Today, however, no need to go slumming. In its place, we've got the extremist national GOP Party Platform to deliver the same Texas-sized thrills.
It it weren't such a smear of our long ago cousins, one might be tempted to call the 2012 screed a Neanderthal platform. Practically every sentence has something to make one go hide in a cave.
If you read it and think perhaps your revulsion is an overreaction, try measuring your judgment at how bad it is by comparing it to the fulsome praise offered by right-wing party stalwarts. Anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, for instance, writes that it "may be the best one ever adopted." The National Rifle Association loves it. Freedomworks cheers that the Republican platform has adopted 11.5 of the 12 points of the tea party's Freedom Platform.
Michael Cooper at The New York Times compares this year's with the 1980 GOP platform, one that many of us viewed at the time as a thoroughly loathsome blueprint. Three decades down the road, however, and we're seeing how Republican leaders really feel about economics, equality, environment, energy, taxes, education, immigration. They are not pleased with the 21st Century so far.
It's long been argued that party platforms don't matter. Perhaps appalled by the extremism in his party's House Speaker John Boehner himself has suggested that nobody reads them anyway. So no big deal. Not everyone agrees:
But some political scientists say that party platforms do matter. Gerald M. Pomper, a professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University, studied meaningful platform pledges from 1944 to 1976—and later updated his work by looking at the 1990s—and found that winning political parties try to redeem roughly 70 percent of their concrete platform pledges. Mr. Pomper said his work found that contrary to popular belief, party platforms should not be casually dismissed as meaningless.
“It seemed strange to me that people would have fights over platforms and would put in a lot of effort to try to influence them if they didn’t mean anything,” he said in an interview. “If they didn’t, why were practical people fighting over this? Putting something into the party platform is a pledge that you’re going to do something about it.”
Much of the 2012 Republican platform, more than 70 percent when one digs a little, is not stuff the party seeks to do but rather to undo. Dismantle decades of environmental, social and economic policies, at least as far back as the New Deal, in some cases further. This will supposedly take us back to the golden age of America when certain people knew their place and stayed there. Back to the days when nobody took note of the fact that the national convention of a major political party contained an endless sea of white faces.