Bringing Life Back to the Party

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As Republicans start to coalesce around Mitt Romney—he’s received endorsements from George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan in recent days—the surprisingly lengthy and competitive primary season looks to be nearing an end. The next challenge is to build a winning platform—one that motivates the conservative faithful and attracts new voters. To find the planks for such a platform, GOP leaders would do well to draw from ideas that have been tested and proven. A survey of winning platforms from turning-point years in American history offers plenty of inspiration and guidance.

One caveat: Platforms are less important today than they used to be. While in the past, presidential candidates tended to reflect the party’s stances, modern presidential candidates tend to shape the party’s stances.

That said, platforms are still important in that they reveal what a party and its standard-bearer believe. In rummaging through winning GOP platforms dating back to 1860, a handful of large, enduring, recurring themes emerge.

Economic Freedom over Statism

The winning platforms of the past emphasize the importance freedom—and especially freedom from onerous and confiscatory taxation.

The 1924 platform, for instance, called for “progressive reduction of taxes of all the people.”

Parts of the 1952 platform could be used in the 2012 platform verbatim: “The administration has praised free enterprise while actually wrecking it. Here a little, there a little, year by year, it has sought to curb, regulate, harass, restrain and punish…Neither small nor large business can flourish in such an atmosphere.”

The 1968 platform urged “an expanding free enterprise system to provide jobs” and condemned the incumbent’s “economic mismanagement of the highest order.”

That charge certainly hits the mark in 2012. Compared to President Obama, LBJ looks like a miserly accountant. As The Wall Street Journal recently reported, President Obama’s term includes the highest spending years since 1946. During President Obama’s term, Washington has added $5 trillion in debt.

Noting that “private property ownership is the cornerstone of American liberty,” the 1980 platform derided the federal government as “an aggressive enemy of the human right to private property ownership.”

Again, that charge is just as true today—and so is the remedy put forth in 1980. “Our foremost goal here at home is simple: economic growth and full employment without inflation,” Reagan’s platform-writers explained.

In 1952, the platform concluded that Washington had “deprived our citizens of precious liberties by seizing powers…hampered progress by unnecessary and crushing taxation…violated our liberties by turning loose upon the country a swarm of arrogant bureaucrats.” That sounds exactly like the sentiment that unleashed the Tea Party in 2009 and then triggered the historic midterm chastening in 2010.

The 1980 platform made a “case for the individual” and offered an indictment of statism: “They believe that every time new problems arise beyond the power of men and women as individuals to solve, it becomes the duty of government to solve them, as if there were never any alternative…Our case for the individual is stronger than ever.”

A Rejection of Government Control 

Of course, liberty is about far more than property rights and taxation. “Because we treasure freedom of conscience,” the 2000 platform vowed, “we oppose attempts to compel individuals or institutions to violate their moral standards in providing health-related services…We oppose using public revenues for abortion and will not fund organizations which advocate it.”

That brings us to today’s debate over nationalized healthcare and the spinoff debate over ObamaCare’s alarming encroachment on religious liberty.

The president’s healthcare law required all employers offering health insurance to include coverage for “preventive health services.” HHS later defined this to include contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs like the morning-after pill. Many observers hoped the president would direct HHS to provide a broad exemption for religious employers—and for good reason: In 2009, the president spoke eloquently about the need to “honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion” and said he was open to “a sensible conscience clause.”

But those hopes were dashed, as we now know. HHS initially exempted only those organizations that employ people of the same faith, serve people of the same faith and focus on religious teaching as their main mission. Universities, primary and secondary schools, hospitals, nursing homes, food kitchens and virtually all religious charitable organizations would not receive a conscience-clause exemption from HHS, which explains the firestorm that erupted in January.

“This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all,” Cardinal Dolan explained. “If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end?”

Dolan wasn’t the only religious leader to come to that conclusion. The National Association of Evangelicals, Southern Baptist Convention, LutheranChurch (Missouri Synod) and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America have all condemned the ruling. Federal lawsuits have been filed by numerous religious employers.

Reacting to the backlash, the president proposed a compromise that would allow religious employers not to include contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health-insurance plan as long as they make sure their employees have insurance alternatives that provide contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and the like. The White House also offered “a one-year transition period for religious organizations while this policy is being implemented.”

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  • joycepittss

    Healthcare is not subject to normal market forces! Anything that you have to buy at any random moment in order not to die is not something to which a rational supply/demand calculus can apply. Check out "Penny Health" articles on how to reduce the cost of insurance.

    • Roger

      Haven't you ever called around to get the best appointment on a visit?
      Haven't you ever checked round for the best price on insurance?

  • Alexander Gofen

    Bringing life to whom?!! To a party of criminal accomplices of the 2008 coup, who keep cooperating with the opponent – the usurper – to ensure his victory up to this very moment?!

    The winning platform for the Republicans ought to look like this, rather than going around and evading the real issues of survival.

    Romney is merely a decoy rather than a runner set to win: a spineless decoy at that, a liberast with a track record. Nobody of the so called front runners even pretend as though they wished to win…

    Everyone who wants to win, must begin with exposure of the most series counts of criminality of the opponent – if one is sincere and honest. And how much more criminality do you need if your opponent Soetoro/Obama is…

    – An IDENTITY THIEF with fake SS# and other fake papers!

    – A fraud who had mockingly produced a cheap audacious forgery of his birth certificate to the world! This has compromised the entire institute of American presidency more than anything in the entire history!

    – Not a US natural born citizen, therefore not qualified because of this alone since 2008!

    It is a provocation and deceit even to speak about electoral victory over such a criminal and usurper. It is desecration of the election to have such a candidate on the ballot. Criminals must end their term in a prison rather than in their office.


    • davidfarrar


      Since neither Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, nor Rick Santorum are natural born Citizens. I doubt if any of them would support your proposed political platform.

      ex animo

  • davidfarrar

    "Platforms are less important today than they used to be. While in the past, presidential candidates tended to reflect the party’s stances, modern presidential candidates tend to shape the party’s stances."

    What better indication do we have than the statement above to prove that the corporate-dominated wing of the Republican Party is about ready to buy yet another failed nomination for the presidency. But this time around, grassroot Tea Party Republicans know what has taken place. Mitt Romney has simply used his millions to pile dirt on top of the other Republican candidates to such an extent, few have any illusions about who Mitt Romney will be representing.

    ex animo

  • Looking4Sanity

    "One caveat: Platforms are less important today than they used to be. While in the past, presidential candidates tended to reflect the party’s stances, modern presidential candidates tend to shape the party’s stances."

    What this tells me is that the people who inhabit a nation Founded on Principle have abandoned principle in favor of fashion…or what passes for fashion in this depraved society.

    Thomas Jefferson said it best. "In matters of fashion, bend like a reed. In matters of principle, stand like an oak."

    This is precisely why there is turmoil within the GOP. A large swath of the Republican base still believes as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln did…that without a foundation in rock solid principles we are less than nothing. Unfortunately, the base is being ignored, marginalized, and ridiculed by the minority elitist fashionistas who control the money and the process within the party. The GOP needs to be purged of these people.

    • Roger

      The republican establishment has abandoned principle, the base hasn't. That's why we have the tea party.

      • Looking4Sanity

        If the last three years has taught me anything, Roger, it is how wrong I was to have ever put any faith in my fellow man. If these problems are ever to be resolved, God is going to have to do it.

        Have you ever heard that country song, "Jesus Take the Wheel"? That's where this world is at right now.

  • johnnywoods

    Oh may GOD smile upon us and cause the Republicans to not screw this one up, no matter who the nominee is.

  • ebonystone

    Here's my platform: (listed in no particular order of importance)
    1] The new President should immediately have his staff draw up a list of all Executive Orders that are still in force, review them, and cancel as many as possible.
    2] COLA should be abolished for all government wages, salaries, pensions, and entitlements. If Congress thinks any of these deserve an increase, they can enact one.
    3] Abolish Obamacare.
    4] Abolish Medicaid.
    5] Abolish Medicare, with suitable protections for those already on it and for those nearing eligibility.
    6] Abolish the EPA, the Dept of Ed, NPR, the Dept of Energy, foreign aid, Dept of Homeland Security, HUD,

    • ebonystone

      pt. 2
      7] Deport illegal aliens, and effectively police the Mexican border.
      8] Reduce federal restrictions on energy production and refining. Drill, baby, drill!
      9] Expedite the building of nuclear power plants.
      10] Place an import duty on all non-NAFTA energy imports, beginning at the rate of $5.00/bbl for oil (and the energy-equivalent other forms of enerby, with the provision that the rate would increase by $1.00/bbl/yr for the foreseeable future.
      11] Withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
      12] Fire all of Obama's czars, close their departments, and cancel their funding.
      13] Amend the civil service regulations to make it easier to fire incompetents and fraudsters.

  • Schlomotion

    Now that the "Grand" Old Party has made sure that no Republican can run who has an actual platform, the Republican Build-A-Bear-Workshop is free to stuff their empty Romney skin with whatever "platform" they choose. Dowd reminds them to also choose classic "Republican" bezels for the eyes and make sure it includes a pro-Israel policy, which can, for the sake of American sensibilities, be called a "strong foreign policy." Throw in a few pre-recorded parrot phrases and he'll be good to go. No one will miss the fact that he won't change US fiscal policy and has no foreign policy experience or ability. The American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute will fill him on on what to do.

  • Asher

    The main principle to stress is that: Our legislators should be working for us…not against us…..The Republicans have tried to cut spending and Congress has passed 26 bills which sit in the Senate without any actions to address the problems. Harry Reid will not do what the people want, he does what the President wants…Therefore they do not serve the people!