The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party

By Michael Bowen | Go to book overview

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

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 prosperity of the Roaring Twenties, but doing so gave them ownership of the Great Depression as well. Through the 1930s, as the economy struggled, the Republicans became synonymous with ruin and despair. By 1942 wartime industrial production had revitalized the economy, but despite some gains in Congress, the Republicans remained somewhere between irrelevance and oblivion. The presidential election of 1944 brought the fourth consecutive victory for Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, an extraordinary feat considering that the Democrats had only won four presidential contests during the seventy-two years prior to FDR’S first election in 1932. Roosevelt and his New Deal changed the rules of American politics, expanding the role and responsibility of the federal government and making the political system more responsive to previously marginalized groups such as organized labor and African Americans. The Republicans were essentially caught flat-footed in the face of these sweeping changes. The party lacked effective leadership during this period, unable to mount any opposition as the political landscape shifted dramatically. After the 1944 defeat, the GOP appeared destined to remain the minority party for the foreseeable future. Since the founding of the Republic, no party had lost five consecutive presidential elections and survived. Many saw the 1948 election cycle as a must-win contest for the continued existence of the Republican Party.

The desperation of late 1944 prompted the Republicans to thoroughly re-examine their position and search for a new political identity, away to

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The Roots of Modern Conservatism: Dewey, Taft, and the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms ix
  • Introduction 1
  • One - Thirst for Power and Self-Perpetuation, 1944–1946 15
  • Two - Communism vs. Republicanism, 1946–1948 35
  • Three - Opportunity Wasted, 1948 56
  • Four - A Nation of Morons, 1949–1950 75
  • Five - The Great Republican Mystery, 1951–1952 109
  • Six - If We Sleep on This, We Are Really Suckers, 1952 130
  • Seven - Prelude to a Purge, 1952–1953 153
  • Eight - Moderating Republicanism, 1953–1964 173
  • Conclusion 201
  • Notes 207
  • Bibliography 239
  • Index 247
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