Donald Trump at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Colorado.
Photo by Matthew Staver—Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Ben Geier
July 11, 2016

Donald Trump has been a disrupter and an outsider for most of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. With the Republican National Convention set to start next week in Cleveland, though, the New York businessman’s nontraditional campaign is starting to influence the party’s official platform.

The most noticeable change so far hinges on an issue that Trump has made one of the core parts of his campaign: trade policy. While the GOP platform draft language doesn’t go quite as far as some of Trump’s more blustery rhetoric — it doesn’t call for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, for example — it is closer to Trump’s vision of protectionism than the free trade philosophy that has dominated Republican Party ideology since the 1990s.

The platform draft says, “We need better negotiated trade agreements that put America first,” according to CNN. “America First” has been a consistent, and controversial theme, in Trump’s campaign. While he’s mostly used it to refer to trade and foreign policy, “America First” was also used as a slogan by a group that opposed America’s entrance into World War II, a campaign that has been considered, in retrospect, anti-Semitic.

The platform also borrows from Trump’s language on negotiating strategies:

Republicans understand that you can succeed in a negotiation only if you are willing to walk away from it. A Republican president will insist on parity in trade and will stand willing to implement countervailing duties if other countries don’t cooperate. At the same time we look to broaden our trade agreements with countries that share our values and commitments to fairness, along with transparency in our commercial and business practices.

In practice, the party platform isn’t tremendously important. It is a kind of political wish list put together by committee, but the realities of governance almost never let it be implemented. But it appears that Trump has had a sizable influence on the platform, which could be a sign of bigger changes afoot within the party.

Trump’s brand of economic populism has proven popular with Republican voters. Even if Trump doesn’t win this fall, the platform changes could indicate that the GOP may continue to embrace that line of thinking in future campaigns.

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