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

By Michael Bowen | Go to book overview

TWO
Communism vs. Republicanism,
1946–1948

Entering 1946, the Old Guard continued to undermine Thomas Dewey’s control of the Republican Party. The congressional statement of policy had checked Dewey’s plans to reshape the GOP as a moderate alternative to the New Deal and forced RNC chairman Herbert Brownell to change his tone or risk appearing out of step with the party he led. With the congressional elections of 1946 looming, the national chairmanship became even more critical for the presidential nomination. Midterm elections were essentially trial runs. Mounting a strong off-year campaign would demonstrate to party elites that a candidate’s organization could manage a successful national election drive and make a strong case for their continued control. In April 1946 the Taftites capitalized on a bit of good timing and increased discontent with the Dewey faction to seize the chairmanship of the RNC. In the months that followed, the Taft-controlled national organization mounted an aggressive campaign that secured the first Republican congressional majority since the Great Depression and moved the factional conflict beyond the narrow scope of the Republican organization to Capitol Hill. In the subsequent Eightieth Congress, Taft coordinated a legislative agenda that attacked many of the key programs of the New Deal and created a Republican identity at odds with Dewey’s moderate stance. The shift toward an ideological disagreement became a bit more evident as the groups increasingly identified themselves as conservative and liberal even though differences in their governance remained slight. Though the two factions organized to promote specific candidates, their competing visions for the GOP continued to diverge but were not yet irreconcilable.

In late February 1946 the Dewey faction faced a difficult strategic decision. Dewey was running for reelection in New York, and with Brownell

-35-

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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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