In a sign of increasing chaos over platforms at this summer’s political conventions, a trio of Republican senators traveling in South Korea on Tuesday directly refuted a foreign policy proposal by their party’s presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, just days after a key GOP convention figure also refused to embrace part of Trump’s philosophy.
Democrats, too, faced new signs of discord, as a battle blew up about assignments to their convention’s committees on rules and the platform.
The developments reflect a decidedly unharmonious mood that has befallen both parties behind the scenes, just six weeks away from the conventions, as Democrats and Republicans start to hash out critical party platform duties.
GOP senators Dan Sullivan of Arkansas, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Cory Gardner of Colorado all flatly told a South Korean news agency on Tuesday that free trade and troop agreements between the U.S. and South Korea would not be renegotiated as Trump wants.
The New York billionaire has called on the Asian country to do more to pay for protection by the 28,500 U.S. troops in its country.
On Sunday, Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican who chairs the 112-member platform committee for the convention, refused to say if Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. will be part of the party’s platform. Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of such Islamic immigrants in December.
Trump’s proposal was widely mocked, even by his fellow GOP presidential rivals at the time, but Barrasso would only tell ABC’s “This Week” that the committee will meet in Cleveland for several days before the convention to decide.
In a statement to AMI Newswire on Thursday, Kirsten Kukowski, communications director for the Republican National Convention, dismissed any apparent disconnection between the party’s front-runner, convention leaders and rank-and-file members.
“The Republican Convention has been working for months to put on a great convention for our party and presumptive nominee," Kukowski said. “We have a lot in place to use new platforms and reach new audiences for the first time and are excited to communicate with Americans about the Republican Party.”
Republicans plan to convene in Cleveland from July 18 to 21, and Democrats follow a week later in Philadelphia from July 25-28.
But it is not only the GOP that has problems. The problem may be worse – marginally – for the Democrats, if only because of the still-ongoing primary campaign between front-runner Hillary Clinton and runner-up Bernie Sanders.
Clinton has retained her wide lead in delegates – 2,312 as of Thursday morning, according to The Associated Press, but she is still short of the 2,383 needed for the party’s nomination.
Of Clinton’s delegates, 543 are super-delegates who are bound to vote for her. Sanders has 1,545 delegates but only 43 super-delegates. The Democratic National Committee did not return calls for comment, and the Clinton and Sanders campaigns are both embroiled in a primary fight to the finish in California.
But in a sign of the bitterness remaining between the two rival camps, the Sanders campaign has asked for the two top party officials to be ejected from the platform and rules committees because of ties to the Clinton campaign.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy should be removed as co-chairman of the platform committee and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank should be removed as chairman of the rules committee, a Sanders campaign lawyer wrote in a letter to the DNC, calling them “aggressive attack surrogates” for Clinton.
On the Republican side, Trump locked up the party’s nomination last week with 1,239 delegates, two more than the 1,237 necessary. But there is deep discord in the GOP too, specifically over Trump’s more divisive statements during the primary campaign.
Even outside groups are contributing to the chaos over platforms. Advocates of criminal justice reform, for example, have called on both parties to address the issue in their platforms.
“In order to demonstrate your commitment to this 21st-century civil rights struggle, we urge you to boldly break with past platforms, and formally add criminal justice reform as a key pillar during party conventions this presidential election year,” reads an online petition being circulated by both The Nation and the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.
Matt Corrigan, chairman of the political science department at the University of North Florida, said the Democratic convention seems more in jeopardy of deteriorating, since Sanders’ supporters appear intent on a floor fight.
Trump, meanwhile, has suggested he wants more of an entertainment show and will likely take steps to avoid conflict, such as by keeping protestors outside the convention center as he does at his campaign rallies.
“It sounds like Sanders is ready for a big fight, and they have let some Sanders people on the committees,” Corrigan told AMI Newswire on Thursday. “And really, that’s what the Sanders people have to fight for. They’re not going to win the nomination unless something weird happens, so the platform is what they have left.”
“On the Republican side, a lot of people who don’t agree with Trump just aren’t going to go to the convention, and apparently he’s going to have an entertainment-based convention. So I’m not sure [whether] within the convention itself there will be a lot of conflict. There will be a lot of protests outside – that’s where the conflict will come.”
On Wednesday, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll showed Clinton and Sanders statistically tied heading into Tuesday’s California primary. Resisting calls from top Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to end his campaign, Sanders also said at a news conference Wednesday that he had the funds to campaign beyond next week.
The Vermont senator added that he was “feeling pretty good” about peeling off delegates from Clinton and predicted he would go into the Democratic convention “with an enormous amount of momentum.”
For her part, Clinton on Thursday kept her fire focused on Trump. In a foreign policy speech in San Diego, she said a Trump victory would mean “dancing in the Kremlin.”
“Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different, they’re dangerously incoherent,” Clinton said.
Trump fired back over Twitter even before Clinton finished her speech, saying the former secretary of state has “no longer has credibility – too much failure in office. People will not allow another four years of incompetence!”