Is the Republican Party dominated by idiots or does it have its finger on the pulse of today’s voters? Both? At the Washington Examiner Quin Hilyer laments the lightweight economic planks in the 2024 Republican platform:

The Republican National Convention policy committee’s draft platform, released July 8, is an anemic little thing compared to what once was expected from party conventions.

Maybe its thinness and vagueness will prove to be smart politics because it will give critics fewer targets to nitpick, and also because the public’s attention span these days has atrophied to embarrassing levels. Let it be noted, however, that lengthy, program-specific platforms in the past certainly were no hindrance, and quite arguably a real aid, for Republicans to win landslide elections.

This year’s platform runs just 16 pages, with lots of white space. Most of its promises amount to frothy wish-casting. By comparison, the 1980 convention platform, part of Ronald Reagan’s massive victory in which he carried 44 of 50 states, ran for 75 densely packed pages.

For example, the 1980 platform had a nearly 500-word section on “small business.” This year’s draft doesn’t even contain the words “small business.” In 1980, Republicans devoted more than 2,000 words to energy policy. This week’s platform handles energy in just 65 words.

Yesterday I touched on something that has been a recurring theme here, something I call “visualcy”, the transition from a literate society to one that relies on visual media, e.g. video, graphics, for information By “literate society” I don’t just mean one in which the people can read and write but one in which people rely primarily on the written word for information. The characteristics of literate societies (by comparison with pre-literate societies) include the inability to follow abstract logical arguments and agonistic modes of expression. My thesis has been that modern society resembles pre-literate ones more than it does a literate society. Add short attention span (which I blame on television) and you’re pretty much describing our modern society.

8 comments… add one
  • Drew Link

    Heh. I dont know if you are right or wrong in gussying it up with concepts like “visualcy.” I just think there are people who are engaged, or not. And that’s sad commentary.

    My (intentional and probably annoying) hyperbole in comments aside, all of your readers share one thing: they are engaged. They read. They contemplate. They are motivated to read what you have to say, and engage in debate (no matter how, uh, “energetic” that might be.) Personally, I read all kinds of news feeds and blogs everyday I have time. Far left, far right, and everything in between. All sides can infuriate, illuminate, bore or stimulate.

    2000 words is a lot? My god. How about 10,000 words, minimum. For you, and your readers, it’s a hobby.

    For so many, it’s nothing. They just want to talk Yankees/Red Sox.

    I find that to be a problem. It’s the reason I say “we are not a serious people.” We are not civic minded.

    But I don’t think that’s visualcy. Just because in 1965 people read the morning, and then the afternoon, paper doesn’t mean a greater fraction of the people were civically engaged. As a kid I read the Star, and then in the afternoon, the News, in Indianapolis. Many people read neither, and then went to the bar after their manufacturing day jobs ended. That’s reality, then and now.

    Endeth the sermon. But just an aside. My wife is liberal. She loves this comedian John Oliver. I find him a complete buffoon who is just a comedian feeding red meat to the converted. I have zero interest in his, ahem, “policy show.” I contrast with Bill Maher. I don’t agree with Bill Maher on much. But I will absolutely listen to what he has to say. Because he is thoughtful. I may think him wrong, but he is thoughtful, so I will listen and think. Dave – I don’t really think it’s visualcy. I think it’s just plain and simply tastes great, less filling.

    So to bring it all back to the post. The parties play to the audience. Our issue shouldn’t be “is the Republican Party dominated by idiots,“ that’s juvenile, (so don’t get me started on the Democrat Party), but rather, is the electorate capable of thoughtful dialogue.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    I suspect the vagueness is the same reason the British Labor party had a vague platform in the UK election.

    It mostly has to do with the adage “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” If the incumbent is unpopular and has screwed things up, why get in the way with a detailed proposal of what you would do.

  • Janis Link

    I read in an opinion piece a couple of weeks ago that Trump prefers to not be confined by specific plans. He prefers room to negotiate. And, truly it’s hard to phrase “Unleash hell on my enemies” in a manner that would appeal to the broad electorate.

  • steve Link

    I think the internet and social media have changed how people read and write to some extent but I dont think it’s necessarily good or bad. I dont think the percentage of people who are engaged is that much different than in the past. Lots fo people reading newspapers limited it to the sports section and the comics or the fashion section. It’s much, much easier to find actual numbers/data on almost any topic of import and find in depth studies or explanations on almost anything. If you are interested it’s available. OTOH, it’s also pretty easy to get lead into bad information. I think that is probably more likely since many of the social media sites have algorithms to promote that.

    Also, for the very large majority of non-fiction I read I end up feeling they could have used a better editor and greatly shortened what they wrote. Writing well and concisely is an awesome skill. Something I worked towards at work but often fell short on.

    Maybe where I think you have some argument is that in the most popular venues the emphasis is on immediacy so you get shorter stories without a lot fo depth. While the highbrow stuff is there if you want it the lowbrow dominates.

    On the platform it probably does reflect what Trump wants which is to be vague. He doesnt seem to have much depth of concern about policy, just what it will do to help him. He is a marketing genius so expect nice slogans and lots of promises but little detail.

    OT- With he Chevron decision Congress is going to have to write very long, detailed bills if agency rulings arent going to carry any weight. After all of the years complaining about overly long bills should be interesting to se how that works.


  • With he Chevron decision Congress is going to have to write very long, detailed bills if agency rulings arent going to carry any weight.

    Or, alternatively, they could give up trying to micromanage and focus more on objectives than about how to accomplish the objectives.

  • CuriousOnlooker Link

    I am skeptical that Chevron will force Congress to change how it operates that much.

    Chevron was decided in 1983. Yet the so-called “administrative state” existed from post WWII until 1983 before Chevron — arguably it grew the most during that period.

    My understanding is the Supreme Court hasn’t relied on Chevron in any of its rulings for the past 7 years…. and I don’t see how it effected any administration from issuing administrative law that suited its agenda.

  • steve Link

    Congress wont really change. The laws will still be vague. What will happen is that there will be a lot more challenges to agency rulings taking them to friendly venues. Those friendly judges can effectively ignore agency recommendations and use their own judgment, not really having any expertise. We go from unelected people with maybe a political bias but expertise making decisions to an unelected group with definite political bias and no expertise making decisions. If nothing else, creates a lot fo uncertainty.


  • Congress wont really change. The laws will still be vague.

    Vote for different people in Congress. It’s the area over which we have the most democratic control although the large size of districts, state law, and gerrymandering impede that.

Leave a Comment