At GOP convention, political road signs for '84 and beyond say 'Right turn only.' ... and draws cheers from partisans
Twenty years ago, at another Republican convention, Sen. Barry Goldwater was nominated for president, only to lose in a landslide to Texan Lyndon Johnson. Much has changed since then. And at this convention, ultraconservative GOP Sen. Jesse Helms felt it was time to acknowledge the party's debt to Senator Goldwater.
''In the end, he (Goldwater) and his country were victorious,'' Senator Helms said in a resolution offered in the closing moments of the last meeting here of the Republican Party's platform committee.
By a standing, unanimous vote, the committee adopted the resolution.
The party's far-right-wing leaders are quite happy with the way the platform has shaped up so far. They have ignored warnings from some of their less conservative Republican colleagues that many men and women in the party are not represented by the platform positions.
But are those making such warnings, such as Sen. Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, on target? Or has the bulk of the Republican Party moved far enough to the right to be content with the rightist platform that has emerged here?
''Clearly the election will give us a signal'' on the degree to which the conservative trend in the United States is continuing, says Margaret Hance, national co-chair of the Reagan-Bush campaign.
And if Sen. Robert Dole (R) of Kansas, a former vice-presidential candidate, is correct, most voters will not pay much attention to the platform anyway.
But as one of those very public, occasional measurements of where a party stands in terms of its expressed ideals and aims, the 1984 platform is emerging as a document happily endorsed by the party's far-right leaders, among others.
''I'm delighted,'' says Senator Helms of North Carolina.
''I got everything I wanted,'' says Phyllis Schlafly, a platform committee member and a national leader in efforts to defeat passage of the proposed Equal Rights Ammendment (ERA).
On several occasions, attempts to amend the platform to get support of the ERA back in (as it was for many years before 1980) were overwhelmingly defeated. Even one amendment simply to mention that some people support ERA and others don't, but that a search for protection of women's rights goes on, was soundly defeated.
''I like it very much,'' says Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, a very conservative Republican, speaking of the platform. ''It's an accurate reflection of the majority of Republicans,'' he contends.
The party's conservative positions may lose some moderate Republican support, ''but we should pick up Democrats and independents, he says. ''I think Reagan has galvanized the latent conservatism in America,'' he added in an interview just off the stage where the platform committee was meeting. He is a member of that committee and describes himself as close to many of the positions of Helms.
''This platform has largely been a Kemp production,'' he said, crediting Rep. Jack Kemp of New York, a possible presidential contender in 1988.
Representative Kemp himself describes the party's platform as ''radical'' in the ''Jeffersonian ideal,'' a document that aims at ''getting back to the roots'' of government.
''I think the President is going to be very pleased'' with the platform, Mr. Kemp told some 150 people attending a joint meeting here of the Moral Majority Foundation and the Free Congress Foundation, two of the nation's most conservative groups. He said the platform is more specific than some ''timid'' White House counselors wanted.
Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, an activist of the party's right wing in Congress, likes the specificity. He thinks the Republican party is changing, probing more for creative solutions, than in the past.
A spokesman for the Moral Majority said he was pleased with the GOP platform, but said his organization wants to ''hold the Republicans' feet to the fire'' to be sure they implement their statements.
Paul Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Foundation, says both the Republican Party and the American public have moved to the right in recent years. He sees signs of this continuing, such as a conservative trend among college students.
Family issues, such as a stand against abortion, against pornography, and against homosexuals, will remain key vote-getting issues for some time to come, Mr. Weyrich says.
But on some family issues, such as abortion, especially in the case of rape, ''the debate is alive,'' says Senator Weicker. The platform committee, however, defeated an attempt to accept abortion in cases of rape or incest.
And on ERA, Senator Dole warns that many Republican candidates are likely to support passage of ERA, regardless of the platform's opposition.
Drawing up a platform, said Dole, ought to be a process of taking ''an amendment from this side, an amendment from that side.'' But this did not happen here.
Instead, Senator Weicker, one of the leaders of the moderates on the platform committee, was reduced to complaining to reporters who clustered around him during breaks in the proceedings. Asked if he won points here, he said: ''Not many.''
Nelson Rockefeller was in a similar minority position 20 years ago, it is recalled here.
But instead of being quietly outvoted, like the moderates of 1984 have been, he was booed and hissed when he spoke on the convention floor in San Francisco, where Goldwater was nominated.
Just how right the right-wing Republicans are in their assessment of where the political majority is today will not be clear until election day 1984, or perhaps 1988.