1972 Republican platform: A window on a vanished world


President Richard Nixon, a 1972 Republican.

Digging into the background of Title IX for yesterday’s column, I read that support for Title IX was included in the 1972 Republican Party platform. That year has special meaning for me, because it was the first and last year in which I got to vote against Richard Nixon, but I found this a bit hard to swallow.

So I looked up the platform and, sure enough, it is there. I also found other amazing things that Republicans used to support:

♦ The Equal Rights Amendment.

♦ Increased federal spending on education.

♦ The right of all persons to emigrate from any country.

♦ A reduction in defense spending and in the armed forces of a million men and women.

♦ A record number of antitrust cases.

♦ Higher tax rates on those earning more than $100,000.

♦ A pledge to honor all treaty commitments.

♦ Increases in federal programs to reduce unemployment.

♦ “A program financed by employers, employees and the Federal Government to provide comprehensive health insurance coverage … at a cost which all Americans can afford.”

♦ Establishment of an independent Consumer Protection Agency and a consumer product safety agency.

♦ “An educational bill of rights for Spanish-speaking people, American Indians, and others who face special language problems in schools.”

♦ “A national commitment that no qualified student should be barred from college by lack of money.”

♦ Increased federal spending on housing and food stamps.

♦ A tripling of spending on environmental protection, including creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, a National Industrial Pollution Control Council and a new Department of Natural Resources.

♦ A commitment to more and safer bicycling opportunities in metropolitan areas.

♦ Proposals for 36 new wilderness areas and increased protection of endangered species.

♦ Higher Social Security benefits.

♦ A quadrupling of funding for the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities.

♦ A “strong endorsement of Organized Labor’s key role in our national life. … We regard collective bargaining as the cornerstone of the Nation’s labor relations policy.”

♦ A doubling of funds for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and for Indian health.

♦ The Bilingual Act and the Ethnic Studies Heritage Act.

♦ Full opportunity for all minorities to participate in the political process.

I’m doing some selective (but accurate) editing here, but if you were looking for evidence of how the political debate has shifted in this country, there it is. True, party platforms are as much public relations as actual policy, but if you can find similar language in the 2012 platform, have at it.

So if this is what Republicans were saying in 1972, what were Democrats saying? To edit even more selectively, they were calling for an end to the Vietnam War and to wage and price controls, welfare reform, lower inflation, tax reform, universal national health insurance and an increase in the minimum wage to $2.50 an hour.

They were also complaining about income inequality, about the sense that Americans had become cynical about politics and about the growing belief that government was being run for the privileged few.

“Every election is a choice,” the platform said. “In 1972, Americans must decide whether they want their country back again.”

Sorry, but that country has gone away.

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