The GOP’s new website has a special page for GOP “Accomplishments” across history (interestingly, the page title is “Political News: American Achievements: Political Achievements”).
Let’s start in relatively modern history, as the fact is that neither party is what it was before, say, the Great Depression. Neither is America.
- 1938 – The First Asian-American US Senator was a Republican: This is odd dating, as the reference is to Hiram Fong, who in 1938 won a seat in the territorial legislature of Hawaii as a Republican, running on a statehood platform. He was elected as a US Senator in 1959, upon statehood, serving three terms. The blurb notes he received votes for the presidential nomination in 1964 (Goldwater nominated) and 1968 (Nixon’s the one).
Not included is that he’s the only GOP senator from Hawaii to date, and the only Asian-American to ever seek the GOP presidential nomination (he got “favorite son” votes from Hawaii). Fong was strongly bipartisan, a firm labor supporter, and was strongly for immigration reform and civil rights. He also steadfastly supported the Vietnam War and Nixon throughout the Watergate scandal.
- 1940 – The Republican Party first called for ending racial segregation in the military: According to the blurb, the 1940 RNC presidential platform had a plank: “Discrimination in the civil service, the army, navy, and all other branches of the Government must cease.” FDR and Truman are then blamed for “refusing” to integrate until in ’48 Truman “complied” with the “Republicans’ demands for racial justice in the US military.”
The US military had integration under review for some time, and actually took many steps (some better-intended than others) toward integration before the 1948 Executive Order (e.g., the formal integration of OCS classes in 1942). Given Republican opposition to “social engineering” experiments re the military, it seems odd that they would propose changing military policy during the WWII years. It’s worth noting the Democratic party had strong Southern contingent (already splitting off by 1948 into the Dixiecrats, based on Democratic civil rights platform planks that year), which would eventually shift over to the GOP as part of the “Southern Strategy” — and, despite that, Truman still forced through this integration. The GOP taking credit for it is silly; their candidate in 1940, for example, was Wendell Willkie, who, though an opponent to racism, hardly made that particular plank a key to the GOP campaign. And, of course, this “achievement” is actually pretty amusing, given GOP caterwauling over the “integration” of gays in the military.
- 1952 – A Republican Integrated the University of Mississippi: Eisenhower appointed Elbert Tuttle to the US Court of Appeals in 1954, and he ordered — in 1962 — the integration of U.Miss under the Brown v. Board of Ed ruling, admitting James Meredith. (Again, an odd year to choose — 1952 was when Tuttle helped Ike get the presidential nomination).Tuttle was, indeed, a liberal Republican, doing pro bono work with the ACLU among others (hardly making him a darling of the GOP these days). His ruling was in — and was actively backed up with force by — the administration of John Kennedy.
- 1954 – A Republican Wrote the Brown v. Board of Education decision: That’s California politician Earl Warren, appointed Chief Justice by Eisenhower in 1953, who forged a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Ed, which struck down Plessy v. Ferguson‘s separate-but-equal acceptance …
… a decision characterized by Conservapedia as “a powerful moral statement clad in a weak constitutional analysis,” criticized by William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas — though lauded by George W. Bush in 2004. Note that the court that Warren (a controversial “judicial activist” to conservatives) oversaw was all appointed by FDR and Truman.
- 1954 – Republicans Established the Federal Highway System: Actually, as noted, Ike got passed and signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act in 1956 (what’s with these dates, anyway?). So … would the GOP today work toward a national infrastructure bill? Really? Only, I suspect, if someone made a strong case that US business needed it, and likely not even then. I mean, isn’t that kind of a socialist thing to do? Didn’t Hitler build the autobahns?
- 1957 – Republicans Passed the Civil Rights Act: After dinging FDR and Truman for not proposing any civil rights legislation, the blurb lauds Ike for proposing “the first federal civil rights legislation since the Republican Party’s 1875 Civil Rights Act,” the Civil Right Act of 1957 …
… which adopted the recommendations of Truman’s 1947 Civil Rights Committee. A key to getting the bill passed — a Texas Senator named Lyndon Johnson. It’s key opponent: then-Democrat, soon-Republican Strom Thurmond.
- 1957 – Republicans Ended Racial Segregation in Little Rock: Facing down the Southern Democrats (soon to become Republicans), Eisenhower (who could never get the GOP nomination today) “refused to tolerate defiance of the federal judiciary” (which is a standard talking point of the Right these days). ‘Republicans were unfazed by the many Democrats, including John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, who criticized President Eisenhower for the action he took to uphold civil rights” — most of the criticism (itself mild) having to do with deploying army troops internally (one imagines the GOP hue and cry were the present Democratic administration to do the same for some reason).
- 1972 – Nixon Goes to China: Nixon shows the “foresight” to end “more than two decades of hostility with the most populous nation on earth,” helping isolate the USSR.
And we leap forward 15 years (without, it seems, Republican achievements). Note that staunch opposition to Red China had been strongest amongst the GOP, with Nixon leading the way in the 50s. The phrase “Only Nixon Could Go to China” is something of a truism. One wonders how the GOP reconciles this laudatory recollection with their own opposition to bilateral and multilateral discussions between the current administration and anyone else they currently consider an enemy (e.g., Iran).
- 1981 – Reagan Tax Cuts: Reagan gets bilateral support for the 1981 Economic Recovery Act, cutting taxes. “His wise approach to fiscal policy causes an economic boom, ending the stagnation and ‘malaise’ of the Carter era” …
… a result of inflation (which Nixon and Ford had both grappled with) and the Arab Oil Embargo. And we skip over everything else related to the Nixon regime — from Viet Nam to Watergate — as well as Gerald Ford. Note that the blurb’s touting of reduction of the tax rate from 70% to 50% (which later rate today would be considered rank Marxism) was only true for the highest incomes; lower tax rates fell from 14% to 11% (woo-woo). Insert controversy here over whether the tax cuts increased the deficit or increased government revenue.
- 1987 – Tear Down This Wall: Reagan demands freedom for Eastern Europe from the Soviets.
While a fine sentiment, GOP criticisms of the current administration’s rhetorical flourishes indicates that fancy talking isn’t their cuppa. This part of the speech wasn’t just criticized by Democrats, as the blurb indicates, but by members of Reagan’s own national security team, and didn’t get much attention at the time. The blurb seems to imply that Reagan either predicted or was responsible for the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989, though much of that was from hindsight when it finally happened.
- 1994 – Contract with America: Republican congressional candidates pledge to reform taxes, welfare, and Congressional exemptions to US law, and get a majority in the House for the first time since 50s.
… and we skip over George H.W. Bush and jump to Newt Gingrich. It’s not clear that, aside from some publicity shots, that it actually had much effect on the election, which was already headed the Republican way. The “Republican Revolution” stalled in the next couple of years, and Gingrich was out as House Leader by 1997, and the GOP majority steadily eroded until the Dems took back control in the past two elections.
- 1996 – Welfare Reform: The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act is passed by the Republican-controlled Congress. “President Bill Clinton, reluctantly, signed it after vetoing it twice.” Actually, it appears to have been vetoed once, and Clinton signed it as part of his pledge to “end welfare as we know it.”
- 2001 – Operation Enduring Freedom: George W. Bush orders attacks on the Taliban in Afghanistan in October. Yay, team. “It is critically important that the current administration maintain America’s bipartisan commitment to the Afghan people.” If only we’d been “critically” committed enough to pour the immediate resources into Afghanistan to help them get on their feet rather than heading directly into Iraq instead.
- 2001 – Republican Tax Cuts: The Republican Congress and Republican President pass the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, reducing income tax rates, capital gains taxes, and increasing the exemption for the Alternate Minimum Tax. In 2003 they pass the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act. “Sadly, the Democrats who took control of Congress in 2007 vowed to allow these Republican tax cuts to expire in 2011. This will have the effect of a huge tax increase on the American people” … well, mostly for the wealthiest taxpayers who benefitted from EGTRRA and JGTRRA.
- 2003 – Operation Iraqi Freedom: After condemning Saddam Hussein’s “nightmarish regime” (with which we palled about in the mid-80s, when they were fighting Iran), and noting in passing the brief 1990 Gulf War, Congress authorizes George W. Bush to “hold Hussein accountable ” for violating and ignoring “many UN resolutions regarding Iraq’s failure to comply with disarmament and cease-fire terms from the first Gulf War.”
Which seems to be a nice way to finesse around the whole “clear and present danger” of Iraq’s suspected WMD programs. Though it doesn’t seem very Conservative to be simply enforcing UN resolutions, now, does it?
- 2004 – Vouchers for DC School Children: The Republican Congress and President sign a spending bill that includes vouchers to help DC children “escape” to private school instead of being “shackled” to a failed public system. The nasssssty Dems, including Obama, failed to renew the program this year, at the behest of the “education establishment.”
Yes, those nasssssty Dems who noted a Dept. of Education study showing only limited improvement in reading and no gain in math for the 1700 kids in the program. And, in fact, Obama proposed extending the program for the kids already enrolled in it through high school (thus offending both sides of the debate).
So what have we learned from Great Achievements in Republican History?
- The Republicans are the civil rights party! (At least through the 50s.)
- The Republicans are all about saving taxes for all! (Unless it comes to the Federal Highway system.)
- The Republican stand tough against the Bad Guys! (Except for Nixon going to China.)
- Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were gods walking among men. Ike and Nixon were pretty cool, too. George H. W. Bush and Gerry Ford … well, not so much, I guess.
And now you know. And knowing is half their battle.