Perhaps the Republicans gathered in Tampa, Fla., are hoping to repeat the magic of 1896, when Republican William McKinley, who supported the gold standard, defeated the candidate of the incumbent Democratic Party, William Jennings "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold" Bryan, who did not.
At the Republican National Convention, the platform committee has called on Congress to establish a "gold commission" to examine restoring the country to the gold standard. The Federal Reserve would only be able to issue as many dollars as it had gold reserves to back them, effectively taking monetary policy out of the Fed's hands.
A previous Republican president, Richard Nixon, broke the last link between the dollar and gold in 1971, as the oil crisis began, and the dollar has been allowed to float against other currencies -- with occasional nudges from the Fed one way or another -- ever since.
However, the gold standard was far from dead as a matter of GOP policy. In 1980, the convention that nominated Ronald Reagan called for creation of such a commission in the belief that the gold standard was the only way to break the crippling inflation afflicting the country.
The inflation rate in 1981, when Reagan took office, was a scary 10.3 percent.
Reagan did appoint a commission, but it disappointed the gold bugs when it reported back: "Restoring a gold standard does not appear to be a fruitful method for dealing with the continuing problem of inflation."
Instead, Fed Chairman Paul Volcker's tight-money policy and a short but brutal recession broke the cycle, and by 1983 the inflation rate was 3.2 percent, close to its postwar average.
The gold standard has a small and articulate band of advocates, mostly GOP conservatives, but opinion generally is that going back to the standard is a bad idea.
Said the Financial Times: "A return to a fixed money supply would remove the central bank's ability to offset demand shocks by varying interest rates. That could mean a more volatile economy and/or higher average unemployment over time."
That means the Fed would be unable to pump large quantities of liquidity into the economy as it did when the credit markets froze in 2008 and 2009. By becoming the lender of last resort, the Fed prevented a recession from becoming a full-blown depression.
It's odd that the gold standard would surface as an issue now, when inflation is running at 1.4 percent.
Perhaps the plank is a farewell present to GOP libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, a longtime advocate of the gold standard and abolishing the Fed, who is retiring this year.