In anticipation for its convention next week, the Republican Party has drafted what one committee member called “the most conservative platform in modern history.” The draft platform includes tenets like calling for women to be excluded from combat roles in the military and support for the Arizona anti-immigrant law.
But things weren’t always this way. The Republican platform was at one time surprisingly progressive — in 1956. Let’s take a look at some key planks of the party’s platform that year:
On Labor and Wages: The platform boasted that “the Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers. There have been increased workmen’s compensation benefits for longshoremen and harbor workers, increased retirement benefits for railroad employees, and wage increases and improved welfare and pension plans for federal employees.” It called for changes to the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act to “more effectively protect the rights of labor unions” and to “assure equal pay for equal work regardless of sex.”
On Welfare and Health: The platform demanded “once again, despite the reluctance of the Democrat 84th Congress, Federal assistance to help build facilities to train more physicians and scientists.” It emphasized the need to continue the “extension and perfection of a sound social security system,” and boasted of the party’s recent history of supporting “enlarged Federal assistance for construction of hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased Federal aid for medical care of the needy.”
On Civil Rights, Gender Equality, and Immigration: The platform supported “ self-government, national suffrage and representation in the Congress of the United States for residents of the District of Columbia.” With regards to ending discrimination against racial minorities, the party took pride that “more progress has been made in this field under the present Republican Administration than in any similar period in the last 80 years.” It also recommended to Congress “the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.” Its section on immigration actually recommended expanding immigration to America, supporting ”the extension of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 in resolving this difficult refugee problem which resulted from world conflict.”
“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are…a few…Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid,” wrote Republican President Dwight Eisenhower to his brother in 1954. Unfortunately, this splinter group is now in charge of this once-respectable political party.