Some stakeholders are upset with the transportation sections of the national Republican platform (pdf). We aren’t upset, and here’s why.
To refresh your memory the platform calls for focusing transportation funding on roads, eliminating funding for Amtrak, reducing environmental regulations to expedite construction projects, and privatizing airport security screening services. Our earlier story has the exact text from the platform.
Simply put, we just don’t think national party platforms have much of an impact on final legislation. While a party’s platform serves as a general vision of their philosophy, there are plenty of Members who disagree with portions of their party’s platform. And in fact will vote against their party.
The best example of this is when the House Republicans torpedoed a Republican leadership proposal to change funding for transit programs. Even if Republicans win the White House and Senate and keep the House, it’s unlikely these proposals will become law. Perhaps watered-down versions could be enacted, and for many transportation stakeholders that would be bad enough.
So while we’re disappointed with some of the GOP platform, and we may be more pleased with the Democratic Party’s platform (due within days), we don’t expect either platform’s proposals to be enacted as proposed – regardless of who controls the White House and Congress.
Still, some folks believe platforms do matter. “Platforms are often mocked as unread and unimportant,” notes the NYT’s Michael Cooper. He continues:
“Both parties have seen their platforms shaped over the years by special-interest groups, or in the hopes of appealing to single-issue voters, in ways that appealed to their bases but at times took them outside mainstream political opinion.”
And some political scientists say that party platforms do matter. Gerald M. Pomper, a professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University, studied meaningful platform pledges from 1944 to 1976 — and later updated his work by looking at the 1990s — and found that winning political parties try to redeem roughly 70 percent of their concrete platform pledges. Mr. Pomper said his work found that contrary to popular belief, party platforms should not be casually dismissed as meaningless.
“It seemed strange to me that people would have fights over platforms and would put in a lot of effort to try to influence them if they didn’t mean anything,” he said in an interview. “If they didn’t, why were practical people fighting over this? Putting something into the party platform is a pledge that you’re going to do something about it.”
Finally, Jennifer Victor, writing for the excellent blog Mischief of Faction, comments that “Party platforms are insider politics. But that doesn’t make them an unimportant part of the political process.”
Still, we think stakeholders should focus on the candidate’s views instead of their party’s platform. And on that count, the differences between Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan are fairly significant.
Streetsblog’s take was “They Totally Went There: GOP Outlines Extremist Transpo Views in Platform.” We’ll have a different perspective
on Wednesday, “What You Don’t Know about Romney-Ryan on Transportation Issues.“