Remember When Republicans Promoted Unions And Equal Rights? Your Grandpappy Does

There was a time, long long ago, that the Republican party wasn’t a mishmash of racists, woman-haters, and degenerates actively attempting to transform our nation into something it has never been, and never will be. Sound unbelievable? Let’s look at the Republican platform of 1956 — yes, the same year southern states were barring whites and African-Americans from playing cards together, using the same restrooms, or attending the same dances.

While Republicans today actively want to “restore America” to the “good old days” of segregation, they seem to forget a crucial part of their history — one in which they actually had a fairly liberal platform. In some ways, the 1956 Republican platform was much like it is today. It included a “declaration of faith” — a belief that “America’s trust is in the merciful providence of God, in whose image every man is created.” Aside from the false belief that the United states was founded on Christian principles, one may be shocked to learn that Republicans at the time believed in social liberalism — a belief that “our children and their children, without distinction because of race, creed or color, may know the blessings of our free land.” In fact, the 1956 Republican platform is downright shocking in some ways.

Republicans at the time supported an expansion of Social Security, adequate coverage for unemployed Americans, better housing, and health care for all:

We believe that basic to governmental integrity are unimpeachable ethical standards and irreproachable personal conduct by all people in government. We shall continue our insistence on honesty as an indispensable requirement of public service. We shall continue to root out corruption whenever and wherever it appears.

We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.

To these beliefs we commit ourselves as we present this record and declare our goals for the future.

Unlike in recent years when the GOP has operated in direct opposition to, and even in fear of, the United Nations, the party pledged in 1956 to “vigorously to support the United Nations.” In addition, the party stated its belief that “government must have a heart as well as head,” and that “America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper.” These statements, of course, are in direct contrast to the actual actions of Republicans today, who promote a disturbing brand of social Darwinism that demonizes the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged.

The platform celebrated the raising of the minimum wage, expansion of social security benefits and of unemployment insurance, better worker’s compensation, and other “entitlements” of which the party is attempting to deprive the “takers” who are allegedly ruining America today.

Under the Republican Administration, as our country has prospered, so have its people. This is as it should be, for as President Eisenhower said: “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.”

The Eisenhower Administration has brought to our people the highest employment, the highest wages and the highest standard of living ever enjoyed by any nation. Today there are nearly 67 million men and women at work in the United States, 4 million more than in 1952. Wages have increased substantially over the past 3 1/2 years; but, more important, the American wage earner today can buy more than ever before for himself and his family because his pay check has not been eaten away by rising taxes and soaring prices.

The record of performance of the Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further. 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.

In addition, the Eisenhower Administration has enforced more vigorously and effectively than ever before, the laws which protect the working standards of our people.

Most surprisingly, if you are unaware that Republicans were, once upon a time, much more progressive than Scrooge McDuck,  Republicans once supported “equal pay for equal work regardless of Sex” — a concept they shy away from every time Democrats mention pay equality. The party even supported a “constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.”

While today’s GOP wants to completely abolish the minimum wage, the GOP of 1956 wanted to “extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable.”

Today’s GOP fervently fights to protect all forms of discrimination, but the 1956 party pledged to “continue to fight for the elimination of discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry or sex” and, though those who collect unemployment benefits are portrayed as leeches today, the party of yesteryear recognized the importance of “[Providing] assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment.”

Unions also received much more support from the 1956 GOP:

Revise and improve the Taft-Hartley Act so as to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions, management, the individual worker, and the public. The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration. In 1954, 1955 and again in 1956, President Eisenhower recommended constructive amendments to this Act. The Democrats in Congress have consistently blocked these needed changes by parliamentary maneuvers. The Republican Party pledges itself to overhaul and improve the Taft-Hartley Act along the lines of these recommendations.

Try telling that Wisconsin Governor  Scott Walker, for example.

This may seem crazy, but it’s true. Just look at this 1956 poster from the Young Republicans, which promotes increased union membership and the expansion of social security.

Can you imagine a Republican posted encouraging workers to “attend your union meetings?” It simply would not happen.

Frankly, it would be nice to see Republicans return to the “good old days” — though not in the way they mean. A Republican party that supports Social Security, unions, equal rights for all, and other very progressive ideals could do a lot for the United States.

Unfortunately, it will not be happening anytime soon.


Featured Image via Cornell/Mock Paper Scissors