The complex problems of mobility, congestion, and energy resources demand creative solutions if we are to improve the living conditions of our urban areas. Many urban centers of our nation need dependable and affordable mass transit systems. ...Sound like something Van Jones might have said? Before you peek ahead, see if you know who was behind this bit of bragging.
Mass transportation offers the prospect for significant energy conservation. ... To encourage existing businesses to remain in urban centers and to attract new businesses to urban areas, it is vital that adequate public and private transportation facilities be provided.
He played a key role in passing the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. He led the Clean Air Act to passage, a law that fundamentally reformed the previous law and is recognized as one of the most sweeping environmental laws ever enacted. ... As president [he] will continue to support the development of non-polluting electric vehicles and cleaner alternative fuels.Hang on just a little longer. Before you put a name to this environmental champion, take a look at one more snippet.
In some States ... a proportion of highway funds is diverted to other purposes. This must stop. ... It is long past time for the federal government to get out of way and allow private ventures to provide passenger service to the northeast corridor. The same holds true with regard to high-speed and intercity rail across the country.If you think these radically different positions are from different documents, you're right. If you think they're from different parties... think again.
Just as you'll never be able to hide from that Facebook picture you unwisely posted after the office Christmas party, or pull back that tweet delivered in anger, the Internet acts as a kind of preservative for political positions. No matter how badly parties and politicians might want to hide from statements they've made in the past, the web holds them like a fly in... a web.
Buried in lithologies of links and marked in ages that go past like eye blinks, these fragments of preserved politics allow us to perform a kind of digital archeology. With a search engine for a shovel and no more than patience for a brush, we can dust off lost worlds that some would just as soon stay lost.
The quotes at the start of this article come from three artifacts of the web. The first is the 1980 Republican Platform–the platform that Ronald Reagan ran on in route to becoming the ur-conservative. The second clip above, the one that showcases a candidate's environmental leadership, comes from the 1996 Dole-Kemp campaign site still ticking along on its own server 16 years later. Finally, that last bit is the most recent, still lying there on the fresh surface of the Interwebs. It's from the 2012 Republican Platform.
This past week, David Frum maintained that the problem with the GOP is that it has failed to change in the last thirty years, but the evidence of the documents shows that's absolutely not true. The GOP has changed–changed from a party that held a few extreme positions, into one that holds nothing but. By looking at issues as the manifestation of a party's "genes", you can trace the line of Republican descent from mainstream to has been.
Watching the development of the positions is like watching features appear on a growing animal. Not everything happens at once, or in the order you might expect. On the subject of immigration, the 1980 platform is remarkably mild.
Republicans are proud that our people have opened their arms and hearts to strangers from abroad and we favor an immigration and refugee policy which is consistent with this tradition. ... The federal government has a duty to adopt immigration laws and follow enforcement procedures which will fairly and effectively implement the immigration policy desired by the American people.What that policy may be goes unstated. Republicans seemed willing to leave this decision until after the election, and ultimately Reagan's policy was to provide "amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally." By 1996, Bob Dole has already picked up much of the familiar rhetoric that has made Republicans such a hit with immigrant populations.
Bob Dole does not believe that immigrants who have entered the United States illegally should be entitled to government welfare services and other benefits. Bob Dole supports strengthening the Border Patrol and streamlining the deportation process for illegal aliens.Dole spends another couple of paragraphs hammering President Clinton for being "soft on illegal immigration" and for not ceding more control of immigration to the states. His positions is almost perfectly aligned with that of the 2012 platform.
Our highest priority, therefore, is to secure the rule of law both at our borders and at ports of entry. ... State efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked.Between 1980 and 1996, the Republican Party moved from accepting immigration as a national issue and being open to different solutions, to a position that focused on beefing up border control and shifting immigration issues to the states. Not surprisingly, this move came with a lot of language around the threat posed by immigrants, language that in the 2012 platform associates immigrants with terrorists and drug cartels.
The federal budget
It might seem a given that conservatives were always in favor of a balanced budget amendment and chopping social programs, but the 1980 platform views the first as optional and the second as unnecessary.
By increasing economic growth, tax rate reduction will reduce the need for government spending on unemployment, welfare, and public jobs programs. However, the Republican Party will also halt excessive government spending by eliminating waste, fraud, and duplication. ... We believe a Republican President and a Republican Congress can balance the budget and reduce spending through legislative actions, eliminating the necessity for a Constitutional amendment to compel it.George H. W. Bush was right to call Reagan's plan "voodoo economics," but at least the 1980 plan seems to believe the words of their head houngan. They didn't demand up front slicing of the social safety net to fund the tax cut, but assumed that the cut would make all other problems moot. That position is somewhat mimicked by Dole. The Dole-Kemp plan is far more focused on tax cuts than the 1980 platform, calling for an across the board 15% cut in income tax rates, and a rollback of adjustments made to keep Social Security solvent. Dole's plan also called for a no-way-out balanced budget amendment. Much of his plan is dedicated to preaching the benefits of eliminating the federal deficit, but Dole offered nothing in the way of any details on what might be chopped to pay for massive tax cuts. It was a completely voodoo-driven plan. The 2012 platform pushes farther. It calls for not just preserving all the cuts made under Bush, but a 20% across the board cut. It also calls for chopping all corporate taxes, elimination of capital gains tax, the alternative minimum tax and the inheritance tax. The 2012 platform would then impose a balanced budget amendment. Unlike Dole, they don't pretend that this would generate additional revenue for the government. Starving the government is a goal.
If you've ever wondered why blue-collar workers were swayed to Reagan's side in the 1980 race, it wasn't because they'd developed an overnight disdain for unions.
We reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principle of fairness in labor relations, including the legal right of unions to organize workers and to represent them through collective bargaining consistent with state laws and free from unnecessary government involvement. We applaud the mutual efforts of labor and management to improve the quality of work life.Reagan honed his political skills on the GE payroll making fiery anti-labor speeches, but little of that leaked into the platform. Although there's one sentence devoted to saying that states should be allowed to pass "right to work" laws, the 1980 platform focuses on union workers as the victims of inflation and a bad economy. Dole doesn't address union issues at all in his 1996 site, but by 2012 unions have been transformed into a prime cause of economic hardship.
We will restore the rule of law to labor law by blocking “card check,” enacting the Secret Ballot Protection Act, enforcing the Hobbs Act against labor violence, and passing the Raise Act to allow all workers to receive well-earned raises without the approval of their union representative. We demand an end to the Project Labor Agreements; and we call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, which costs the taxpayers billions of dollars annually in artificially high wages on government projects. ... Ultimately, we support the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law to promote worker freedom and to promote greater economic liberty.This is only scratching the surface of how the GOP has shifted, and I'll get to other issues in follow-up articles, but each of these three issues shows the pattern that the Republican Party has traced over the last thirty years. Starting from positions that leaned right but made at least a gesture toward tolerance, the party has shifted to uniformly more hardline positions. At the same time, it has elaborated on each of these positions, decorating each with with dozens of new proposed acts and arcane references to laws going back half a century or more. If the 1980 platform proposes a shining bridge to a conservative future, the 2012 version of that bridge is encrusted with barnacles and weighted by hundreds of bizzarre special interests that border on (and sometimes are) conspiracy theory. It's a narrower, meaner bridge with a less optimistic destination.
This tendency toward increasing specialization and elaboration is a pattern often seen in nature. Whether it's the convoluted chambers in ammonites or the massive antlers of Irish Elk, there are always groups that chart courses toward more specialized requirements and more highly ornamented forms. It's a tendency that nearly always leads to the same fate: extinction.