May 6, 2016

1956. The Democratic and Republican Party Platforms Compared

The 1956 Issues
"Adlai E. Stevenson and President Dwight Eisenhower shake hands at the White House in Washington, Feb. 17, 1953, when Stevenson lunched with Eisenhower and a group of congressmen. A few months before, Eisenhower had defeated Stevenson in the presidential election" (source)
Below is a summary of the Democratic and Republican party platforms from WATCH: The Television Guide to the 1956 Conventions, the Campaign and the Election, Columbia Broadcasting System (New York, 1956), pp. 66-76. See also the 1940 party platforms compared.

The 1956 Issues
Foreign observers often profess to be puzzled by American politics. They say they can't see any difference between the two parties. If that were true, there would be no campaign issues. But, as you'll see, the next 10 pages of WATCH contain as lively a political argument as you'll come across this year. It's a debate between the Republican and Democratic National Committees, who don't seem to have any doubt that issues of vital importance are at stake in this 1956 election. The eight issues of greatest importance were picked by mutual agreement, and then the two parties went to work to give you, as precisely as they could, their respective positions on each. No matter how strong your own opinion already is, you'll find fresh ammunition here.

Foreign Policy

REPUBLICANS: The Administration's leadership in bringing West Germany into NATO, the developing co-operation under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the mutual defense treaties with Free China and South Korea, and the support of the Baghdad Pact exemplify our aim of building collective security through mutual agreements to take joint action against aggression and to supplement each other's economic and military strength. In Asia: We favor help to nations struggling against the threat of Communist subversion. In Europe: We wish to see increased not only the military strength of NATO, but also its unity of purpose and political cohesion. In the Near East: We will work tirelessly for a just solution of the dispute between the Arab States and Israel. The sum of our international effort is: the waging of peace, with all the resourcefulness, dedication and urgency we have mustered in time of war.

DEMOCRATS: In four years of the Eisenhower-Dulles foreign policy, the U.S. has suffered important losses and communism has made important gains in every part of the world. Indochina fell to the Reds; pro-Western governments in Indonesia and Ceylon have been replaced by pro-Communist governments; the NATO alliance, our first line of military defense in Europe, has been weakened; the Communists have penetrated the Middle East, and nation after nation has resumed friendly contact with Moscow. Our foreign policy has continually offended our Allies and has not kept up with the new tactics of aggression pursued by Soviet Russia. We have suffered badly from a lack of firm leadership; a tendency to bluff our way through world affairs; a dangerous complacency and false optimism; and an abandonment of the bipartisan policy of past Democratic administrations.

Natural Resources

REPUBLICANS: We adhere to three fundamentals: (1) to develop, wisely use, and conserve mineral, fuel, land, forest and water resources from generation to generation; (2) to develop these resources primarily by private citizens under fair provisions of law including proper restraints for conservation; (3) to treat resource development as a partnership in which the participation of private citizens and state and local governments is as necessary as is Federal participation. Where local enterprise can shoulder the burden, it should be encouraged. And where local action cannot or should not fully meet the need, we should have Federal support. In this way our people can reserve themselves as many of the basic decisions affecting their lives as possible.

DEMOCRATS: The Eisenhower power policy is called "partnership" by the GOP. But the "local" partner is almost invariably one of the absentee-controlled power companies of America, with rural electric co-operatives and municipalities left out in the cold. For example, at Hells Canyon on Snake River, a "local" partner, the Idaho Power Company of Augusta, Maine, has been issued an FPC license to construct three dams which would mean only half the power, generated at three times the cost. TVA, characterized as "creeping socialism" by Eisenhower, has been under consistent Republican attack since 1953, as witness the illegal Dixon-Yates deal. Perhaps the best example of the Administration's attitude toward natural resources was the nomination of one of conservation's worst enemies, Wesley D'Ewart, as Assistant Secretary of the Interior in charge of the nation's public lands.

Farm Problem

REPUBLICANS: The Republican Party has accepted the challenge of developing a farm program that will help American agriculture adjust to the conditions of peace. The Administration's new farm law will attack the surpluses which overhang the market and depress prices. It is making $750,000,000 available to farmers agreeing to withdraw land from crop production. An additional $450,000,000 is earmarked for diverting land to soil-conserving uses on a longer-term basis. Another provision authorizes an annual appropriation up to $500,000,000 to supplement price-support operations for certain perishable commodities, and the previous limitation on the value of surplus commodities that may be distributed abroad under various assistance programs has been raised from $300,000,000 to $500,000,000. The result: Since the beginning of the year farm prices have responded and are now (June) up 9 per cent.

DEMOCRATS: Since the Eisenhower Administration took over the farm program, farm prices have fallen 22 per cent. Sliding-scale price supports have failed. Production actually increased, adding substantially to the so-called surpluses. The farmers' share of each consumer's dollar dropped from 47 cents in 1952 to 38 cents, the lowest point since 1941. Besides deliberately reducing farm price supports, when the prices of things farmers have to buy have stayed up or increased, the Administration has failed to step in quickly with help in emergencies. The GOP Administration also has hobbled the soil-conservation program, failed to develop low-cost electric power and made it much harder for farmers to get crop insurance.

Civil Rights

REPUBLICANS: The Republican Party has supported action to eliminate segregation in public schools. We fully concur in the decision of the Supreme Court and will work for and support its mandate. We have virtually eliminated discrimination and segregation in executive-branch operations throughout the nation. We have fully enforced Federal civil rights statutes. We have asked Congress to create a bipartisan civil rights commission with full authority to hold public hearings, to subpoena witnesses and to take testimony under oath. We have asked for the establishment of a civil rights division in the Justice Department. And we have asked Congress to give the Justice Department direct authority, subject to the Constitution, to bring civil rights actions against attempts to deprive citizens of the right to vote throughout the U.S.

DEMOCRATS: There have been loud partisan GOP claims that all advances in civil rights have been achieved since the Eisenhower Administration took office. Vice-President Nixon has falsely claimed, among other things, that this Administration brought about integration in the armed services. But an examination of the Eisenhower record on civil rights reveals that until this election year Eisenhower did not ask Congress to enact a single piece of civil rights legislation. Why didn't he support the Democratic program introduced last year on which hearings had already been held? Republican claims to the progress made under President Truman in civil rights do not take the place of a program.

National Economy

REPUBLICANS: Under the Republican Administration the American enterprise system has achieved unprecedented prosperity. This prosperity has been and will continue to be fostered by these Republican policies: removal of direct controls on prices and wages; assistance to small businesses to encourage competition; curtailment of governmental business that can be handled by tax-paying enterprises; restriction of public expenditures, while adding to the country's defensive strength and its public assets; lowering taxes when the fiscal situation permits; expansion of international trade; shielding the people against unemployment, old age, illness, and eliminating blighted neighborhoods, without impairing self-reliance; reinforcement of the workings of our fiscal system that offset income changes due to changes in economic activity; a forthright attack on fundamental weaknesses in the farm situation; and prompt action when either recessionary of inflationary influences are evident.

DEMOCRATS: In the first three years of the Eisenhower Administration, the increases in factory employment, industrial production, personal income and weekly factory earnings have been less than half what they were in the last three years of the Truman Administration. The average citizen is deeper in debt, has more bills and less savings than he had at the end of 1952. As a result of Republican favoritism, corporation profits have increased 34 per cent since 1952, while farm and small-business incomes have dropped sharply and the average person's take-home pay has increased only 8 per cent. It's the old Republican theory that if big business does well, the benefits will sooner or later trickle down to the rest of the people.


REPUBLICANS: The Republican Party favors improvements in the Labor-Management Relations (Taft-Hartley) Act, and will continue to make every effort to improve the wage-hour law. We have initiated legislation to assure adequate disclosure of financial affairs of each employee pension and welfare plan and to authorize the provision of Federal grants to states for industrial safety programs. In February, 1955, the American Federation of Labor published a statement that "wage increases in 1954 provided more of a gain in real wages than in any other postwar year." The record of labor peace and unparalleled prosperity during the past three years under the Republicans demonstrates our industrial maturity.

DEMOCRATS: The open hostility of the Administration to labor is symptomatic of its failure to serve the people in contrast to the privileged treatment of big business. A comparison between the corresponding periods in the Eisenhower and Truman Administration reveals that under the Truman Administration the wage earner received 50 per cent higher increases, plus invaluable fringe benefits—which means that under the Eisenhower Administration the worker has suffered a loss of more than $500 a year. In addition, the President has broken his pledge to bring about the 19-point amendment to the Taft-Hartley law, including eliminating the "union busting" provisions. The Administration has failed to fight unemployment, and it has opposed any improvement of social security.

Security Program

REPUBLICANS: The Republican Party believes that an effective defense requires continuance of our aggressive attack on subversion at home. FBI investigations have been reinforced by a new Internal Security Division in the Department of Justice. The security activities of the Immigration and Naturalization Service have been revitalized. The Department of Justice and the FBI have been armed with new legal weapons forged by the Republican 83rd Congress. Believing that employment in the Government is a privilege, not a right, we have established and will continue a security program which guarantees that all employees are loyal and trustworthy. While we guard against the threat of subversion, we are determined to protect the rights of every American citizen.

DEMOCRATS: The Eisenhower Administration has badly mismanaged the national security program, while failing to find a single Communist on the government payroll. The chairman of the Civil Service Commission has admitted that over 90 per cent of those people fired as "security risks" were not, in fact, fired under the security program. It has been estimated that up to 75 per cent of them actually were hired by the Eisenhower Administration itself, and many of them were later rehired by other agencies. In addition, the Republican security system has damaged the vital partnership between Government and private scientists. Contrary to the false charges of the Republicans, the Truman loyalty program rooted out bona-fide subversives and still protected the rights of loyal Government workers. The Eisenhower security program has done neither.

National Defense

REPUBLICANS: Under the Republican Administration the combat readiness of our forces has been improved by developing new weapons and by employing the latest scientific developments. We shall continue to push the production of the most modern military aircraft and the development of long-range missiles. We will keep moving as rapidly as practicable toward nuclear-powered aircraft and ships. Combat capability and mobility have been substantially increased. To strengthen our continental defenses the United States and Canada, in the closest co-operation, have substantially augmented early-warning radar networks. The Republican Party's defense policy emphasizes an effective, flexible type of power calculated to deter or repulse any aggression, retaliate against it and to preserve the peace.

DEMOCRATS: The Republican defense program has been developed not with just one eye on the budget, and the voters back home, but with both eyes there. One of the first acts of the new Administration in 1953 was to cut the Air Force budget by $5 billion. A Senate committee explored this question with Secretary of Defense Wilson and brought out the fact that it was the money men in the Treasury and Defense Departments who devised the cuts, not the military men. Now, three years later, we find that Russia has almost overtaken us in air strength and that some time between 1958 and 1960 the U.S. will have the world's second-best air force. We don't think the American people want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish on a matter of this vital importance.