Paul Begala: The Republicans’ Crazy Party Platforms

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All of us have our own private dreams of nirvana. My utopia involves a Willie Nelson concert with free beer and plentiful bathrooms. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. All across America, political activists in both parties are assembling their own fantasylands; they draw the contours of their earthly paradise in their party platforms.

I have read several state-party platforms so you won’t have to. They offer a road map to heaven or hell, depending on your party preference.

I started in my beloved Texas—the most Republican big state in America, it is South Carolina on steroids. Every single statewide elected official is a Republican. Of the 150 members of the Texas House of Representatives, 101 are Republicans—and they’re hunting the other 49 down with dogs.

Texas Republicans hate the heavy hand of government. And so they oppose mandatory preschool and kindergarten, mandatory immunizations, mandatory, well, mandatory mandates. It’s one thing to be antigovernment. It’s another to be pro-stupid. Yet the Texas GOP actually opposes thinking. Seriously, their platform proudly declares: “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills, critical-thinking skills, and similar programs.” As the Texas populist Jim Hightower likes to say, if ignorance is bliss, these are the happiest people on earth.

Of course, my Republican family and friends back home will say they just flat don’t want gubmint gettin’ all in your grill. Unless, of course, you’re gay. Or a woman seeking to choose to have an abortion. Then the government will not only be in your grill, it will be controlling your carburetor. For those keeping score at home, mandating a polio vaccine: tyranny. Mandating invasive ultrasound: freedom.

Predictably, Texas Republicans want a land without Social Security, without the United Nations, and without President Obama. But the 23-page platform has some truly random gems, like opposing the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was negotiated and adopted under the presidencies of those dangerous radicals, Reagan and Bush. They oppose implanting a radio chip in your body. (Radio chips bad; tortilla chips good.)

On the economy, the Texans proudly quote at great length from the GOP’s national platform—from 1932. I kid you not. These folks pine for the policies of Herbert Hoover. They want to repeal the minimum wage, abolish the Federal Reserve, and return to the gold standard. By next year they’ll be calling for a return to wampum and barter.

Lest you think this is just a Texas thing, let us check in with the unfailingly nice, polite, and progressive people of Minnesota. Their GOP platform also calls for abolition of the Fed, but would further defund the arts and public radio (in the land of Garrison Keillor!) Minnesota’s Republicans love our Constitution, but want to add an amendment declaring that life begins at conception and allowing men who impregnate women to have an equal say in what happens to the fetus. The platform is silent as to whether rapists would be so empowered.

Minnesota, where all the children are above average, has one party that wants to require that the state spend the same amount on gifted children as it does on special-needs kids—totally ignoring the fact that many special-needs kids ... well, have special needs that cost more. The Minnesota GOP also supports teaching of “creation science” and opposes any teaching about sex—except abstinence. So how do you explain to Minneapolis high schoolers what then-GOP senator Larry Craig was doing in their airport men’s room?

Like Texas, the Minnesota GOP wants to reinstate the ban on gays in the military. It will be a lot easier to root them out now that we’ve let them come out of the closet. Fiendishly clever, my Republican friends.

But aren’t the Democratic crazies just as crazy? No, actually. I reviewed the Democratic platforms of Vermont (which has a socialist senator), Massachusetts, and Hawaii. None of them is as far left as some of the Republicans are right. No one is calling for the proletariat to own the means of production. No Democrat wants to nationalize the oil companies. I can’t even find one to call for sending SEAL Team 6 into the boardroom of Bain Capital. They mostly repeat the standard center-left calls for gay rights and women’s rights, more health care and better schools. I can’t even find support for new gun control laws, much less implanting radio chips.

I must admit I found the GOP platforms more entertaining. But then again I like Stephen King novels, too. The difference is Mr. King doesn’t try to enact his fevered fantasies into law.

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