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Seeking a New Majority

The Republican Party and American Politics, 1960-1980

Robert Mason

Publication Year: 2013

The rise of the Republican Party from its mid-twentieth-century minority status between 1960 and 1980 had a profound impact on American politics that is still being felt in the second decade of the twenty-first century. The GOP would move to the right in its pursuit of electoral ascendancy, but considerable debate within the party surrounded this shift and its success was far from certain. Ultimately, however, this development would culminate in the transformational election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.

Seeking a New Majority assembles an international group of scholars to move beyond the ideas and activities of party leaders who have hitherto received the bulk of historical attention. It illuminates how the Republican Party expanded its regional base, especially in the South, appealed to new constituencies ranging from blue-collar workers to Christian fundamentalists, and enhanced the political appeal of conservatism. It also examines how Republicans engaged in a remarkable organizational and intellectual mobilization to challenge Democratic Party dominance--in search of a new majority.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-5


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pp. vi-vii

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pp. viii-9

This book grows out of a conference co-organized by the Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA), part of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, and the University of Edinburgh’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology. As editors, we would like to acknowledge the financial support that the conference received from ISA, the British Association for American Studies, and (with particular thanks...

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Introduction: Republicans in Search of a New Majority

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pp. 10-21

The 1960s and 1970s were a time of social, economic, and political tumult in the United States. The upheavals of this era had profound consequences for the nation’s two main political parties. Having enjoyed majority status since the New Deal, the Democratic Party lost its clear-cut ascendancy in national politics. With the opposition in...

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1. The Rise of Conservative Republicanism: A History of Fits and Starts

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pp. 22-40

One of the most significant developments in modern American political history was the rise of a self-identified conservative movement, which would turn the Republican Party into a voice of conservatism. Increasingly the Republican Party became a home to conservatives, driving out liberal Republicans, the so-called eastern wing of the party. This transformation came slowly, often by fits and starts, and with a good deal...Timothy N. Thurber

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2. Race, Region, and the Shadow of the New Deal

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pp. 41-65

American politics in the early twenty-first century has become a mirror image of what it was a century ago. One reversal relates to region. The South, once overwhelmingly Democratic, constitutes the most loyal base of the Republican Party. During the presidency of George W. Bush, the conservative, southern, evangelical Christian wing of the GOP set the rhetorical tone and policy directions in the executive and legislative branches. Moderate...

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3. “The Republican Party Is Truly the Party of the 'Open Door'": Ethnic Americans and the Repubican Party in the 1970s

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pp. 66-84

The year 1965 was not a happy time for Republicans. Barry Goldwater’s landslide defeat in the previous year’s presidential election had left behind only disunity, bitterness, and disillusionment. Public identification with the Republican Party was a meager 24 percent, less than half that of the Democrats.1 Political scientist Walter Dean Burnham...

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4. The Republican Party and the Problem of Diversity, 1968–1975

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pp. 85-98

In July 2005, Republican National Committee (RNC) chair Ken Mehlman delivered a widely covered address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention in Milwaukee. In it, he apologized for his party’s electoral strategy on race. Over the last three decades, Mehlman noted, “some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically...

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5. Republican Populism in the Quest for a New Majority: Pat Buchanan in the White House

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pp. 99-115

This chapter examines the role that conservative populism played in the post–Barry Goldwater revitalization of the Republican Party. Although antiestablishment themes were present in Richard Nixon’s administration and Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns, some populists felt that the GOP failed to appreciate their potency...

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6. John Tower, Texas, and the Rise of the Republican South

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pp. 116-132

IIn 1961, a short, unimposing, former college professor named John Tower shocked political observers nationwide by winning a seat in the United States Senate. The main cause of surprise was that a Republican had won—in Texas. Texas was a Democratic state, had always been a Democratic state, and seemed as reliably Democratic as any state of the “solid South.” Tower’s election, albeit under special circumstances, was the first statewide...

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7. Uneasy Alliance: The Religious Right and the Republican Party

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pp. 133-151

In late 1978, the Reverend Jerry Falwell declared to readers of his Thomas Road Baptist Church newspaper, “Fundamental Christianity and liberal politics cannot rightly mix, any more than oil and water. The two positions are poles apart.”1 A few months later, the Lynchburg, Virginia–based pastor launched a “Clean Up America” campaign, claiming...

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8. Building Consensus: The Republican Right and Foreign Policy, 1960-1980

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pp. 152-168

During the early stages of the campaigns for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination, the conservative movement spearheaded by Barry Goldwater was reported to have “collapsed, leaving a bad taste in many mouths.” According to one analyst, the “delay and bickering” among conservative activists were simply aiding the efforts of moderate and liberal Republicans such as George Romney to capture...

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9. Foreign Policy and the Republican Quest for a New Majority

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pp. 169-187

One of the 1976 presidential campaign’s most memorable moments took place at the first-ever vice presidential debate, between Senators Robert J. Dole of Kansas and Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota, respectively the Republican and Democratic candidates. Asked about Watergate’s salience as an election issue, Dole responded that the scandal had no more relevance in 1976 than did the past failings of the Democrats...

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10. Taxation as a Republican Issue in the Era of Stagflation

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pp. 188-205

n 2004, when George W. Bush’s presidency was in full tax-cutting pomp, Stephen Moore—conservative activist and head of the Washington-based Club for Growth—remarked on the transformation of the GOP since the early 1960s. “It has evolved over the past forty years,” he declared, “from being a party of Eisenhower balanced-budget Republicans into a party of Reaganite progrowth advocates.”1 The second half of...

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11. Rendezvous with Destiny: The Republican Party and the 1980 Election

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pp. 206-221

On Thursday, August 19, 1976, the day after his epic campaign for the Republican presidential nomination had ended in defeat, Ronald Reagan bade farewell to his campaign staff in the ballroom of the Alameda Plaza in Kansas City. The room was packed to bursting point, and the air crackled with sadness and regret, but Reagan had rarely been in more moving form. As his young supporters stood there with...

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Epilogue: The Ongoing Republican Search for a New Majority since 1980

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pp. 222-237

The outcome of the 1980 elections encouraged Republicans to believe that they were on the verge of establishing themselves as the new majority party in American politics, but this proved to be another false dawn in the wake of the disappointments of the Nixon era. The pattern of hopes raised and promise unfulfilled would become a common one for the GOP over the next thirty years. Whenever the party appeared close...


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pp. 238-239


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pp. 231-238

E-ISBN-13: 9780826518910
E-ISBN-10: 0826518915
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826518897

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013