Platform: Democrats, GOP march to different drummers
"The Republican Party rejects the fundamentally flawed Salt II treaty negotiated by the Carter administration." "The Salt II agreement is a major accomplishment of the Democratic administration . . . a vital step in an arms control process."
These clashing excerpts are from rival party platforms on issues that voters must face in the November election.
From the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit to foreign affairs and food stamps, Republicans and Democrats differ in their approach.
A GOP plank adopted at Detroit regards the current food stamp plan as "the most monstrous expansion and abuse of teh food stamp program to date." The Demcorats say the food stamp program "has become the bulwark of the nation's efforts to relieve hunger among its citizens."
Rival spokesmen differ as to where the country is, where it is going, and how it got there. And both parties feel the situation is momentous.
"America is adrift," Republicans say. "Our country moves agonizingly, aimlessly, almost helplessly into one of the most dangerous and disorderly periods in history."
It is grim all right, the Democratic platform says. But trust us: "Our platform is a contract with the people." And it faces "the future with confidence and hope."
Republicans in their platform declare they want absolute military "superiority" over the Soviet Union. Russia is presently ahead, they charge. Why? "Mr. Carter cut back, canceled, or delayed every strategic initiative proposed by President Ford. He canceled production of the Minuteman missile and the B-1 bomber."
Democrats reply: "America is now, and will continue to be, the strongest power on earth. . . . The B-1 bomber was canceled because it was technologically obsolete. The Nixon-Ford administration presided over a steady decline of 33 percent in real US military spending between 1968 and 1976."
The 1980 election does not turn on a single historic issue. It is probably not a "great" election in the classical tradition. Rather, it appears to involve contrasting the personalities of candidates Reagan and Carter, coupled with the political consequences of recession and inflation, with the sitting party traditionally taking the blame. Perhaps the biggest economic clash involves taxes. Governor Reagan and the platform call for a big, immediate, across-the-board 10 percent tax cut, to be followed by two similar cuts over the next two years.
"The Republican Party supports across-the-board reductions in personal income tax rates, phased in over three years," the platform declares, "which will reduce tax rates from the range of 14 to 70 percent to a range from 10 to 50 percent."
This leaves Democrats with no similar offer to the voters. Instead, the Democrats warn against "simplistic rhetoric", and that "untargeted tax cuts would increase inflation." Since the GOP convention, however, President Carter has promised a comprehensive but unspecified recovery program that presumably will be aired in coming speeches.
One big issue is energy. The GOP platform says that "expanding government regulation and meddling is wholly unnecessary. We believe that proven American values of individual enterprise can solve our energy problems."
The Democratic platform offers a 20-point program, including conservation: "If we can convince one of every four drivers exceeding the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit to reduce speed, we can save 100,000 barrels [of oil] a day," it says.
The Republican platform, however, says, "We believe the federal 55-m.p.h. speed limit is counterproductive." It says it contributes to higher costs for goods and services "to all communites, particularly in rural America."
Americans just do not need political platforms, some say. If they did, they would find a score of issues, large and small, on which parties divide in 1980. Democrats want national health insurance, Republicans oppose; Democrats favor "public financing of congressional campaigns," Republicans declare, "we oppose." Democrats wants federal hand-gun control, the GOP says leave it to the states. Democrats want Section 14-B of the Taft-Hartley Act (permitting state right-to-work laws) repealed, the GOP "reaffirms its long-standing support."
On some thorny points one or the other of the two sides sidestep the issue: The GOP "protests the Supreme Court's intrusion" into the abortion dispute, and says "we will work for the appointment of judges . . . who respect . . . the sancitity of innocent human life." Democrats do not comment. The GOP favors restoration of "voluntary non-demoninational prayer in schools"; Democrats omit this in their section on education.
On one issue, Democrats apparently feel they have an opening: After years of support for an amendment to the US Constitution in support of women's right, the GOP says it still favors equal rights but omits support for the amendment. Democrats emphatically reaffirm support and urge pressure on states to vote it.