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When the GOP Was Still Grand:
the Republican Platform of 1884

July 18, 2011
by William P. Meyers

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"The Republican Party has gained its strength by quick and faithful response to the demands of the people for the freedom and equality of all men; for a united nation assuring the rights of all citizens; for the elevation of labor; for an honest currency; for purity in legislation, and for integrity and accountability in all departments of government, and it accepts anew the duty of leading the work of progress and reform."

That is from the opening of the 1884 Republican Party Platform. It might be dismissed as rhetoric, except that the Democratic Party, in opposition, was doing its best to relegate African Americans to renewed slavery. The Grand Old Party (GOP) still was dominated by men who had fought for the Republic in the Civil War. The farmers and working men far outnumbered the business men, and the men with small businesses outnumbered the genuine capitalists in the party.

They weren't the bitter, tiny-souled Republican leaders of today who would allow most Americans to starve rather than make the rich pay taxes or cut the bloated military and homeland security budget.

Let's return to the Grand Old Platform:

"We therefore, demand the imposition of duties on foreign imports shall be made, not for "revenue only" but that, in raising the requisite revenues for the government, such duties shall be so levied as to afford the security of our diversified industries and protection to the rights and wages of the laborer, to the end that active and intelligent labor as well as capital may have its just reward and the laboring man his full share in the national prosperity."

My god, isn't that ... Socialism? The government protecting industry and workers? Were the conservative Republicans of 1884 to the left of not only today's Republicans, but to the left of today's Democrats? But there is more ...

"The principle of the public regulation of railway corporations is a wise and salutary one for the protection of all classes of the people, and we favor legislation that shall prevent unjust discrimination and excessive charges for transportation, and that shall secure to the people and to the railroads alike the fair and equal protection of the laws."

OMG, when something went wrong with the economic system, the GOP dared to use the federal government to do something about it. They took on the most powerful capitalists of their era, the railroad barons.

The Republican Party Platform of 1884 also called for federal civil service reform, for "the establishment of a national bureau of labor, the enforcement of the eight-hour law, [and] a wise and judicious system of general education by adequate appropriation from the national revenues wherever the same is needed." It called for legislation to "secure to every citizen, of whatever race and color, the full and complete recognition, possession and exercise of all civil and political rights."

But we live in an age of ignorance. Basic lessons in good government and economics have been forgotten. Congressmen (and women) spout an economic faith that is as lunatic as medieval physics, biology, and theology. Republicans do not know their own history (neither do Democrats). They believe that Moses wrote the Constitution and that free market capitalism is based on the Ten Commandments. The only thing they are experts at is taking money from rich donors and using it to manipulate the equally ignorant.

When the Republican faithful are taught to treat Mitt Romney as a left wing nut case, there is something seriously wrong. A tragedy is unfolding. What Al-Qaeda did to the American people is nothing compared to how we have been done in by our own corporate security state. Our only hope is that the tragedy will shake the lethargy of good, ordinary people, and that they will aspire to a government by political parties and independent politicians that truly represent their interests.

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