There is a movement within the Minnesota Republican Party to "simplify" the State Platform. "The Platform is too long and complicated," they say, and they have a point. It IS, but the U.S. Constitution is much longer. Their solution is to, basically, do away with the platform altogether! That is simply too simplistic. It discards and disregards the work of countless caucus and convention attendees over the years, dismisses their very real concerns about scores of issues, and suggests that the Party only cares about a few, brief, high-sounding 'principles' with little bearing on actual public policy.
It seems to me that before you can say a document is "too long" you have to be able to say what the PURPOSE of the document is. Certainly the full MNGOP platform is too lengthy as a "marketing document" to hand out at the county fair and get people's heads nodding quickly in agreement. We HAVE such a "statement of principles" already, so what purpose is there to eliminating the rest of the platform? If the problem is that the rest of the platform is too long, isn't the proper solution to reduce the length in some sensible fashion, to better serve its OTHER purposes, and then change our process to reduce future unnecessary growth? Why such radical, hasty and poorly considered change that may create NEW problems?
Oh, some propose just reducing our platform to a "hard limit" on the number of planks-- less than 100-- while others would allow unlimited planks but require every last one of them to be submitted all over again every two years, rather than merely making small changes (always additions, unfortunately) to a Standing Platform, which has long been our practice. Seeking to limit the total planks is arbitrary at best. We shouldn't do it. There is no reason that any given "principle" can be described by any specific number of policy statements. For example, if we have a principle which says, "taxes should be kept low and simple," which of the 27 different taxes should we say we would reduce, if this principle is limited to 5 or even 10 planks?
Requiring every resolution to be passed at every state convention is an even worse solution, in my opinion, for three reasons:
1. First and most critically, the most important aspect of the current platform is the resolutions process itself, where everybody has a chance to be "heard" on the issues. Having a resolution passed in caucus and advanced to the BPOU convention gets people involved and rewards them for their involvement, regardless of whether their item passes beyond that point or not. (We always announce that we will send a digest of all resolutions, whether they pass or not, to our legislators so they know what the grassroots are concerned with.) Few of us come to the Party for the party; we care about the issues far more. Take that away and what's the point?
2. The trouble with any statement of principles (and why are there always 10 of them?) Is that if you give the task to 1000 convention delegates, you will get at least 800 different versions, all more or less equally valid and all relatively useless as a means of defining what we believe public policy ought to be. It is far too easy to defend both sides of a particular legislative issue using the exact same set of principles.
3. We should NOT be looking to replace the platform and the resolutions process with any statement of principles, but rather solving the problem that we are trying to do too many things with a single document we call the "platform." The last convention added a [permanent] statement of principles to preface the platform, so we already have a "Marketing document." We need to substantially slim down what we now call the “platform” and have it represent only those Policies (in general) that define and describe the principles and do not contradict them, or each other, yet outline for our legislators our clear expectations. The third platform "piece" we need would be some sort of legislative priorities—issues of temporary and/or specific interest—and these might reasonably be revised and reapproved (based on resolutions) every two years. Filtering out BPOU-level and CD-level concerns from this list and encouraging each of those organizations to forward all such concerns to their local legislators would effectively limit the size of the platform and make the overall platform much more useful.
The advantage to splitting the current platform document into three parts is that it can then serve three different purposes without being "too long" for any of them, maintaining the ability of the grassroots to participate fully in the platform process, and allowing everyone to access the level of detail and "simplicity" they choose. We gain more unity by division, and if we add rather than subtract.