As the most unusual Republican National Convention in decades winds down, Pennsylvania delegates’ reflections on the event revealed a state agenda that would probably have been critiqued as too liberal just four years ago.
Delaware County chair Mike Puppio said the PA delegation had focused heavily on law and order issues in the wake of recent protests and killings of police – but not in the Nixonian sense of “law and order.”
“What that looks like is more police funding and training,” he said. “Training in terms of community policing and dealing with residents and neighbors. The more training that you have, the less of a possibility you have of incidents.”
Community policing has traditionally been a liberal advocacy issue, at odds with the “broken windows” model trumpeted by GOP stalwarts like Rudy Giuliani, who emphasized aggressive arrests for minor infractions during his tenure as mayor of New York City.
Puppio said that these days, it’s just common sense.
“You need to encourage responsible and outspoken members of the community to engage with you so you can bridge the gap with law enforcement,” he explained.
It’s not just Southeastern PA delegates espousing a progressive line. State Sen. Scott Wagner, from York County’s 28th District, said clamping down on international trade was another big item for the Keystone State’s many devastated industrial centers.
“What’s everyone talking about?” he asked rhetorically. “Jobs. We’re talking about manufacturing. Community policing is important, and so is tighter trade. There’s unfair things that other countries are doing: They have tariffs on things we don’t.”
Wagner, a businessman, was voted into office on a pro-business platform, and railed against “dumb” federal regulations and a climate generally hostile to small businesses. But, he said unrestricted international trade was too risky.
Puppio echoed these sentiments.
“We want free trade, but also fair trade,” he said. “Obviously, there are areas in Pennsylvania with manufacturing that have had a continuous drain on jobs.”
“Fair trade” is part of the popular conservative parlance for an election year that has veered away from traditionally conservative economic policies. The final party platform even included a recommendation to reinstate the Glass-Steagall act, a New Deal-era restriction on banking – a broad departure from past conventions, where free trade, deregulation and tough-on-crime policies were the order of the day.
But the PA delegates are in line with the platform espoused by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has fused an ambiguous conservative “brand” with broad-based populist rhetoric.
“This was one of the most diverse conventions I’ve attended, in terms of diversity of ideas,” said Puppio. “There were real battles that took place here at the platform and rules committee. Last night, you had people booing Ted Cruz’s speech....I don’t think you’d see something like that at any of the past conventions.”
That said, Puppio was skeptical that anyone would really notice, and that the platform would be eclipsed by the quality of Trump’s big speech later tonight.
“Nobody reads the platform – goobers like me read it,” he said. “But the election is going to come down to personal issues: ‘Am I happy with where this is, or am I ready for a change?’”