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Universal health care? Redistribution? Government-funded child care for everyone? None of those phrases made it into the platform approved in Charlotte, N.C. 32 years later.
The contrast between the Republican platform then and now is even more vivid. In 1980, the GOP championed what seemed like a bold tax cut that would have lowered the rate for the very, very rich to 50% from 75%. By comparison, the Republicans of today won’t even consider allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire, which would raise the very top rate to 39.6% from 36%. (Many in the top 1%, such as Romney, actually pay at a much lower rate.)
The 1980 platform references the goal of equality in pay between men and women and mentions the need for child care. It even includes the words “Equal Rights Amendment,” without expressing an opinion on what became a forlorn quest to amend the Constitution to enshrine equal rights for women. The statement on abortion was surprisingly nuanced:
“While we recognize differing views on this question among Americans in general — and in our own Party — we affirm our support of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.”
There was no such inclusive language in the platform approved by GOP delegates a month ago in Tampa, Fla. In fact, the section that contained the Republicans’ continued belief in a constitutional amendment to protect the unborn was placed in the context of a reaffirmation of the party’s reading of the Bill of Rights, and asserted as one of the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.
That platform also said that the Ten Commandments should be displayed wherever, that Boy Scouts should not be penalized for excluding gays, and that measures to root out “voter fraud” are absolutely necessary. Apparently, such fraud didn’t exist three decades ago. Some, of course, say it doesn’t exist today.
The 2012 GOP platform also includes a ringing endorsement of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, a view that wasn’t mentioned in 1980 because, let’s be honest, it didn’t seem that anything else was legally possible at the time. Some may characterize the Democrats’s 2012 embrace of same-sex marriage as a turn leftward, but if so, they go there with about half the American public. Is that a return to liberalism, or a recognition that, on this issue, the center has moved?
And what about Israel?
This year, for all the noise made about the Democrat’s baffling omission of a statement on Jerusalem and their clumsy attempt to rectify it, the resulting platform reads much like the Republicans’. Both parties affirmed their commitment to Israel with only slightly different adjectives: “unshakeable” for the Democrats, “unequivocal” for the Republicans. They both call on Palestinians to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to reject terror. And with those caveats, they both call for an independent Palestinian state.
How far each has come since 1980! Then, both parties were adamantly opposed to an independent Palestinian state and against negotiating with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Naturally, the Democrats crowed about Carter’s triumphant work leading to the 1979 Camp David Accords and a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that even in these fraught times appears to be holding. Republicans applauded the “vision and courage” of then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, but otherwise steered clear of the issue.
Both parties said that Jerusalem should remain “undivided,” with free access to people of all faiths.
No mention of it being the capital of Israel.
The unmistakable message is that much as Democrats and Republicans differ on domestic issues, their attitudes toward Israel seem remarkably similar. At least if you think the words matter.