A Platform I Can Stand On

A Platform I Can Stand On

    The 2016 presidential election is still in its opening stages, as would-be candidates jostle for exposure and funding. By pure happenstance, I recently discovered the outline of a political platform for a very progressive set of policies. Were this person to become one of the presidential candidates, I would go knocking door to door, even with my arthritis. I’m not going to say who it is, maybe you can guess. Hint: it sure as hell isn’t Hillary! I will be quoting from the official statements.
    “We call to the minds of all Americans the great truth first spoken by President Lincoln: ‘The legitimate purpose of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done.’ “{This party] believes that the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the people is as important as their economic health . . . Government must have a heart as well as a head.”
    On money in politics — “We condemn illegal lobbying for any cause, and improper use of money in political activities.”
    On the economy — “The federal minimum wage has been raised for more than two million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional ten million workers, and the benefits raised for 6 ½ million more. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to four million additional workers. There have been increases in 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.” the goal is “further reductions in government spending . . . without depreciating the quality of essential services of the government to our people . . . The immediate need is to correct the inequities in the tax structure which reflect the Republican determination to favor the few at the expense of the many.”
    On Defense — “We reject the false Republican notion that this country can afford only a second-class defense. We stand for strong defense forces . . . As we maintain and strengthen the security of this nation, we shall be consistent with this administration’s dedication to peace, and strive for the acceptance of realistic proposals for disarmament.”
    On the environment — “, , , to conserve and safeguard our natural resources for the greatest good of all, now and in the future.”
    On Immigration — “{We support] an immigration policy which is in keeping with the tradition of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment . . . We favor elimination of unnecessary distinctions between native-born and naturalized citizens. There should be no second-class citizenship in the United States.”
    On race and civil rights — “We take pride that more progress has been made (with regards to ending discrimination of racial minorities) in this field under the present administration than in any other similar period in the last eighty years . . . an impressive record of accomplishment in the field of civil rights and commits itself anew to advancing the rights of all our people, regardless of race, creed, color, or national origin.” Also recommended to the Congress is “the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.”
    On social programs — “{We need] federal assistance to help build facilities to train more physicians and scientists.” There’s emphasis on the need “to continue the extension and perfection of a sound social security system” and boasting on the “recent history of supporting enlarged federal assistance for construction of [more] hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased federal aid for medical care for the needy.”
    On labor — “Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country — they are America.” There’s a pledge “to strike off the shackles which the Taft-Hartley Law [weakening unions] has unjustly imposed on labor; management and labor should determine wage rates and conditions of employment through free collective bargaining . . . to more effectively protect the rights of labor unions and to assure equal pay for equal work regardless of sex.”
    The platform statement concludes with this pointed caution: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of the 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.”
    Well, any guesses? Maybe Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, right? Or former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, perhaps. If you don’t know about him, you should. He’s a real progressive, a genuine liberal, and he isn’t afraid to say it. At any rate, what you’ve been reading isn’t from any current political movement, sad to say. Believe it or not, it was the official Republican Party Platform for 1956, for the re-election of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (the conclusion from a letter to his brother Ed). And he wasn’t the first progressive Republican, either. That would be Abraham Lincoln, the party’s first President. In between these two was Theodore Roosevelt, during another progressive period.
    During the Eisenhower years the South was still heavily racist; but back then they were majority Democrats. That all changed after President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, saying that in doing so he’d lost the entire South for a generation. He was right; most of those Southern Democrats became Republicans and today the South is pretty red.
    I’d like you to compare what you’ve just read to the Republican budget that just came out in mid-March. There’s a whole world of difference, isn’t there? The purpose of this exercise is to illustrate that like everything else in nature, politics goes through cycles. Right now everything has shifted to the Right, dragging most of the Democrats to the center. That’s about to swing back the other way, because too many people have had enough of thirty-five years of Reaganomics, or as I call it, Wreck-onomics. An example of this shift can be seen in the minimum-wage movement across America during the last year or so. The momentum has even caught out WalMart and Target, who have been driven by market forces to up the minimum wage of their workers to $9.00/hour. This was just announced two weeks ago. The two U.S. cities with the fastest growing economies — San Francisco and Seattle — also pay the highest minimum wage. And so it goes, round and round. Working people — who create the wealth of this country — will work harder and stay longer if they’re treated well, which increases productivity for that business. Perhaps business is finally getting the same message.

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