Richard Nixon and the Quest for a New Majority

By Robert Mason | Go to book overview

ONE
THE
FORGOTTEN
AMERICANS
The Republican Quest
for a Majority
in the 1960s

The 1960s began, as it would end, with appeals by a leading Republican for the support of forgotten Americans. In January 1961, Barry Goldwater, a senator from Arizona and an influential conservative, issued "A Statement of Proposed Republican Principles, Programs and Objectives," speaking to the "forgotten" and "silent" Americans "who quietly go about the business of paying and praying, working and saving." Goldwater identified them as the voters who could restore the Republican Party to majority status.1

As Goldwater saw it, the Republican Party should seek new support by campaigning vigorously in opposition to the dominant strand of American liberalism. While mainstream liberals did not question the basic structures of the capitalist system, they saw two significant roles for government to fulfill. First, the government should ease human problems created by the capitalist economy, primarily through programs of social insurance that helped the needy poor. Second, the government should undertake limited intervention in the economy to promote its continuing buoyancy. Democrats were the more enthusiastic advocates of government activism, but many Republicans sup- ported a paler version of similar policies, prompted by pragmatism if not by principle.

Goldwater offered a devastating criticism of these ideas. This government activism, he insisted, dangerously attacked traditional virtues of individual enterprise and self-reliance. Such policies pandered to the demands of interest groups and did not respond to individuals' needs. The growth of government,

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