Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Surprising Truth About the 2016 Election

Which major political party of the late 1950s won the US presidency in 2016? It turns out the 1960 Democratic Party won both the 1960 election as well as the 2016 one. 

To illustrate why this is true, I recently perused the 1960 Democratic Party platform and the 2016 Republican Party platform selecting key slices for comparison--links below, but read the rest first. While this is certainly subject to lack-of-context and selection biases, I think it is a good glimpse into a larger truth about the evolution of our politics. 

Make no mistake about it, I think this is an overall positive development and not the case of a need to "restore the true Republican Party" etc. As others have pointed out, where Republicans are on many social issues today represents great progress, but the same can be said for Democrats. 

Keep in mind as well that a lot of this is a case of the 'more things change, the more they stay the same', 'nothing new under the sun', and good ole 'will it play in Peoria?'--the resonating American themes are largely constant over time. Perhaps most importantly these documents have always been empty rhetoric. It would be a grand and interesting undertaking to go platform by platform through the years to show all the empty promises and outright contradictions when compared to actual pursuits and results.

With all of this considered, read through the two groups of selections below (after the jump) from the 1960 DNC and 2016 RNC platforms and see if you can identify which is which. Both are excerpted in order as written except the very last paragraph in one as identified. That might give some clue as to the prioritization, but then again it might mislead. Incidentally, in terms of prose having myself read both in their entirety, the 1960 Democrats were both much more succinct as well as streets ahead in elegance.

Platform #1 in the left column

We believe in American exceptionalism.

Americans have earned and deserve a strong and healthy economy.

Our standing in world affairs has declined significantly — our enemies no longer fear us and our friends no long trust us.

We are the party of a growing economy that gives everyone a chance in life, an opportunity to learn, work, and realize the prosperity freedom makes possible.

More than any other public policy, the way government raises revenue — how much, at what rates, under what circumstances, from whom, and for whom — has the greatest impact on our economy's performance.

We will eliminate as many special interest provisions and loopholes as possible and curb corporate welfare, ….

We cannot allow foreign governments to limit American access to their markets ….

…We look to broaden our trade agreements with countries which share our values and commitment to fairness, along with transparency in our commercial and business practices. In pursuing that objective, the American people demand transparency, full disclosure, protection of our national sovereignty, and tough negotiation on the part of those who are supposed to advance the interests of U.S. workers.

We encourage public-private partnerships to provide predictable support for connecting rural areas so that every American can fully participate in the global economy.

The public-private partnerships between NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial companies have given us technological progress that has reduced the cost of accessing space and extended America's space leadership in the commercial, civil, and national security spheres.

All Americans deserve the opportunity to pursue their American dream free from discrimination. Clear nondiscrimination policies ensure all employees have the chance to succeed based solely on their merits. These policies are vital to creating an inclusive, innovative, and competitive workforce.

We denounce bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice, and religious intolerance.

Honest elections are the foundation of representative government. We pledge to protect the voting rights of every citizen, as well as their rights of conscience when they are harassed or denied a job because of their contributions to a candidate or a cause.

We are the party of America's growers, producers, farmers, ranchers, foresters, miners, commercial fishermen, and all those who bring from the earth the crops, minerals, energy, and the bounties of our seas that are the lifeblood of our economy.

The federal fiscal burden threatens the security, liberty, and independence of our nation. …The Administration's policies systematically crippled economic growth and job creation, driving up government costs and driving down revenues.

Based on both treaty and other law, the federal government has a unique government-to-government relationship with and trust responsibility for Indian Tribal Governments, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. These obligations have not been sufficiently honored.

We respect the tribal governments as the voice of their communities and encourage federal, state, and local governments to heed those voices in developing programs and partnerships to improve the quality of life for American Indians and their neighbors in their communities.

[Our party recognizes] that each tribe has the right of consultation before any new regulatory policy is implemented on tribal land. To the extent possible, such consultation should take place in Indian country with the tribal government and its members.

We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state.

The men and women of law enforcement … deserve our gratitude and support. The current Administration's lack of respect for them, from White House intervention in local arrests to the Attorney General's present campaign of harassment against police forces around the country, has been unprecedented.

We encourage states to offer opportunities for literacy and vocational education to prepare prisoners for release to the community. Breaking the cycle of crime begins with the children of those who are prisoners. Deprived of a parent through no fault of their own, youngsters from these families should be a special concern of our schools, social services, and religious institutions.

We are the party of peace through strength. We believe that American exceptionalism — the notion that our ideas and principles as a nation give us a unique place of moral leadership in the world — requires the United States to retake its natural position as leader of the free world.

In all of our country's history, there is no parallel to what [the prior administration has] done to weaken our nation. Our aging naval capabilities are inadequate for their job. The Air Force fields the smallest and oldest force of combat aircraft in its history. The Marines have only two-thirds the number of battalions they have historically needed to meet day to day operational demands. The Army is at its lowest troop levels since before World War II.

In the face of these threats, the first order of business for a [new] president and Congress will be to restore our nation's military might.

Our nation's veterans have been our nation's strength and remain a national resource. Their service to their country — as community leaders, volunteers, mentors, educators, problem solvers, and public officials — continues long after they leave the military. … America has a sacred trust with our veterans, and we are committed to ensuring them and their families' care and dignity. The work of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is essential to meet our commitments to them: Providing health, education, disability, survivor, and home loan benefits, and arranging memorial services upon death.

Our wounded warriors, whether still in service or discharged, deserve the best medical care the country can provide.

Like the rest of American medicine, the VA faces a critical shortage of primary care and mental health physicians.

For a veteran, a job is more than a source of income. It is a new mission, with a new status, and the transition can be difficult. We urge the private sector to make hiring vets a company policy and commend the organizations that have proven programs to accomplish this. We will retain the preference given to veterans when they seek federal employment.

With bipartisan support, President Truman forged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as an alliance of the western democracies. Its continued effectiveness is vital, especially in light of recent military challenges in Eastern Europe.

Foreign assistance programs must not only project the best of American values, but must work to create self-sustainability and leverage the resources and capacity of the private sector.

The United States needs a radical rethinking of our human rights diplomacy. A [xxx] administration will adopt a "whole of government" approach to protect fundamental freedoms globally, one where pressing human rights and rule of law issues are integrated at every appropriate level of our bilateral relationships and strategic decision-making.

[this part is from the introduction and is the only selection out of order] Every time we sing, "God Bless America," we are asking for help. We ask for divine help that our country can fulfill its promise. We earn that help by recommitting ourselves to the ideas and ideals that are the true greatness of America.


Platform #2 in the right column

If America is to work effectively for such a peace, we must first restore our national strength-military, political, economic, and moral.

Over the past 7 1/2 years, our military power has steadily declined relative to that of the Russians and the Chinese...

…Our conventional military forces, on which we depend for defense in any non-nuclear war, have been dangerously slashed for reasons of "economy".

A first order of business of [our] Administration will be a complete re-examination of the organization of our armed forces.

If an alliance is to be maintained in vigor, its unity must be reflected in shared purposes. Some of our allies have contributed neither devotion to the cause of freedom nor any real military strength.

The new [xxx] Administration will review our system of pacts and alliances.

The increase in foreign imports involves costly adjustment and damage to some domestic industries and communities.

The [new] Administration will help industries affected by foreign trade with measures favorable to economic growth, orderly transition, fair competition, and the long-run economic strength of all parts of our nation.

Industries and communities affected by foreign trade need and deserve appropriate help through trade adjustment measures such as direct loans, tax incentives, defense contracts priority, and re-training assistance.

The new [xxx] Administration will seek international agreements to assure fair competition and fair labor standards to protect our own workers and to improve the lot of workers elsewhere.

…We recognize and welcome the irresistible momentum of the world revolution of rising expectations for a better life. We shall identify American policy with the values and objectives of this revolution.

To this end the new [xxx] Administration will revamp and refocus the objectives, emphasis and allocation of our foreign assistance programs.

We welcome the emerging new nations of Africa to the world community. Here again we shall strive to write a new chapter of fruitful cooperation.

In Latin America we shall restore the Good Neighbor Policy based on far closer economic cooperation and increased respect and understanding.

In the Middle East we will work for guarantees to insure independence for all states.

The new [xxx] Administration will restore the former high levels of cooperation within the Atlantic Community envisaged from the beginning by the NATO treaty in political and economic spheres as well as military affairs.

Today we are capable of creating an abundance in goods and services beyond the dreams of our parents. Yet on the threshold of plenty the Republican Administration hesitates, confused and afraid.

As a result, massive human needs now exist side by side with idle workers, idle capital, and idle machines.

The [prior administration’s] failure in the economic field has been virtually complete.

Over the past 7 1/2-year period, the [prior administration has] failed to balance the budget or reduce the national debt. … The [prior administration] Administration has produced the deficits— in fact, the greatest deficit in any peace-time year in history….

The new [xxx] Administration will confidently proceed to unshackle American enterprise and to free American labor, industrial leadership, and capital, to create an abundance that will outstrip any other system.

Free competitive enterprise is the most creative and productive form of economic order that the world has seen. The recent slow pace of American growth is due not to the failure of our free economy but to the failure of our national leadership.

Economic growth is the means whereby we improve the American standard of living and produce added tax resources for national security and essential public services.

Tens of thousands of farm families have been bankrupted and forced off the land. This has happened despite the fact that the Secretary of Agriculture has spent more on farm programs than all previous Secretaries in history combined.

"The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home and abroad."

The new [xxx] Administration will act to make our free economy really free—free from the oppression of monopolistic power, and free from the suffocating impact of high interest rates. We will help create an economy in which small businesses can take root, grow, and flourish.

Natural resources are the birthright of all the people.

The people are entitled to use profitably what they already own.

…Our mining industry is in what may be the initial phase of a serious long-term depression. Sound policy requires that we strengthen the domestic mining industry without interfering with adequate supplies of needed materials at reasonable costs.

We will resume research and development work on use of low-grade mineral reserves, especially oil shale, lignites, iron ore taconite, and radioactive minerals. These efforts have been halted or cut back by the [prior] Administration.

Over the past seven years, we have watched the steady weakening of the nation's transportation system.

The new [xxx] Administration will press forward with our national space program in full realization of the importance of space accomplishments to our national security and our international prestige.

In order to restore United States leadership in atomic development, the new [xxx] Administration will:

1. Restore truly nonpartisan and vigorous administration of the vital atomic energy program.

2. Continue the development of the various promising experimental and prototype atomic power plants which show promise, and provide increasing support for longer-range projects at the frontiers of atomic energy application….

In recent years, we have been faced with a shocking increase in crimes of all kinds. Organized criminals have even infiltrated into legitimate business enterprises and labor unions.

The [prior] Administration, particularly the Attorney General's office, has failed lamentably to deal with this problem despite the growing power of the underworld. The new [xxx] Administration will take vigorous corrective action.

We deplore efforts to divide the United States into regional, religious and ethnic groups.

We denounce and repudiate campaign tactics that substitute smear and slander, bigotry and false accusations of bigotry, for truth and reasoned argument.

The social, economic, and political progress of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a testimonial to the sound enabling legislation, and to the sincerity and understanding with which the people of the 50 states and Puerto Rico are meeting their joint problems.

Puerto Rico has become a show place of world-wide interest, a tribute to the benefits of the principles of self-determination. Further benefits for Puerto Rico under these principles are certain to follow.

We pledge adequate compensation for those with service-connected disabilities and for the survivors of those who died in service or from service-connected disabilities. We pledge pensions adequate for a full and dignified life for disabled and distressed veterans and for needy survivors of deceased veterans.

We endorse expanded programs of vocational rehabilitation for disabled veterans, and education for orphans of servicemen.

The quality of medical care furnished to the disabled veterans has deteriorated under the [prior] Administration.

We recognize the unique legal and moral responsibility of the Federal Government for Indians in restitution for the injustice that has sometimes been done them. We therefore pledge prompt adoption of a program to assist Indian tribes in the full development of their human and natural resources and to advance the health, education, and economic well-being of Indian citizens while preserving their cultural heritage.

The new [xxx] Administration will bring competent, sympathetic, and dedicated leadership to the administration of Indian affairs which will end practices that have eroded Indian rights and resources, reduced the Indians' land base and repudiated Federal responsibility.

We believe, moreover, that except in periods of recession or national emergency, these needs can be met with a balanced budget, with no increase in present tax rates, and with some surplus for the gradual reduction of our national debt.

To assure such a balance we shall pursue a four-point program of fiscal responsibility.

First, we shall end the gross waste in Federal expenditures which needlessly raises the budgets of many Government agencies….

Third, we shall close the loopholes in the tax laws by which certain privileged groups legally escape their fair share of taxation.

Fourth, we shall bring in added Federal tax revenues by expanding the economy itself. Each dollar of additional production puts an additional 18 cents in tax revenue in the national treasury. A 5% growth rate, therefore, will mean that at the end of four years the Federal Government will have had a total of nearly $[XXX] billion in additional tax revenues above those presently received.

It is the duty of the Congress to enact the laws necessary and proper to protect and promote these constitutional rights. The Supreme Court has the power to interpret these rights and the laws thus enacted.

It is the duty of the President to see that these rights are respected and that the Constitution and laws as interpreted by the Supreme Court are faithfully executed.

For 7 1/2 years America, governed by the Party of Memory, has taken a holiday from history.

As the Party of Hope it is our responsibility and opportunity to call forth the greatness of the American people.


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