Michael Wolraich's picture

    The Best Republican Platform Ever Adopted

    The Republican National Platform of 2012 "may be the best one ever adopted" according to Phyllis Schlafly.

    That's high praise for a party that once demanded the "utter and complete extirpation" of slavery from America's soil.

    But if the Schlafly is guilty of shortsightedness, she holds a longer view than most Americans. 88-years-old and vigorous as ever, Schlafly was one of the conservative pioneers who first nudged the G.O.P. to the right many years ago. At that time, few would have imagined the radical platform that the the Republican Party has just endorsed. Schlafly's success reveals how it came to be.

    In 1972, she was still an ordinary housewife, unremarkable but for a book she had written about Barry Goldwater and a right-wing newsletter she penned every month for a few thousand subscribers. That was the year that Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment, which would have guaranteed equal rights for women.

    It seemed as if the bipartisan amendment would pass easily. It sailed through the House and Senate by votes of 354 to 23 and 84 to 8, respectively. The Republican Kansas legislature deliberated for all of ten minutes before voting to ratify. Republicans in Delaware were so enthusiastic that they ratified the amendment before Congress officially submitted it. By the end of the year, thirty states had ratified, only eight more to go.

    But then Phyllis Schlafly launched her living room crusade, Stop ERA.

    "In the last couple of years, a noisy movement has sprung up agitating for 'women's rights,'" she wrote in October 1972, "It is anti-family, anti-children, and pro-abortion. It is a series of sharp-tongued, high-pitched whining complaints by unmarried women. They view the home as a prison, and the wife and mother as a slave."

    Schlafly's "pro-family" rhetoric and anti-abortion stance appealed to evangelicals, a previously apolitical demographic, and sparked a groundswell of grassroots opposition. The progress of the ERA slowed, then stalled, then reversed. By 1977, thirty-five states had ratified the amendment, but Indiana would be the last. Five ratifying states rescinded their votes, and the amendment was dead by 1981.

    Before Schlafly's campaign, the Republican Party had enthusiastically championed the ERA. Its 1972 platform pledged to continue "our support of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, our Party being the first national party to back this Amendment." Indeed, the Republicans had promoted the amendment in every platform since 1940. But by 1980, the they began to doubt. "We acknowledge the legitimate efforts of those who support or oppose ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment," the 1980 platform mumbled.

    Meanwhile, Democratic support became even more emphatic. The 1980 platform virtually shouted, "Now, the Democratic Party must ensure that ERA at last becomes the 27th Amendment to the Constitution." The party threatened to withdraw funding from any candidates who failed to support the ERA and urged a boycott against states that refused to ratify.

    To modern sensibilities, it seems natural that the Democrats backed the ERA while the Republicans soured on it, but it was not obvious at the time. The Democrats had long been concerned that the amendment would damage labor protections, and the ERA's staunchest supporters were middle-class Republican women.

    But the parties were changing. The trauma of Vietnam incited a leftist revolt in the Democratic Party, while disaffected Southerners began to abandon the party because of its position on civil rights. The conservative Democratic establishment fought a bloody battle to maintain control during the 1968 convention, but by 1972, the left emerged triumphant, and the Democrats fully embraced the feminist movement.

    Meanwhile, the simmering Goldwater insurgency in the Republican Party received an energy boost from grassroots organizers like Phyllis Schlafly. The "New Right," as she and her allies were called, injected social issues like abortion, school prayer, and integration into Goldwater's anti-government ideology.

    The left-wing Democratic insurgency proved short-lived, culminating in the 1972 nomination of George McGovern. The party establishment regained control in 1976 and began creeping right in a desperate effort to broaden the Democrats' fading appeal.

    By contrast, the right-wing Republican insurgency spread like a barbarian invasion with Phyllis Schlafly's Stop ERA campaign at the vanguard. Strikingly, her efforts were most successful in Democratic states--particularly in what was still known as "the solid South." The Stop Era operation dovetailed perfectly with Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy," which used coded race appeals to attract the support of Southern whites. In short, Schlafly's campaign was an exquisite recruiting tool for the Republican Party.

    As the conservative revolution gained force, it began purging its opponents in the party. Schlafly despised the left-leaning "Rockefeller Republicans," deriding them as "kingmakers" who employed "hidden persuaders and psychological warfare techniques." Her organization, the Eagle Forum, joined other right-wing fundraising groups in drumming liberals out of the GOP by challenging them in primary campaigns.

    By the turn of the century, liberal Republicans were extinct in Washington. Most of their seats had gone to Democrats, but that did not bother Schlafly, for new Southern conservatives more than made up for the losses in the Northeast. More importantly, the right wing had taken the liberals' place as the new "kingmakers."

    Still, the purges continued. Organizations like Stephen Moore's Club for Growth and Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform took over where Schlafly left off. With liberals purged from the party, these groups moved on to moderates. In 2010, Tea Party challengers finished off the moderates and turned on conservatives who they deemed insufficiently orthodox.

    As of 2012, the heirs of Phyllis Schlafly's original right-wing insurgency have become the new Republican establishment. They control the party and the party's agenda. They wrote the platform. It should come as no surprise that the grand dame of the revolution has blessed it.

    This year, the right wing lacks only a presidential candidate, having settled for a moderate who panders to the right. But he will be the last compromise. For there is no one left in the Republican Party to compromise with.

    Michael Wolraich is the author of Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies about the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior into a Raging Homosexual



    Excellent, I agree that there is no one the GOP side willing to compromise. Any Republican who steps out of line will be gone.Olympia Snowe saw the handwriting on the wall. Richard Lugar was defeated. Todd Akin is the new normal.

    Looking out into the future a bit...

    If Mitt wins, it MAY open the door for some moderates to creep back in IF he governs as a moderate.

    If Mitt loses, then it will probably embolden the Santorums and Perrys--but should they run, they will be soundly defeated, which will leave the party thoroughly confused as to what to do next. Christie MIGHT be another shot at moderation.

    Of course, I say "moderate" only in today's relative terms...

    I read a number of these folks are ALREADY thinking openly about running in 2016, which shows they think Mitt will lose OR plan to run against him in 2016.

    What is really odd, and something I struggle to understand, is that the Republican Party seems entirely dysfunctional with at least three wheels threatening to fly off in different directions.

    And yet, their IDEAS have taken hold in both parties.

    Corey Robin made the point on UP that Democrats have become the party of fiscal responsibility and austerity after the Republicans figured out, after decades of playing that role and not getting anywhere, that being the ones who always said "no" to buying new stuff was not a winning formula.

    The Democrats are a noticeably better on a number of other issues, but the financial one is the biggie because you need to spend money to get anything done.


    You see this in the way the Democrats are often playing defense on the other side's turf. "No, Obama has NOT gutted the work requirement." Well, a liberal party might want to argue in favor of gutting it.

    "PP does NOT use any federal money for abortions. And abortions are only 3% of what it does." Well, this stance accepts that abortion is a bad thing.


    Bush I governed as a moderate, but I don't recall any moderates creeping back in during his tenure. To the contrary, he faced a bitter primary battle against an emboldened right-wing in 1992. That was the year that Pat Buchanan negotiated his way to the keynote address and delivered his famous Culture War speech.

    No, but I think water under the bridge and trajectory matter. In 1992, movement conservatism was still gaining altitude and growing in strength. It still had the gleam of the new. Reagan had gained the WH, but regaining Congress was still ahead of them.

    Now (I would argue) we're on the other side of the mountain. Bush II was a big crack-up. The Tea Party wave is an attempt to purify the party, get back to roots and reinvigorate "true conservatism."

    The problem is, the movement is WAY out of step with most of the country. They THINK that Bush was 8 years of simply losing their way, and all they need to do is kill the golden calf and rededicate themselves to the proposition that the Lord Is One.

    ...and then continue on their way to the Land of Israel.

    My view is that in their stock-taking post-Bush, they failed to see where they really were and where the country really was. They mis-interpreted Bush's failures. Their compass was broken. So they resumed their journey, but in the wrong direction.

    They think they need to go more extreme, but they really need to go more moderate. If elected and puts his stamp on the party, Romney has a slim opportunity to them the error of their ways and turning them around.

    If he loses and they draw the wrong conclusions--as they did after Bush--then they will be wandering in the desert for a long time.

    You make an interesting point about Bush II being a big crack up. Another way to describe the period is that during the Bush 2 years, the Reagan program was actually carried out and it didn't lead to the results that were promised.

    So the Right has to deny the considerable gains it has made over the last four decades to still play the underdog, the untried thing.

    But that is what they are doing.

    Not sure I'm right about this, but...

    2000-2006 may be the first time the Republicans held the presidency and Congress since...when?...Ike?

    They are VERY good at being the opposition party, as we've just seen, but not very good about being the dominant party. And vice versa.

    It began before 1972. In 1944 when Wendell Willkie  died before the election and the progressives that followed him evaporated. And then in 1948 when Hubert Humphrey got a broad civil rights and labor rights plank adopted during the democratic convention.

    Causing the southern dixiecrats to walk out and begin to enter the willing arms of the republicans. It continued and matured under Barry Goldwater and the civil rights acts and anti Vietnam sentiment were simply the last straw.

    What LBJ and Humphrey did not foresee was the the civil rights acts also pissed off and drove away a lot of rural and small town whites as well.  A large number of which were also evangelical christians.

    I don't know if it's possible to point to the true beginning. History is a continuum after all.

    There were two critical periods in the development of the modern conservative movement. The first was the Goldwater campaign, which crystallized the Republican libertarian movement. The second was 1970s insurgency, which merged Goldwater's libertarian ideology with the culture war rhetoric.

    They're both beginnings, but the 1970s version is much closer to today's Republican Party than Goldwater's version. Schlafly fits seamlessly into the Tea Parties, as do other New Right leaders like Richard Viguerie. By contrast, folks like Goldwater and Buckley were never entirely comfortable with their ideological heirs.

    As for the South, the Dixiecrats split in the 40s, but they did not immediately join the Republicans. "Dixiecrat" is actually a nickname for the States' Rights Democratic Party, a third party made up of Southern Democrats. The Goldwater campaign marks the beginning of the shift towards Republicans. That was the year that Strom Thurmond made the jump. But even though the South voted for Goldwater, the Southern Democratic machines remained strong and kept sending legislators to Washington and governors to the state houses. Thurmond was an outlier. It was in the 70s--after the Wallace campaigns--that the mass defections started, and they didn't culminate until the Republican Revolution of 1994.

    The conservative/religious mindset was always there. What changed was that gays and lesbians and working women and everything else was buried out of sight.

    I new people who were gay and girls who had abortions and families where both parents worked and all the stuff the zealots now rail on about.  But nobody talked about it.

    Hush...hush. So yes it's all a bunch of hypocritical  BS.    

    One reason to be suspicious about the government deciding that you should be forced to keep a pregnancy is that once they have control of reproductive rights, government could also dictate birth control or abstinence. While such ideas may seem far-fetched,we have to remember that when some governments had control over reproduction, there were forced sterilization programs.

    Since we are in convention season, we should remember that Fannie Lou Hamer of Civil Rights fame had a serialization procedure as part of a state program in Mississippi. Hamer, a member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, was admitted for removal of a uterine tumor. The physician performed a "Mississippi appendectomy", a hysterectomy that was not medically necessary. The procedures were perfumed on poor, Black women. Hamer went on to lead a protest against a racist delegation from the Mississippi Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic Convention because Black delegates were refused seats at the convention.

    North Carolina had a similar eugenics program and has refused to compensate victims. Past experience teaches decisions on reproduction should not be left to the whims of government.

    Edit: Not meant as a reply.Was to be a comment.

    Just how the right wing of the Republican party has been able to effectively purge one of the two national parties is an intriguing story.  Of course, it took 40 years to unfold.  But it is still an impressive feat. 

    To understand this unfolding, I think there is another cultural thread that goes along side of Schlafy's pro-family, anti-abortion stance, which the right wing has been able to embrace for their ends.  This thread can be best summed up with a movie that came out the year before in 1971: Dirty HarryThere are rumors that Clint Eastwood is not only heading to the convention, but will introduce Romney.  This goes beyond gun rights and the NRA.  It is about law and order, being tough on criminals.  At the same time it taps into the mythology of the rugged individual standing up for his or her (property) rights (and protecting one's family) that one clearly heard in Ryan's speech. 

    Clint is trying to even up his reputation after the Chevrolet ad.

    I actually like his work, but I can't think of many women who do, and I know of one who won't watch any of his movies--and she is emphatic about it. 

    Like all movements and large political factions, the members do not represent a monolithic block.  The 'get off my damn lawn' individualism faction itself ranges from Ron Paul libertarians to the Paul Ryan social conservatives.  Eastwood definitely appeals more to the white male constituents of the party and those who linger outside as independents, than he does to their female counterparts.  The result, however, is that conservatives who identify with Eastwood believe that they have common ground with those who identify with Schlafly, and the buzz words like "family values" end up appealing to both, even if they view it differently in terms of policy.  And the common enemy becomes the liberals spreading their ideology of the collective, which seems to be the new dirty word to go along with they did not build that, anti-individualism rhetoric.

    I thought he was great in "Gran Torino".  I thought he stunk in "Bridges of Madison County".  He made a sexy Rowdy Yates in "Rawhide".

    Sure, I'm disappointed that he's gone to the other side, but we have George Clooney and they don't.  It more than evens out.

    I was going to mention Clooney as the liberal counterpart to Eastwood when it comes to a entertainment icon who has the potential to reach out to those beyond the party faithful. But what I think Clooney lacks that Eastwood has in spades is the embodiment of particular worldview, even if he personally doesn't believe that worldview.  Clooney lacks the Dirty Harry counterpart. (His role in Gran Torino was an extension of that character).

    Moreover, as male growing up in the sixties and seventies, there are few characters in the movies than Eastwood's in his westerns that showed my friends and me what it meant to be cool dude (while Monty Python taught us what was funny).  There is a visceral reaction for many males of my generation that goes beyond his politics, one that can create a sort of cognitive dissonance between the connection to him and a disagreement about politics.

    it's the Wagner problem.Great artist, execrable politics. It happens like that sometimes.

    well, it has been confirmed that Mr. Eastwood will be speaking tonight at the convention.  I will state now that this will be the biggest boost for Romney in his attempt to reach the independents and give Romney the best press - how many will see only this part of the convention because of the coverage on Entertainment Tonight?

    okay i didn't know Eastwood had lost it...his bit cost Romney the election.

    and the beauty of politics is that what began as a tangent on a thread a few hours ago (thanks to me the trope) is going to be the topic of the day.  of course i thought he would be in touch with this world and that is my bad, but team Obama's prize from heaven.

    Eastwood's performance was bizarre and sad.  I kept thinking of the speech oh. . .George Clooney. . .would have given at the DNC.  I also wondered who okayed that mess?  Did they vett his speech?  Who put the chair out there? 

    Bad choice.  One of many.

    George Clooney would be a thousand times better than that pathetic performance.  FL gov Crist will top it.  I had no idea how deteroiated Eastwood had become.  It was like the sad moment in Moore's Bowling for Columbine when he interviewed Heston,

    I feel that the DNC needs to respond by having Charlie Sheen speak, preferably in his drug-addled state. (Has he gotten better yet?)

    Trope, you and I have discussed movies and actors before and whether they have affects on the viewers. Eastwood has come up in that conversation several times. Eastwood just played another version of his best role. He has always been acting, you know. He has always played to type. He put on a show tonight which played to what is only a slightly smaller audience, but he played to it very effectively. The set-up worked. A whole hell of a lot of people are saying, "He made my day".


    tonight he showed himself as a man of 80 plus years, not the man of the good the bad and the ugly.  Gran Torino gave us a moment to believe we could be the man with poncho and half smoked cigar in this life and still have dignity.  Tonight showed that wasn't true. I thought Eastwood would help Romney.  It turns out he will be his downfall.

    I think you should make a definite attempt to separate the contrived fiction of an armchair adrenalin junkie movie from reality. Whatever the hell reality is.  I just say this in confidence that Hollywood does not know either what reality is, except that they think it is boring, and so no idea of the shape of the world should depend too much on contrived scenes. Ya see, Clint never was the man with no eyes. Not really. But those exciting fictions do affect our culture. IMO. And that is why I think Eastwood made an affective speech. People love that stuff.



    P.S. the importantly bad but well accepted speech, important because it was well accepted on all sides I've seen, was Condie Rice's.

    Gran Torino gave us a moment to believe we could be the man with poncho and half smoked cigar in this life and still have dignity.  Tonight showed that wasn't true.

    Try to put this delicately...

    In Gran Torino, he had a scriptwriter...and lines to say...and a director to follow (even if it was himself)...and a whole crew and budget to keep him on track.

    Sans all that, he's just a guy who's getting old and maybe believes his own press a bit too much.

    Ironically, Eastwood was there as the anti-Romney...his perceived strength an equal measure of Romney's perceived weakness...to show that deep inside that milquetoast of a soulless, ball-less vulture raider...beats the heart of an outsider, a gunslinger come to town to save the towns folk from the "bad guys."

    The ones in black hats wearing black skin.


    I think Clint was totally channeling Neil Diamond

    "I am," I said
    To no one there
    An no one heard at all
    Not even the chair"

    There just is no other explanation.

    He wanted to maintain his identity as an actor/artist and do something "creative", not come out like a political hack. It didn't work and he made a fool of himself, this was a convention after all, not improv class at the Actors' Studio, but I think that's where he was coming from.  He thought he could make it work.  

    Well, the problem for Eastwood is, he took Ellison's book and made it real, and came off as an out of touch jackhole. 

    You make an excellent point that he apparently had the audience eating out of his hand, however bizarre that might seem to us.

    Considering the audience, not so bizarre. 

    Very readable and informative, a pleasure.

    What interests me is that the rise of the religious right corresponds with the down shift in real income to the middle class and the loss of status by working class white males and those without hard management or technical educational backgrounds.  Not to mention the "global" effects of women entering the work force in large numbers. 

    Attendant to the above were Federal Reserve policies which allowed one asset bubble after another to occur---leading inevitably to the financial crisis of 2008 and the elimination of asset gains the middle class thought they had achieved.  

    I search in vain for unifying themes, perhaps I should re-read your book.

    Thanks. It's a good question, and I would guess that it figures into the appeal, but I wouldn't know how to substantiate that.

    On the other hand, heck, racist and misogynistic demagoguery were effective long before the white man lost his status.

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