The Republicans gathered in Tampa have adopted the party's most right-wing platform since the GOP was founded 158 years ago.

Many news organizations went back and compared this platform with the party's earlier positions, particularly those of 1980 on which Ronald Reagan ran.

The Reagan platform carried a general endorsement of the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms. But the 2012 version opposes any restrictions on "the capacity of (ammunition) clips or magazines." It also expands the circumstances under which Americans can kill each other by broadening the so-called "stand your ground" doctrine to a "fundamental right to self-defense wherever a law-abiding citizen has a legal right to be." Why a national political party, ostensibly with a laser focus on jobs and the economy, would even get into this issue is a question more for psychologists than political scientists.

Well into the middle of the last century, the Republican Party enjoyed labor support, particularly among the skilled trades and railroad unions. Even in 1980, when the GOP and labor were growing apart, the party endorsed the right of unions to organize and engage in collective bargaining.

The 2012 edition praises Republican governors who "saved their states from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions." Those reforms frequently centered around taking away the workers' collective bargaining rights.

In 1980, the GOP called for "dependable and affordable mass transit." In 2012, the party sneered at mass transit as "social engineering." The Reagan platform called for tolerance for non-English speakers, saying they shouldn't be denied educational and employment opportunities because English was not their first language. The new platform reaffirms that "English is the nation's official language." While the 1980 Republicans looked rather benignly on immigrants and refugees as long as they reflected the "interests of our economic well-being and national security," the 2012 platform skipped over any contributions illegal immigrants might make to the common good and called for creation of "humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily. ..." This is a fancy way of saying "self-deportation," the policy of making it so difficult to stay that they have no choice but to leave.

The 2012 platform also has planks to appeal to specific interest groups: a call for public display of the Ten Commandments, a constitutional amendment effectively outlawing gay marriage, a return to the gold standard, mandatory voter photo IDs, and an implicit endorsement of unlimited individual campaign spending.

The 1980 plank on abortion recognized "differing views on this question among Americans in general -- and in our own party." The 2012 version calls for a ban on abortion, with no exceptions, which is not the position of the party's presidential nominee.

It was left to House Speaker John Boehner to put the new guiding doctrine into perspective, when he said he has never met anybody who actually reads the party platform.

Dale McFeatters is a senior writer for the Scripps Howard News Service.

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