Perhaps one of the clearest ways to track that evolution is by comparing the Republican National Committee's official platforms. As the New York Times noted on Wednesday, the RNC's official planks from 1980 -- the dawn of neo-conservatism following the election of President Ronald Reagan -- and 2012 almost seem like they come from two different parties, with the newest version taking on noticeably more partisan, even vitriolic, line of language.
1980: While the GOP also affirmed its support for a constitutional amendment that "affirms the right to life for unborn children," they at least acknowledged that there are "differing views on this question among Americans in general -- and in our own party."
2012: This version almost implies that the only truly American position to take on the issue is to be anti-choice, asserting that, "Faithful to the 'self-evident' truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed."
But it's okay if a person's existence actually stemmed from their mother's personal space being, well, infringed upon. That's because, these days, the RNC says abortion is only permissible if a woman's life is in danger, without exception for incidents of rape or incest.
1980: Back then, Republicans supported "public policies that will promote electoral participation without compromising ballot-box security."
2012: Now, the RNC "[applauds] legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud ..."
Fourteen states, accounting for 171 electoral voters, have recently enacted voting restrictions- such as requiring voters to show government -issued photo IDs before casting their ballot - that will likely affect more than five million Americans this election cycle, according to an analysis from the Brennan Center for Justice.
"These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities," states the report, which adds the changes "may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election."
1980: The GOP took pains to "reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principle of fairness in labor relations, including the legal right of unions to organize workers and to represent them through collective bargaining ..."
2012: "We salute the Republican governors and state legislators who have saved their states from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions."
As Gov. Scott Walker's actions in Wisconsin have demonstrated, collective bargaining rights are no longer part of the "fundamental principle of fairness."
1980: "Many urban centers of our nation need dependable and affordable mass transit systems. The role of the federal government should be one of giving financial and technical support to local authorities, through surface transportation block grants."
2012: "Infrastructure programs have traditionally been nonpartisan ... The current administration has changed that, replacing civil engineering with social engineering as it pursues an exclusively urban vision of dense housing and government transit."
Earlier this year, House Republicans attempted to eliminate guaranteed funding for mass transit from the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, something Rep. Jerrod Nadler, D-N.Y., a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wrote would have been a "draconian and unacceptable blow to transit funding."
Bonus! Where did this statement come from?
"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."
That's right. It's from the Republican Party Platform of 1956. Other highlights from that year include a call for progressive taxation ("Further reductions in taxes with particular consideration for low and middle income families") environmentalism ("We favor a comprehensive study of the effect upon wildlife of the drainage of our wetlands" and "We recognize the need for maintaining isolated wilderness areas") and the Equal Rights Amendment ("We recommend to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.")