Judge Lowell never made it to the 80s. The last year the character was on the cast list is 1978 or maybe 1979. I don't think he was seen much in the few years prior to that. He was most definitely not on the show in the 80s.
I'm reminded of the months after the 2004 election where there was a great deal of hype, and gushing media praise, over W and Karl Rove winning over black and Hispanic voters through social conservatism. I still remember going to some of the 'progressive' blog sites and seeing diary entries along the lines of, "Time to throw gays under the bus?" Sometimes I still wonder what might have happened if the GOP had not massively screwed up in 2005 in ways even the press couldn't cover.
One of the strengths the GOP has is that it exists only to cut taxes for the rich, appoint judges, and block anything Democrats want to do. This is still seen as perfectly fine, as the ideal, by many voters, the press, and many in the Democratic Party. That is why you have even the simplest policies which could win over voters and help people, like more flexible drug pricing, has been shut down by the "reasonable" and "bipartisan" Democrats in Congress who profit from nothing ever getting done.