The Republican Dilemma: Conservatism or Progressivism

The Republican Dilemma: Conservatism or Progressivism

The Republican Dilemma: Conservatism or Progressivism

The Republican Dilemma: Conservatism or Progressivism

Excerpt

Dwight Eisenhower's election in 1952 was widely hailed as the dawn of a political age. The dominant force of this nascent age was to be a "new" policy of government variously called "Modern Republicanism," "New Republicanism," and "Eisenhower Republicanism." At the 1956 Republican National Convention in San Francisco President Eisenhower officially proclaimed the policy of "modern Republicanism." Arthur Larson in his book, A Republican Looks at His Party, anticipated Eisenhower's announcement and tried to distinguish this most recent genre of Republicans from those of bygone days.

The notion that Eisenhower is the original leader of this new Republicanism has gained wide currency. It is reinforced in a negative way by those in and out of his own party who brand him a "socialist" or "a conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy." The bestowing of the leadership mantle on Eisenhower is a sweeping historical generalization oversimplifying the countless forces and circumstances which combined to bring about the changed look that a portion of the party has taken on.

The public personality of Eisenhower is a convenient political symbol but as such misses the drama and struggles which have gripped the Republican party since 1932. What is even more significant, the Eisenhower myth -- which makes him the creator and inspiration for the new Republicanism -- serves to obscure the policies which many of the conservative Republicans have found bitter to swallow. For instance, the Rockefeller-Nixon agreement on the contents of the Republican platform prior to the 1960 convention has been dismissed by many liberals as a mere political expedient while the conservative Republicans have ignored it. Yet, this agreement is one of the clearest examples of the change which has taken place in the Republican party during the past thirty years. The points of the Nixon-Rockefeller agreement as incorporated in the 1960 Republican platform stand in marked contrast to the pledges the Republicans made to the preceding generation.

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