Every four years since 1856, the Republican Party has produced a platform articulating its priorities for the next president.
But like so much else disrupted by President Trump, the Republican National Committee has dispensed with producing a 2020 platform, instead passing a resolution renewing what delegates enacted in 2016, bashing the news media and offering wholehearted support for Mr. Trump.
“The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the president’s America-first agenda,” reads the resolution, adopted this past weekend in Charlotte, N.C., just before the start of the Republican National Convention.
Most of what is on that agenda also remains a mystery — and is subject to change. Several times this summer, Mr. Trump has been asked by friendly Fox News hosts to articulate his second-term priorities, and he has regularly failed to reveal his plans.
So while the G.O.P. platform of 1856 called for abolishing “those twin relics of barbarism — polygamy and slavery” and building a transcontinental railroad, the party’s official stance in 2020 is that it is for whatever Mr. Trump says.
After the resolution was adopted over the weekend, Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign late Sunday night announced “a set of core priorities” for a second term in the form of 50 bullet points under the heading “Fighting for You!” The list functions as a greatest hits of Mr. Trump’s recent proclamations, including, under his plans for confronting the coronavirus crisis, pledges such as “Return to Normal in 2021” and “Develop a Vaccine by The End Of 2020,” which, of course, take place entirely in Mr. Trump’s current term in office.
The priorities document, which for reasons unexplained capitalizes nearly every word in it, also pledges to “Hold China Fully Accountable for Allowing the Virus to Spread around the World.” There is also a pledge to send a manned mission to Mars and “Get Allies to Pay their Fair Share.”
There is no mention of abortion or the Second Amendment, which have long been animating features of the social conservative wing of Republican politics. The only foreign country mentioned by name is China, under a section titled “end our reliance on China.” A section on innovation offers a goal to “Partner with Other Nations to Clean Up our Planet’s Oceans.”
It offers no specifics.
“This is probably the stuff he’s been talking about that they think is going to move votes, but this is not a platform,” said Justin Everett, a former Colorado state legislator who as a delegate to the 2016 Republican convention was on the party’s platform drafting committee. “It does not have anything about the conservative issues like the Second Amendment and life. He’s staying away from that.”
In June, the Republican National Committee announced it would not write a 2020 platform. It has instead carried over its 2016 version, word for word, including more than three dozen outdated condemnations of the “current” president — which was, when the document was written, Barack Obama.
Party officials punted on a 2020 platform as part of their logistical jujitsu when Mr. Trump ordered his nominating speech moved from Charlotte to Jacksonville, Fla., after Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, refused to allow thousands of delegates to gather without social-distancing guidelines in place.
By July, the authorities in Jacksonville came to the same conclusion, and Mr. Trump announced that he would deliver his nomination acceptance speech Thursday night on the White House grounds, an unprecedented maneuver by a sitting president that has raised ethics concerns.
Though in practice, a party’s platform often has little correlation with how a candidate campaigns or would govern as president — and in 1996, Bob Dole publicly rejected elements of the Republican Party platform and said he hadn’t read other parts of it — it has for more than a century served as guidance for what political parties believe.
In June, Mr. Trump called for delegates to write a new “short form” party platform. No such document was ever produced, despite efforts by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, to create one.
Those who are involved in crafting party platforms tend to care quite a bit about what is in them. Bill Gribbin, a longtime Republican Party official who drafted and edited the 2016 platform, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in June arguing the need to create a new version for 2020.
“This year the platform should be Mr. Trump’s chance to strut and show the troops how he has delivered for them,” Mr. Gribbin wrote. “The party could use it to recruit and sell G.O.P. candidates down the ballot. But how would you react to a sales pitch four years out of date?”
Jim Bopp, a former Republican National Committee member from Indiana who sat on the party’s platform committee at five different conventions, said the 2016 platform was the most conservative the party had ever passed.
“It fairly reflects the Republican Party as it existed then and as it exists now,” Mr. Bopp said on Monday.
But he added that not producing a new platform represents a missed opportunity for Mr. Trump to promote his first-term record.
“You lose that opportunity to say, ‘Look how we fulfilled the promises and what wonderful results we have obtained as a result,’” Mr. Bopp said. “Certainly the campaign can fill that in and has filled that in.”
The 2016 party platform, which the party resolution enacted on Sunday, states that it will remain in place until the 2024 Republican convention, and it includes language opposing gay marriage and endorsing parents’ rights to place their L.G.B.T.Q. children in conversion therapy.
“We support the right of parents to consent to medical treatment for their minor children and urge enactment of legislation that would require parental consent for their daughter to be transported across state lines for abortion,” the platform states.
Republicans this week found themselves maintaining that keeping the 2016 platform indicated that their party’s principles and priorities have not shifted during the Trump era.
“The tenets and the basis of the Republican Party are still the same — being the party of conservative values, less taxes, border security, national security and life,” said the former governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, who served as a co-chair of the G.O.P.’s 2016 platform committee. “It would have been nice to have been able to write a new platform, but these are not normal times for the world.”