The Republican Party, in its 2012 Presidential Convention, approved a highly controversial and extremely conservative party platform. However, it is important to remember that the GOP was not conservative for most of its existence. It’s initial party platform was personified by President Abraham Lincoln, who successfully abolished slavery and guided the Union to victory in the Civil War. The party remained dominant until 1932. The initial party platforms of the Republican Party reflected the beliefs and ideologies of its members, which included small business owners, businessmen, African-Americans, farmers, factory workers, and northern white Protestants.
The party platforms supported banks, business, the gold standard, railroads, and tariffs to protect workers and the industry. It went beyond its anti-slavery ideology and focused on modernizing the country by giving free land to farmers under its ‘free soil’ policy, expanding railroad, banks, and factories. They aggressively supported free market labor, and these were the years of their ‘Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men’ ideology.
During the reconstruction era, the Republican Party continued to support reformation programs and the Fourteenth Amendment that extended civil and voting rights for freemen. The party also had support an expansive foreign policy that was implemented by McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. This was called the Progressive Era, during which higher tariffs were supported and the party platform supported pluralism. Roosevelt did not get much legislative gains as his predecessor McKinley, but he did promote the foreign policy beliefs of the party and successfully broke up the Standard Oil and Northern Securities Companies trusts through his antitrust suits.
During this period, the Republican Party had a clearly progressive element that was reflected in its party platforms. Theodore Roosevelt and Senators Robert LaFollette, Hiram Johnson, George Norris, Bronson Cutting, and Jeanette Rankin were just some of the progressive members of the party who promoted economy growth, high state and federal government spending, and high taxes. They welcomed support from big businesses as well as labor unions, and hardly ever focused on religious or social issues. This progressive attitude continued even after World War II, with Dwight D. Eisenhower continuing the progress of Republican planks like support for unions, liberal domestic policy, and support for women’s rights.
However, the Republican Party began to shift from its traditional platform from the early 60s. This was triggered by the Civil Rights Movement and the collapse of the New Deal coalition, among other factors. In 1964, the rise of Barry Goldwater and other conservatives showed that the conservative side of the Republican Party was beginning to take over. The new party platforms also reflected this change in ideology. The platforms rejected the New Deal as well as the United Nations, and called for greater aggression against the Soviet Union and Communism in foreign policy. During the late 60s and early 70s, the party was under conflict between its liberal and conservative members.
The Republican Party platform became even more conservative with the arrival of Ronald Reagan. The party had the most power in the Congress during this time, and the result was a number of economic reforms that reduced taxes and revived the economy, in line with the Republican Party platform. This time also saw a massive increase in government spending, mostly on the country’s military. By the end of Reagan’s two terms, the budget deficit has raised three folds. This continued with George W. Bush’s two terms as well.
The Republican Party platform has been consistent on some issues over the years, like the role of a limited government. However, the platform has completely switched sides when it comes to a number of important social and economic issues like labor unions, environmental protection, and women’s rights.
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- History of the Republican Party
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