CLEVELAND — Debating changes to its party platform for nearly six hours on Monday, members of the Republican National Committee brought up the definition of junk food, a registry for child murderers, date rape, and prairie chicken, among other topics not typically associated with the core principles of the party.
Those topics have left a growing number of delegates — unofficially labeled as "the brevity caucus" — frustrated with the volume and complexity of its party's platform. These delegates believe the more than 60-page draft platform is straying from its original purpose of communicating the party's principles to voters and veering off into unnecessary, wonky debates.
"There's two main camps right now: There's a small group, who want to use this for door-knocking," said Ben Barringer, a delegate from Iowa. "The other groups wants to use it to holding legislators accountable. They want to be more verbose."
The platform committee includes people who have varying roles within the Republican Party. Those more active in grassroots efforts tend to support a shorter version of the platform; those involved in policy battles back the inclusion of detailed legislative priorities, delegates say.
"We almost need two versions — we need a policy-focused one and a mission statement that is short and is easily understood," Barringer said.
At one point during the meeting when delegates were debating whether to insert the word "private" into an amendment, Cindy Graves, a delegate from Florida, told delegates, "I'm confused."
"I've never been on this committee before, and I keep hearing my fellow delegates talk about it as though I've somehow been elected to Congress or the state legislature," she said as some delegates applauded. "I thought all we were doing was putting together an advertisement of what we all believe in… I'm just a delegate, a mom, and business owner."
Graves later told BuzzFeed News in an interview that the platform committee included "frustrated policy wonks" and that the platform was getting too long and complicated to share with the average voter.
"It needs to be more of a communications tool and not the Magna Carta," she said. "I don't know who reads these many, many pages.”
“It's getting to be something that Democrats would do,” she joked.
Another delegate, Judy Eledge from Alaska, added: "We think it should be the enduring principles of the Republican Party. I don't think we need to get that much into the details.”
"I think more and more people think we need to go that way," she said of the efforts to simplify the document.
Others, who lean toward simplifying the platform, also said they understood the need to debate other delegates' policy priorities.
"We would rather err on the side of covering something that's important than not," said Margaret Metcalfe, a delegate from Guam. “But I think the group is cohesive enough that when they start getting through the general sessions they're going to start paring it down and they're going to start looking at what are the basic guidelines for us."
"There's room for improvement but we have a pretty good process," said Tracey Winbush, a delegate from Ohio. "It gives people the ability to say what's on their mind whether we agree with it or not. And that's what makes America great."
"This is an opportunity for people to vent and to get their agenda on paper. We have the ability to accept it or reject it. In my personal opinion I think it should be simplified, but that doesn't mean it's going to go my way."
Tarini Parti is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Tarini Parti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
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