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Roots of Modern Conservatism

Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party

Michael Bowen

Publication Year: 2011

Between 1944 and 1953, a power struggle emerged between New York governor Thomas Dewey and U.S. senator Robert Taft of Ohio that threatened to split the Republican Party. Bowen reveals how this two-man battle for control of the GOP--and the Republican presidential nomination--escalated into a divide of ideology that ultimately determined the party's political identity.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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pp. 1-1


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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

Abbreviations and Acronyms

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-14

On a cold, rainy night in April 1952, Robert Taft addressed a near-capacity crowd of thousands at Pittsburgh’s Syria Mosque. Though his reputation for downright dull public appearances preceded him, he received an enthusiastic welcome. Over the previous five months Taft had actively...

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ONE. Thirst for Power and Self-Perpetuation, 1944–1946

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pp. 15-34

In late 1944 the Republican Party was in complete disarray. The Grand Old Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, lost its way after the stock market crash of 1929 and had yet to recover. Republicans had readily taken credit for the economic policies that had birthed the...

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TWO. Communism vs. Republicanism, 1946–1948

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pp. 35-55

Entering 1946, the Old Guard continued to undermine Thomas Dewey’s control of the Republican Party. The congressional statement of policy had checked Dewey’s plans to reshape the gop as a moderate alternative to the New Deal and forced rnc chairman Herbert Brownell to change...

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THREE. Opportunity Wasted, 1948

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pp. 56-74

Taft’s leadership in the Eightieth Congress reflected his disdain for the liberal policies of the preceding sixteen years and his desire to promote the Republicans as a conservative alternative to the Democrats. Though he found a degree of success on Capitol Hill, this did not directly...

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FOUR. A Nation of Morons, 1949–1950

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pp. 75-108

Historians often tell the story of the 1948 presidential election from the point of view of the Democrats. Truman’s upset victory reaffirming the principles of modern liberalism in the face of a badly divided party makes for a compelling narrative. Dewey and his self-important, ineffective...

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FIVE. The Great Republican Mystery, 1951–1952

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pp. 109-129

The 1950 election results did nothing to quell Republican factionalism as both Taft and Dewey saw the outcomes as further justification for their electoral strategies. As the gop made preparations for the 1952 presidential campaign, the national political climate remained fairly static. The...

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SIX. If We Sleep on This, We Are Really Suckers, 1952

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pp. 130-152

The preconvention campaign ended after Texas with the nomination too close to call. Heading into the national convention in July, each faction claimed it had commitments from roughly 500 to 600 pledged delegates out of 1,209, a much tighter race than the previous two election cycles...

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SEVEN. Prelude to a Purge, 1952–1953

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pp. 153-172

The presidential election of 1952 fundamentally transformed the nearly decade-long power struggle between Taft and Dewey. Eisenhower’s nomination left Dewey optimistic. Eisenhower was a legitimate political phenomenon who connected with voters of all races, classes, and regions...

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EIGHT. Moderating Republicanism, 1953–1964

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pp. 173-200

With Taft’s death the Old Guard lost both its guiding force and its most visible public presence. Without its figurehead and legislative leader, the conservative faction lost much of its cohesiveness just as the White House and the rnc planned a concerted effort to remove its members...

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pp. 201-206

The generational change that brought the strong conservatives to prominence also occurred on the other side of the factional divide. In 1959 Sim DeLapp, leader of the 1952 pro-Eisenhower forces in North Carolina, wrote a long letter to Dewey protesting a patronage appointment...


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pp. 207-238


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pp. 239-246


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pp. 247-254

E-ISBN-13: 9781469602752
E-ISBN-10: 146960275X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834855
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834858

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 755414403
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Roots of Modern Conservatism

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Subject Headings

  • Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ).
  • Conservatism -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1989.
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