The G.O.P. and a Platform Built for the Past?
To hear the pundits and political professionals talk about it, this election is all about turning out a party’s base. That’s because there are few if any undecided voters left and the only undecided voters that count are the ones residing in a handful of swing states. That said the only real purpose of a political party’s platform is to energize and excite the base so that it will turnout en mass to vote, volunteer and hopefully convince others to vote for the party’s candidate. However when you examine much of the Republican Party’s 2012 platform one thing is clear. It may excite the base but it’s not likely to broaden that base in any way that will make a difference this election day or on any election day in the future. If this election really turns out to be a battle of the bases and the Republicans lose then part of that loss may be a direct result of having structured a political platform that alienated more potential voters than it engaged. What’s most interesting is not how much the Republican platform differs from that of today’s Democrats, it’s how drastically it differs from their own of 1980 as detailed in “Republican Party Platforms, Then and Now” cited below. Today’s Republicans are heading back in time not forward and when you read their platform and observe their actions of late and it couldn’t be more obvious, particularly in issues of the culture wars.
Marriage: On the topic of marriage the platform states: “We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” This position on marriage is in direct contrast to today’s social trends. If you analyze polling results over the past decade you see a distinct trend away from the idea that same sex marriages or civil unions should have “no legal recognition”, except among Republicans. However what’s interesting here as that even younger Republicans are breaking ranks with their party on social issues. Referencing a recent article “Young in G.O.P. Erase the Lines on Social Issues”, “In a break from generations past and with an eye toward the future, many of the youngest leaders of the Republican Party are embracing views on some social issues that are at odds with traditional conservative ideology…A poll this year by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that the percentage of Republicans ages 18 through 29 who favor same-sex marriage has grown to 37 percent, up from 28 percent eight years ago.” In fact what was even more striking about the RNC is the point to which gays and lesbians were totally absent from the proceedings as per New York Times columnist Frank Bruni: “It was striking because the Republicans went so emphatically far, in terms of stagecraft and storytelling, to profess inclusiveness, and because we gays have been in the news rather a lot over the last year or so, as the march toward marriage equality picked up considerable velocity. We’re a part of the conversation. And our exile from it in Tampa contradicted the high-minded “we’re one America” sentiments that pretty much every speaker spouted.”
Voting Rights: When considering voter fraud initiatives the 1980 Republican platform seems downright liberal: “Republicans support public policies that will promote electoral participation without compromising ballot-box security. We support the repeal of those restrictive campaign spending limitations that tend to create obstacles to local grass roots participation in federal elections.” Now contrast that to the 2012 platform: “we applaud legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud.” But what about those elderly inner city dwellers that no longer have or may have never had a driver’s license or any other form of photo i.d.? To many observers the current crop of voter photo i.d. initiatives and restrictions on early voting initiatives smack of the poll taxes and literacy tests of yesteryear. More to the point there seems to be little in the way of widespread and substantiated voter fraud. An article appearing in People Politico sums up what’s been revealed in other sources: “Again we find, as has been obvious in many other reports, that voter fraud at the polls is so minute and inconsequential that it should outrage all Americans that our politicians are wasting the valuable time they have to try to tackle an issue that doesn’t even exist…Not only did this article dive deep into the entire issue of voter fraud, it used the raw data collected by News21 and their new database to illustrate just how inconsequential in-person, at the polls, voter fraud is. The number of actual cases is somewhere near the 1000th’s of a percent range. That is .001%.”
Guns: Particular specifics of the language on gun rights are especially backward: “We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the ill considered Clinton era gun ban.” While I fully support Second Amendment rights being a gun owner myself and a military reservist who trains with an assault rifle among other weapons, I can’t for the life of me see why anyone outside of law enforcement or the military needs an assault rifle or a high volume clip. Again polling shows that there is little support in the population for unrestricted gun ownership, the civilian use of assault rifles or high capacity clips. In fact polling shows a double digit decline in the opposition to stricter gun laws.
Health Care: The platform is backward looking on the issue of health care: “It states that a Republican president would use his waiver authority to halt progress in implementing the health care act pushed through by President Obama. It proposes a free-market-based plan that gives consumers more choice.” Americans, like the rest of the modern world have tried and failed to have the private sector be the primary engine in delivering adequate affordable health care. America’s Republicans are essentially the only conservative party in the world that is serious in suggesting that government supervised health care should be dismantled. Even the conservatives in Europe are seeking to balance fiscal reform with an underpinning of their country’s social safety nets. The great irony of this is that now, even Mitt Romney has begun to part company with his own party. On this Sunday’s Meet the Press Romney told David Gregory: “I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform. There are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.”
Abortion: While deriding the role of government in our lives Republicans now propose a constitutional amendment to essentially outlaw all abortions: “we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.” The backwardness of conservative thinking on reproductive rights hit a new high in the commentary of Republican senatorial candidate Todd Akin whose comments conservative writer Ross Douthat labeled as a blend of “superstition, sexism and stupidity.” While a slight majority of those polled now consider themselves to be pro-life, when the specifics of whether or not abortion should be legal are the issue, consistent majorities say abortion should remain legal to one degree or another. When the specifics of pregnancies due to rape, incest or where a woman’s life or health are endangered the overwhelming majority of poll responders favor abortion. In contrast, the number of respondents who feel that abortion should be “illegal in all circumstances” is seen to be consistently in the low double digits. Moreover, the Republican position on abortion is joined conceptually with backward thinking on the use of contraception and sex education as evidenced by the popularity of the idea that young people should practice abstinence until married as a way of warding off unwanted pregnancies. While the 2012 platform encourages adoption, which is part of the solution in minimizing abortions, it is completely silent on a woman’s right to use contraception and family planning services. It is also silent on the value of sex education as a way of mitigating the need for abortion.
Education: “Republicans support consumer choice, including home schooling, local innovations such as single-sex classes, full-day school hours and year-round schools.” Since when, in a democracy, has education, up to the level of grade 12, been anything but a function of government? Yes we’ve always had prep and parochial schools but they have not been the avenues through which the vast majority of Americans have obtained their educations. With regard to home schooling I’ve known people who have pursued that route and when the parents were well educated it’s worked and where they were lacking in a college education themselves one can only wonder what the final outcome could possibly be. Moreover it would seem to me that single sex classes would serve to retard the social development that coeducational schooling naturally provides. Suffice it to say that in an interconnected and technologically advancing world practices like home schooling and same sex classes would only serve to hinder American development rather than advance it. The bottom line is that ideas such as these belong to a day and age that we left behind long ago.
Taxes: For all of the rhetoric embodied in the 2012 Republican Platform, no matter how you spin it it’s nothing but the old wine of “trickle down” economics in a new bottle. One independent analyst after another has come out and said that the math doesn’t add up and there’s no way that tax breaks for the rich can be enacted without the middle class paying more. These are the policies that have already failed once if not twice already so why try them again?
Labor Unions: The Republican platform derides the current administration as being beholden to the era of union confrontation with management which is odd as only 13 percent of the private sector is currently unionized. It bemoans the now faded support of the card check while completely ignoring the established fact that companies, have for decades, engaged in sophisticated anti-union campaigns aimed at denying workers their rights under existing laws to organize and engage in collective bargaining. The platform claims it will “restore the rule of law” to our national labor relations system by “blocking card check” while remaining completely silent as to the need for restoring the rule of law as it pertains to enforcing existing laws on the books to protect workers in their right to organize and bargain collectively. It “demands” an end to Project Labor Agreements, a practice that has proven highly effective in moving the construction industry forward as it claws its way out of the financial bubble that burst during the last Republican administration. The platform promotes a “National Right to Work” environment which will do nothing but guarantee that non-union workers continue to earn significantly less than they would under a union contract. In a very real sense the Republican Party sees the economic disenfranchisement of America’s workers as a key ingredient in reviving America’s economic prosperity. Thus whatever rationale which previously existed for the so called “Reagan Democrats”, workers who could support the G.O.P., it has long since dissipated and the whole notion of such a thing has long since ceased to make any sense. In fact if you spent anytime watching the Tampa RNC you would think that everything good that ever happened in this country was the work of entrepreneurs. Odd but it never seems to dawn on conservatives that all of the great ideas and the financing that flows to entrepreneurs would amount to nothing if workers didn’t get out bed in the morning and go to work to make it all happen. Capitalism isn’t solely about the bosses; it’s about a partnership between capital, labor and public investment, an essential fact of America’s economic history that seems lost on American conservatives today.
This is not to say that the entire Republican platform of 2012 is completely backward looking. There are parts that acknowledge the need for government investment in infrastructure as an important element in ensuring economic growth but you sure don’t hear much about that from those running for office in this election cycle. Moreover, in a party so transfixed with cutting government spending where will the money come from to build this new infrastructure? Neither from the wealthy nor from the military based on the current rhetoric. The platform also addresses energy independence as if that’s something that the current administration has forgotten but yet this document is merely reiterating what the current administration has already put into motion. A recent article entitled “U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence”, along with others cited below, shows how America is in the best position in terms of energy independence than it has been in decades, lying waste to the conservative lie that Barack Obama is not even remotely interested in this country’s energy security. The G.O.P.’s reaffirmation of the need for strong military engagement differs little from that of the present administration in realistic terms and any saber rattling on the part of the Republican Party and the NeoCons needs to be held up to the realities that the American people are tired of overseas military adventures that have yielded little or nothing in the way of enhanced security. In fact today’s version of “The Take Away” on PBS showed that two thirds of the American people felt that the country was no safer as a result of the war in Iraq. That’s sad commentary when assessed against the cost of that war in terms of lives and national treasure. Just imagine what would be if we spent all of the money that went to Iraq on America’s infrastructure, we might no longer even be in recession.
Those who take issue with this article will say that, generally speaking, party platforms aren’t that important. By and large that may be true but as it turns out, this year that’s not the case. Quoting an above referenced article on the 2012 Republican platform, “a poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found more people interested in the GOP platform than in the upcoming acceptance speeches by presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan. The survey found that 52 percent said they were interested in learning about the Republican platform, compared to 44 percent interested in Romney’s speech and 46 percent interested in Ryan’s.” That said it goes without saying that more people, especially independent voters are more likely to be turned off by what the G.O.P. has on offer than excited by it. The Republican Party lags the Democrats by around 10 points when it comes to favorability. The Republican Party in Congress is one of the least liked organizations in America. Combine that with the fact that Mitt Romney is hardly loved by his own party and a vote for Romney is really a vote against Obama and you have the makings of a major shortcoming for a party and a movement that, given public sentiment and the state of the economy, should be out in front in this election by 5 to 10 points.
In an article I wrote in February of 2009, “The Challenge of a New Morning in America”, I pointed out that the Republican Party was in a state of ideological exhaustion having little or nothing to say that was relevant for the age of globalized economic and political competition other than to watch you’re spending. When you look over the content of the G.O.P’s 2012 political platform it appears that this is still the case and that’s not good news for a party trying to recapture the government or a conservative movement that’s supposed to be ascendant.
Steven J. Gulitti
2012 Republican Party Platform; http://www.scribd.com/doc/104221532/2012-Gop-Platform
GOP votes for tough-talking platform: http://www.onlinesentinel.com/news/in-focus-election-2012_2012-08-29.html
Platform’s Sharp Turn to Right Has Conservatives Cheering; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/29/us/politics/republican-platform-takes-turn-to-right.html?emc=eta1
Republican Party Platforms, Then and Now; http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/08/29/us/politics/republican-party-platforms-now-and-then.html?emc=eta1
Ross Douthat: The Democrats’ Abortion Moment; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/douthat-the-democrats-abortion-moment.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss
Polling Report.com – Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Rights; http://www.pollingreport.com/civil.htm
Young in G.O.P. Erase the Lines on Social Issues; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/us/politics/young-republicans-erase-lines-on-social-issues.html?emc=eta1
Voter Fraud: More Evidence of No Evidence; http://www.peoplepolitico.com/index.php/2012/08/voter-fraud-more-evidence-of-no-evidence/
Election Fraud in America; http://votingrights.news21.com/interactive/election-fraud-database/
Frank Bruni – Excluded From Inclusion; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/02/opinion/sunday/bruni-excluded-from-inclusion.html?emc=eta1
Polling Report.com – Gun Laws; http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm
Romney, Easing, Says Health Law Isn’t All Bad; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/us/politics/romney-adopts-softer-tone-in-critique-of-obama.html
It Will Be Tricky for Romney to Keep Best of Health Law While Repealing It; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/11/us/politics/romneys-pledge-shows-repealing-health-law-to-be-complex.html?ref=todayspaper
Polling Report.com – Abortion; http://www.pollingreport.com/abortion.htm
U.S. Inches Toward Goal of Energy Independence; http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/business/energy-environment/inching-toward-energy-independence-in-america.html?emc=eta1
Viewpoint: Gas Prices and the Great GOP Lie
Gulf of Mexico activity continues to escalate; http://www.workboat.com/Blogs/Offshore-Outlook/Gulf-of-Mexico-activity-continues-to-escalate/?utm_source=NewsLinks&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=InformzNews
Massive oil and gas lease shows ‘Gulf is back’; http://www.workboat.com/Online-Features/2012/Massive-oil-and-gas-lease-shows–Gulf-is-back-/?utm_source=NewsLinks&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=InformzNews
The Challenge of a New Morning in America; http://open.salon.com/blog/steven_j_gulitti/2009/02/01/the_challenge_of_a_new_morning_in_america