When Republicans Were Great: The Once and Future GOP

Where would you guess the following quote came from?

“We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.”

"I Like Ike" 1952 campaign buttonIf you guessed the 1956 Republican Party Platform, congratulations! Once upon a time, Republicans stood for far-reaching advances in matters of basic human needs. Once upon a time, Republicans stood for expansion of social security. Once upon a time, Republicans stood for broadened coverage in unemployment insurance. Once upon a time, Republicans stood for improved housing. Once upon a time, Republicans stood for better health protection for all our people. And once upon a time, Republicans stood for being warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.

Over the past several decades, the “Reagan Revolution” political dogma stamped out what was left of those golden days when traditional, proven, sensible, responsible, balanced policy drove the Republican party. The party leadership and much of its base turned against the policies that built our economic strength on a larger middle-class as the engine of commerce. At this point, Republicans stand for ignoring basic human needs. Current Republicans stand for privatizing social security and turning seniors over to the topsy-turvy stock market as fodder for those who would like nothing better than to gamble with those funds. Now Republicans stand in the way of extending unemployment insurance. Today’s Republicans seek every opportunity to repeal better health protection for more of our people. Contemporary Republicans stand for leaving the urgent social and economic problems of our people to the whims of the short-sighted, momentary-profit-driven market. And if answering their social and economic problems should happen to be thought unprofitable in the short-term, post-Reagan Republicans see no reason not to sacrifice the long term good of the people.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Obviously. The Grand Old Party really was grand before the Reagan Revolution. It could be again. All it would need to do is rediscover traditional American values — the old-school Republican values — and repudiate the “starve the beast” platform of ever lower taxes in an effort to force abandonment of social and economic progress. Balancing the budget in the average year isn’t bad and was even embraced in the 1956 platform too, but today’s GOP pitches snake oil when it claims the only way to balance the budget is to cut. The party used to know better. There are values it should rediscover from it’s past, such as:

  • “Republican action created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years, to raise the continuing consideration of these problems for the first time to the highest council of Government, the President’s Cabinet.”
  • “The Republican Party will renew its efforts to enact a program based on sound principles of need and designed to encourage increased state and local efforts to build more classrooms.”
  • “Stimulate improved job safety of our workers, through assistance to the States, employees and employers;”
  • “Protect by law, the assets of employee welfare and benefit plans so that workers who are the beneficiaries can be assured of their rightful benefits;”
  • “Assure equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex;”
  • “Provide assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment;”
  • “We have supported the distribution of free vaccine to protect millions of children against dreaded polio.”
  • “Republican leadership has enlarged Federal assistance for construction of hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased Federal aid for medical care of the needy.”
  • “We have asked the largest increase in research funds ever sought in one year to intensify attacks on cancer, mental illness, heart disease and other dread diseases.”
  • “We have supported measures that have made more housing available than ever before in history, reduced urban slums in local-federal partnership, stimulated record home ownership, and authorized additional low-rent public housing.”
  • “We shall continue to seek extension and perfection of a sound social security system.”

Traditional American values. Every one of them. Those are values the Republican party once knew. The heartless ideologues of the Reagan Revolution have lead the GOP astray. But parties change. There’s still time for the GOP to reclaim those traditional values and learn to rediscover the art of appropriate taxation instead of always starving our government and undermining its work of building infrastructure, commerce, and a growing, prospering middle class. Building a safety net under our people, working to lift up the least affluent, and strengthening the middle class leads to strong, lasting, stable prosperity for us all. Wealth grows best on a diet of steady commerce from a rising middle class. To get there, we must pull our heads out of the hole that is cutting at all costs. Budgets must be balanced by growth … not by slash and burn. As the 1956 GOP platform quoted President Eisenhower, “America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper. Government must have a heart as well as a head.”

(Originally posted at http://thoughtstate.blogspot.com/2012/08/when-republicans-were-great-once-and.html)