By Francis Wilkinson
It's a declaration that any Tea Partyer would find reassuringly familiar:
"America is in peril. The welfare of American men and women and the future of our youth are at stake. We dedicate ourselves to the preservation of their political liberty, their individual opportunity and their character as free citizens, which today for the first time are threatened by government itself."
So begins the 1936 Republican Party Platform. Its complaints about the Democratic administration of Franklin Roosevelt have proved remarkably durable, and still echo off the canyons of American politics today.
President Barack Obama may not measure up to FDR in the minds of his supporters, but in repurposing their attacks on FDR for the age of Obama, Republicans make their own backhanded case for Obama-as-FDR.
FDR, the platform said, ran an administration "guilty of frightful waste and extravagance" that operates "contrary to the Constitution" and "constantly seeks to usurp the rights reserved to the states and to the people."
He appealed to "class prejudice" while breeding "fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment and prolonging" economic pain.
Having discovered anew the "tyrannical policies" of FDR in Obama's White House, Republicans have similarly called on their 1936 remedies:
"Stop the folly of uncontrolled spending. Balance the budget -- not by increasing taxes but by cutting expenditures, drastically and immediately."
Not everything in the 1936 platform suits today's Republican spirit. In 1936 Republicans vowed to:
"Protect the right of labor to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of its own choosing without interference from any source."
". . . recognize the existence of a field within which governmental regulation is desirable and salutary" and favor "federal regulation, within the Constitution, of the marketing of securities to protect investors."
". . . cooperate with other nations in the limitation of armaments."
Given the topsy-turvy nature of the Republican primary campaign this year, it's impossible to predict where the Party will end up at its convention next August. But it's a safe bet that endorsements of labor unions, financial regulation and global arms control will not be included in the 2012 Republican Party Platform. With America in peril, threatened by government itself, this is no time for the wild-eyed progressivism of '36.
(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)
-0- Dec/16/2011 15:53 GMT