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Party on

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Delegates from Penobscot County vote on a motion during the nomination of national delegates at the Maine Republican Convention at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta on Saturday, May 5, 2012.

The Maine Republican Party may want to do things such as build an environment for job growth and improve students’ access to technical education, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the political platform it adopted at the GOP convention this weekend.

That’s because, even though a committee worked for months to update the party’s official opinions on various issues, Ron Paul supporters, and at least one person who helped write the new document, voted to reject it and adopt the version from 2010. That old version is not a fair representation of the whole party. Delegates would have been better off accepting broader perspectives in order to stay relevant.

The 2010 platform — the one that will continue to represent the party — upholds isolationist views such as to seal the border, eliminates the Department of Education, returns to the principles of the Austrian School of economics, freezes the flow of stimulus funds and opposes all United Nations treaties.

The new version had its distractions, too. It vowed to protect the American legal system from Islamic Shariah law and dismissed the state’s French heritage by affirming English as the official language of Maine. But it offered more of what the 2010 version did not: an inclusive tone.

Whereas the document from two years ago referred to the Republican Party as a faction striving against tyranny to “throw off those shackles of restraint and gather power and influence over the people,” the 2012 version offered a less alienating idea. It “humbly” asked a new generation to “assist us in restoring the Constitutional government envisioned by our founders.”

Instead of sealing the border — which could hinder trade — the 2012 document proposed to secure it. Instead of wanting to do away with the education department, it supported more local control and choice in education. Instead of reverting to Austrian economics — to limit the ability of the government to intervene in the economy — it emphasized controlling spending and reducing debt.

The 2012 document also outlined the accomplishments of the party, such as the Legislature passing a two-year budget with bipartisan support last year that instituted $150 million in tax cuts. The document praised enacting stricter sanctions for violations of welfare rules and imposing a drug test requirement for welfare recipients convicted of drug crimes.

If you’re a Republican, does it make sense to not include these items in your platform?

With the largest group of Mainers not enrolled in a party, language counts. And while many people view platforms as having little practical significance, they are used to appeal to the public. Estranging moderates will only exacerbate the political fervency that accomplishes little for Maine people.

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