Walter Russell Mead recently wrote, “Party platforms are worthless mounds of drivel that have no impact on what U.S. leaders of either party actually do.”
Certainly, no President is going to have their feet held to the fire for not adhering strictly to the party platform; however, the platforms do give us some insight into the beliefs and philosophy of the parties themselves, or rather, the base of the party, which is why I think they’re worth reading (and comparing them to past platforms). So, while they may be complete drivel, they’re not completely worthless.
My own personal interest in the platforms extends to foreign policy. For example, it’s been noted that the 2012 GOP platform contains mention of conspiracy theorists’ bugaboo Agenda 21 (Source). Meanwhile, the Democratic platform and the resulting ridiculousness on the convention floor show some disconnect within the party over Israel (Source).
Don’t expect Obama or Romney, whichever is elected, to govern strictly according to their party’s platform, because pragmatic concerns will generally require some shift from a pure ideological stance. However, if you want some idea of what is going on inside either party, the platforms, as well as the battles over them, are a good place to start, and over the coming days, I hope to dig a little deeper into both parties’ foreign policy stances (that is, if I’m not buried to my eyeballs in fundraising mail).