committee meeting would be held behind closed doors, some religious-right leaders objected. Over the week of July 4, they mobilized an effort to lobby RNC delegates to restore a degree to transparency to the process.

Team Trump didn’t listen.

Not only did the doors remain closed, but delegates and observers were forced to give up their cell phones so they could not record the proceedings. Trump and RNC campaign staff held “vote yes” signs and took photos of delegates as they voted, Politico reported. “Debate” was limited to one minute per person. Committee members got the language that morning, were bullied to accept it, and were done before lunch.

In other words, instead of the expected two days of deliberation and debate, Trump’s operatives turned the platform committee into a rubber stamp operation worthy of a Chinese Communist Party leadership election.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and other FRC officials complained about the process and the “watered down” platform on Perkins’ Washington Watch show Monday evening. Former Rep. Jody Hice, FRC’s senior vice president, repeatedly called the process “disturbing.” Another FRC vice president, Brent Keilen, criticized the lack of openness and transparency. Travis Weber, yet another FRC vice president, described the level of “tight control” that was “exerted upon the whole process.”

“Everyone knows when someone is trying to ram something down their throat,” said Weber. “And it was very clear that this was being rammed down the throats of everyone there today.” He said that the “iron-fisted” process and “pressure tactics” disrespected the delegates. Noting that the process led to a platform with far fewer references to God, Weber said, “God was not given a place of honor it that room.”

You might hope that this dissent-quashing display of authoritarian control might make some right-wing activists question their commitment to a candidate with a record of praising the “strength” of dictatorial leaders. But the MAGA movement has fully embraced Project 2025’s vision of an authoritarian presidency. And many religious-right political operatives like Ralph Reed are being good MAGA foot soldiers, rallying around Trump and the new platform.

But Connelly, whose Faith Wins organization urges conservative pastors to be more politically engaged, said he heard from more than 1,000 pastors in recent days, and said he believes “the base is going to be deflated” by the process and platform changes.

The far shorter platform language rammed through committee by Trump’s team drops some language that religious-right groups had fought to keep—like a call for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and opposition to marriage equality—while still embracing a litany of far-right positions, including the anti-abortion movement’s claims that fertilized eggs are protected by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.