On Sept. 30, our local League of Women Voters of Montgomery County hosted presidents from other Leagues statewide, during which one president shared that some non-League people believe the League of Women Voters is left-leaning. Her response? The current platform for the LWV looks awfully similar to the GOP platform of 1972. In some ways, that’s a risky claim, because it could sound like the LWV holds stodgy stances on their key issues — voting rights like expanding voter access, bi-partisan redistricting, money in politics, health care reform, the environment, the census and immigration, as well as its other active statements on economic justice, equality and the Equal Rights Amendment. What it really means is that the League’s commitment to non-partisan, pro-democracy work remains its core.
In this coming series, we will evaluate the claim that it’s the political parties who’ve moved their stances away from bi-partisan democratic processes, leading to stalemates in Congress.
In this first installment, we will look at the rights of women. Both parties tackled the multitudinous concerns related to women’s rights: the ERA, civil rights, education, job and wage discrimination, caregiving, Title IX, economic parity and reproductive rights. In some places, we will use precise quotes, in other places we will summarize.
As a matter of introduction, the Dems wrote in 1972: “Women historically have been denied a full voice in the evolution of the political and social institutions of this country and are therefore allied with all under-represented groups in a common desire to form a more humane and compassionate society.”
The 1972 Republican Platform opened its section on women’s equality “We reaffirm the President’s pledge earlier this year: “The Administration will ... continue its strong efforts to open equal opportunities for women, recognizing clearly that women are often denied such opportunities today. While every woman may not want a career outside the home, every woman should have the freedom to choose whatever career she wishes — and an equal chance to pursue it. This Administration has done more than any before it to help women of America achieve equality of opportunity.”
Regarding the ERA
Originally written by Alice Paul in 1923, the ERA passed both houses of Congress in 1972 but did not receive the required 38 state ratifications by 1982. It has since received those but Congress has not ratified it officially. Both parties supported the ERA in 1972.
2023 LWV — “The LWV has fought hard for passage and ratification of the ERA since the 1970s. LWV seeks to secure equal rights and equal opportunity for all. We promote social and economic justice and the health and safety of all Americans. LWV supports equal rights for all under state and federal law regardless of sex, race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or disability. LWV supports final publication of the fully ratified Equal Rights Amendment and efforts to bring existing laws into compliance with the goals of the ERA. Leagues across the country have worked to engage lawmakers and organize at the grassroots level to ensure equal rights for all, regardless of sex.”
1972 Dems — A priority effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment;
1972 GOP — Continued our support of the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, our Party being the first national party to back this Amendment. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment; Appointment of women to highest level positions in the Federal Government, including the Cabinet and Supreme Court;
Civil rights and matters of discrimination
The 70s were a watershed decade for women’s equality. As the decade began, women could not obtain credit cards in their own names, be guaranteed they wouldn’t be fired for being pregnant, serve on a jury in all states, fight on the front lines, get an Ivy League Education, defend themselves legally from spousal rape, access birth control or take legal action for workplace sexual harassment. Women’s equality had a prominent place on both parties’ platforms.
2023 LWV continues to promote equality for women in the workplace, in government, in education, in leadership, and to support childcare, healthcare and equal pay for women.
1972 Dems called for the “elimination of discrimination against women in public accommodations and public facilities, public education and in all federally-assisted programs and federally-contracted employment.” They sought to bar job discrimination on the basis of sex, “increased efforts to open educational opportunities at all levels, eliminating discrimination against women in access to education, tenure, promotion and salary, to guarantee that all training programs are made more equitable, both in terms of the numbers of women involved and the job opportunities provided; jobs must be available on the basis of skill, not sex, and guarantee that all training programs are made more equitable, both in terms of the numbers of women involved and the job opportunities provided.
1972 GOP wrote “In addition we have: Significantly increased resources devoted to enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act, providing equal pay for equal work; Required all firms doing business with the Government to have affirmative action plans for the hiring and promotion of women; Requested Congress to expand the jurisdiction of the Commission on Civil Rights to cover sex discrimination; Supported the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 giving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforcement power in sex discrimination cases;
Caregiving and maternity benefits
Both parties recognized that women did most of the work of caregiving.
1972 Dems wrote in support of the “Availability of maternity benefits to all working women; temporary disability benefits should cover pregnancy, childbirth, miscarriage and recovery; Amendment of the Internal Revenue Code to permit working families to deduct from gross income as a business expense, housekeeping and child care costs.”
1972 GOP prioritized “Other factors beyond outright employer discrimination — the lack of child care facilities, for example — can limit job opportunities for women. For lower and middle-income families, the President supported and signed into law a new tax provision which makes many childcare expenses deductible for working parents. Part of the President’s recent welfare reform proposal would provide comprehensive daycare services so that women on welfare can work.
We believe the primary responsibility for a child’s care and upbringing lies with the family. However, we recognize that for economic and many other reasons many parents require assistance in the care of their children. To help meet this need, we favor the development of publicly or privately run, voluntary, comprehensive, quality day care services, locally controlled but federally assisted, with the requirement that the recipients of these services will pay their fair share of the costs according to their ability.”
In addition, the 1972 GOP recommended and supported the passage of Title IX of the Higher Education Act opposing discrimination against women in educational institutions. The party further wrote, “We are proud of the contributions made by women to better government. We regard the active involvement of women at all levels of the political process, from precinct to national status, as of great importance to our country. The Republican Party welcomes and encourages their maximum participation.”
This was the one area where neither party made a statement. On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court decided that women had a constitutional right to privacy in making a choice. In 2023, the LWV posted a statement that began with “For women and others who experience pregnancy, our basic freedoms hinge on our ability to control our reproductive health. Our physical and psychological wellbeing, financial resources, capacity to gain and maintain employment, and even our ability to eat certain foods are all dependent on our reproductive choices.”
This stance would likely be the one that could be considered partisan in today’s politics. In 1972, the lack of stance meant it was not a divisive or differentiating issue for the parties. At present, it’s one of the most divisive. For some, it’s a matter of healthcare for women, for others health and life for the child gestating. It is issues like this where we Americans need our democratic leaders, though they differ, to collaborate on what unites us and work out a governing compromise despite differences.
At present, politics may be likened to bloodless warfare, a means of making one side capitulate to the other through legal force. This is true when politicians take an “all-or-nothing” approach. Perhaps that is why so many Americans are disgusted by politics presently, according the Pew Research. It’s dysfunctional; it doesn’t have to be war. In founding this nation, the Fathers envisioned democracy as a governmental process that could bypass force and the violence of war. It would require collaboration and compromise. Non-partisanship remains the priority of the League of Women Voters because LWV believes democracy is worth the work.
Read the full platforms of each party at https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/republican-party-platform-1972
The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, multi-issue organization encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join the LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information, visit the website www.lwvmontcoin.org or the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, IN Facebook page.