Has the GOP strayed from its conservative roots? Certainly the Trump candidacy represents an abandonment of conservative principles. But even before then you've had critics who felt the party had lost its way.
A lot depends on your frame of reference. For instance, when I was born, Ike was president. Here's some of what the GOP platform said when he ran for reelection:
We are proud of and shall continue our far-reaching and sound advances in matters of basic human needs—expansion of social security—broadened coverage in unemployment insurance —improved housing—and better health protection for all our people. We are determined that our government remain warmly responsive to the urgent social and economic problems of our people.
We support this and his [Eisenhower's] further offer of United States participation in an international fund for economic development financed from the savings brought by true disarmament.
Government must have a heart as well as a head.
The record of performance of the Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further. The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers.
Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers. There have been increased workmen's compensation benefits for longshoremen and harbor workers, increased retirement benefits for railroad employees, and wage increases and improved welfare and pension plans for federal employees.
Extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable.
Republican action created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years.
We initiated the first flood insurance program in history under Government sponsorship in cooperation with private enterprise.
Does that sound stereotypically conservative to you? Isn't that something you'd expect to find in a Democrat party platform?
In fairness, the platform also contains more conservative initiatives. And while we're on the subject, here's what it says about civil rights:
The Republican Party points to an impressive record of accomplishment in the field of civil rights and commits itself anew to advancing the rights of all our people regardless of race, creed, color or national origin.
The many Negroes who have been appointed to high public positions have played a significant part in the progress of this Administration.
Segregation has been ended in the District of Columbia Government and in the District public facilities including public schools, restaurants, theaters and playgrounds. The Eisenhower Administration has eliminated discrimination in all federal employment.
Great progress has been made in eliminating employment discrimination on the part of those who do business with the Federal Government and secure Federal contracts. This Administration has impartially enforced Federal civil rights statutes, and we pledge that we will continue to do so. We support the enactment of the civil rights program already presented by the President to the Second Session of the 84th Congress.
The regulatory agencies under this Administration have moved vigorously to end discrimination in interstate commerce. Segregation in the active Armed Forces of the United States has been ended. For the first time in our history there is no segregation in veterans' hospitals and among civilians on naval bases.
That was act a time when Southern Democrats were staunch segregationists.
When I was a kid, bigwig Republicans included Earl Warren, Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller. These were social liberals. Likewise, Nixon was a proponent of mandatory employer-based health insurance.
The GOP became more conservative over time. Why? At least two reasons:
i) The GOP moved into the Bible belt. It supplanted the Democrat party in the South.
ii) As the Democrat party embraced abortion, feminism, gay rights, &c., the GOP became the haven of social conservatives.
Republicans like Arlen Specter were throwbacks to a more socially liberal party.
That's the past. What about recent history? Bush 43 opposed gays in the military. Obama, with Democrat supermajorities in Congress, swept it aside.
Obamacare passed on a party line vote, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing it.
What about the present situation? In North Carolina, a Republican governor spearheaded a law to ban unisex bathrooms. It passed by a party line vote in the NC senate. The Obama administration is now threatening NC. Conversely, Democrat NYC mayor Blasio signed a bill mandating unisex bathroom and locker room access.
Likewise, in Mississippi, a Republican governor just signed into law a religious liberty bill. This passed by a party line vote.
The Democrat and Republican parties are not interchangeable. For another comparison and contrast: