Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP

Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP

Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP

Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP

Synopsis

In Turning Right in the Sixties, Mary Brennan describes how conservative Americans from a variety of backgrounds, feeling disfranchised and ignored, joined forces to make their voices heard and by 1968 had gained enough power within the party to play the decisive role in determining who would be chosen as the presidential nominee. Building on Barry Goldwater's shortlived bid for the presidential nomination in 1960, Republican conservatives forged new coalitions, aided by an increasingly vocal conservative press, and began to organize at the grassroots level. Their goal was to nominate a conservative in the next election, and eventually they gained enough support to guarantee Goldwater the nomination in 1964. Liberal Republicans, as Brennan demonstrates, failed to stop this swing to the right. Brennan argues that Goldwater's loss to Lyndon Johnson in the general election has obscured the more significant fact that conservatives had wrestled control of the Republican Party from the moderates who had dominated,it for years. The lessons conservatives learned in that campaign aided them in 1968 when they were able to force Richard Nixon to cast himself as a conservative candidate, says Brennan, and also laid the groundwork for Ronald Reagan's presidential victory in 1980.

Excerpt

During the 1960s, while the majority of Americans were contemplating the fortunes and misfortunes of liberalism, conservatives methodically, and somewhat surreptitiously, became a dominant force in national politics by gaining control of the Republican Party. Disorganized and divided in 1960, defeated spectacularly in 1964, the Right at first glance appeared to be as obsolete and ineffective as liberals claimed. Yet despite its seeming impotence, the Right evolved into a complex, organized, and effective political force that dominated the gop by 1968 and eventually secured the election of a staunch conservative as president in 1980.

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing in the succeeding years, a one- dimensional view of the 1960s as a decade of radical movements drew the focus away from other important developments occurring during that time. Journalists and scholars, by spotlighting only the protesters, students, hippies, and demonstrators, ignored the action taking place at stage right and therefore presented a lopsided view of the decade. They spoke of political and social polarization but concentrated their attention and study . . .

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