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Party Platforms Reflect Some Eternal Truths

Party platforms often take a backseat to the real object of national nominating conventions: the highly publicized event of uniting behind the presidential candidate in a frenzy of signs, balloons, and party pride. Yet looking back, it is the platforms that give us the most insight into where our political parties have been — and what has and hasn't changed along the way.

One hundred years ago today the Democratic Party platform of 1908 was released, with the Republican Party equivalent following soon after on July 16. The platforms offer interesting glimpses into the political issues that characterized Theodore Roosevelt's presidency and the turn of the 20th century — both, for instance, address dated concerns like railroad regulation, the status of then territories Puerto Rico and the Philippines, and economic uncertainty born of the panic of 1907 (maybe that last one's not entirely dated given our current economic gyrations ...).

Yet some of the points — conservation of resources, publicity of campaign contributions, and equality of opportunity — stretch beyond their 100 years, revealing what hasn't changed all that much. If there's one thing these platforms tell us, it's that there are some issues that every American president and his constituents have always had to face — and if you scroll to the bottom of each 1908 platform, you'll see that Republican-Democrat antagonism is one of them.

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This post is the first of a series on intriguing, amusing, and memorable moments of the American presidency inspired by the American Presidency Project ( and running until the November election.