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Dissecting the GOP platform and what a 2nd Trump term would look like

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Former President Trump has been quieter than usual the past few days, leaving most of the attention on his rival, President Biden. Although when we say quieter than usual, that doesn't mean quiet. Trump did share a post on social media calling for his critics to face military tribunals. His party released the Republican platform ahead of next week's party convention. It is a simplified document when compared with past platforms, but gives some indication as to what he proposes to do if returned to office. And Washington Post columnist Philip Bump has been reading that platform and the context around it and he's on the line. Welcome to the program.

PHILIP BUMP: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: What do you think this platform reveals about a second Trump presidency?

BUMP: Well, I think it's interesting. People may remember in 2020, the Republican Party didn't really put forward a platform. They basically just said, you know, we stand...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

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BUMP: ...With Donald Trump. So this is a more fleshed-out document than we saw four years ago. But it really represents, I think, Trump's approach to politics. It's less of a policy agenda than it is sort of a checklist of things that he's said over the course of the past several years at campaign rallies and really is sort of a to-do list that is based on the sorts of rhetoric you'll hear at those events.

INSKEEP: And I'm wondering if the policies that he has talked about from time to time in his various speeches match up with the promises - I mean, he says seal the border. He talks about the largest mass deportation effort in history. He says he's going to end inflation. It's not clear at all how he would do that.

BUMP: Right. Yes, there's a lot of vagueness. My favorite is that he will support the restoration of classical liberal arts education. It's like, oh, OK, well, what does that mean, right? And I think one of the key things to remember is that Donald Trump has historically - going back to 2016 - not liked to give specifics, not liked to give details. And he says it's because, you know, he's a negotiator and he wants to go into it and, you know, be able to negotiate a deal as he sees fit. But it's in part, obviously, 'cause he's also a salesman, and he wants to make the case as loosely as possible to get as many people enticed as he can, hoping that they will then give him their vote.

INSKEEP: You know, when you say making the case as loosely as possible, I immediately think of the issue of abortion, which is clearly problematic for the former president this time around. And this platform says a lot less than the last detailed Republican platform in 2016.

BUMP: Yeah. That's exactly right. So in past platforms in 2012 and 2016, abortion has been mentioned regularly. In this one, it is sort of pushed to the side and framed in the way that Donald Trump has framed it at his rallies, which is, oh, all we're doing is giving the choice back to the states, and this is what everyone wanted anyway. So it is the same sort of argument, right? It is a very loose sort of, hey, we're going to let people do what they want; there's no reason to be mad at me about it sort of sort of approach to abortion. But of course, it's fairly easy to see through what's happening. And, of course, the landscape's changed since 2020 and since 2016. Now it is the case that because of Donald Trump, Republicans have had a massive win on abortion, so it was necessarily the case they had to adjust how they talked about it.

INSKEEP: It is fascinating, though. In past years, in past elections, when Roe v. Wade protected abortion rights, you would have Republicans running on the state level sometimes who would say, you don't need to vote against me on abortion because I have nothing to do with that. It's a federal issue. Now you have a federal candidate, Donald Trump, saying, you don't have to vote against me on abortion because it's a state issue, which is interesting. But the platform does have this one little detail, a reference to the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which seems to suggest that that amendment protects life. What's going on there?

BUMP: Right. And this is something that has actually been discussed in pro-life circles for some time, using this amendment as a way to try and create a status for fetuses that doesn't currently exist. And so this is a - to some extent, it seems, a way to sort of bridge the divide between what Donald Trump wants to say about it and what he knows his base expects him to say, or what he knows his base expects the party to say about it. There are a lot of pro-life activists who are not happy about this, who are not happy about the approach the party has taken. But I think that it is very clear that Donald Trump recognizes that this is a point of pain for him and for his candidacy, and he's doing everything in his power to try and soften that blow.

INSKEEP: The president has disowned this Project 2025, which is much more detailed, put together by a number of conservative think tanks, a plan for governing with a new Republican administration. Does it tell us anything about how Trump would govern?

BUMP: I think it does very significantly because it is written by the sorts of people who are very, very likely to have jobs in the Trump administration should he be reelected, right? So because Donald Trump doesn't really have a robust, fleshed-out policy agenda himself, a lot of the details are up to the people that he hires or, as we saw when he was president, to the House and to the Senate, that it is going to be those people and the people who wrote this document, who are the ones implementing what a Trump administration would look like. And so because he doesn't have strong feelings on a lot of these things, and they do, they'll be the ones in positions of power. And I think that's why this document is particularly important.

INSKEEP: And some of the plans would expand presidential power. Philip Bump, thanks so much.

BUMP: Of course.

INSKEEP: He's a national columnist for The Washington Post. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.