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

By Michael Bowen | Go to book overview

SEVEN
Prelude to a Purge,
1952–1953

The presidential election of 1952, fundamentally transformed the nearly decade-long power struggle between Taft and Dewey. Eisenhower’s nomination left Dewey optimistic. Eisenhower was a legitimate political phenomenon who connected with voters of all races, classes, and regions. His involvement had led to a tripling of the turnout in the New Hampshire primary, and he polled strongly among Democrats and independents everywhere, something no Republican had done since the 1920s. Political columnists saw Eisenhower as a 1950s incarnation of Franklin Roosevelt, right down to his charming smile and disarming demeanor, and they repeatedly claimed that he could reshape the Republican Party just as FDR had transformed the Democratic Party twenty years earlier. At the core of their analysis was Dewey’s set of “forward-looking principles,” the moderate, inclusive style of Republicanism central to his 1944 and 1948 presidential bids. Even though the candidate initially paid lip service to the Taftite conservatives and campaigned as a traditional Republican, Dewey still had a great deal of influence as the GOP appeared to be on the verge of a landmark shift in political identity. The Old Guard and strong conservatives inside and outside the party looked on with disdain, thinking another “me-too” campaign would bring a sixth consecutive defeat. Taft stood in an unenviable position. Even though his party had rejected him, he remained the leader of both the Old Guard and the congressional Republicans. The Democrats had controlled American politics for two decades, so a successful campaign would likely need all members of the minority party working for the cause. The GOP depended on Taft, his sizable organization, and his grassroots supporters to participate fully in the effort. Taft, cognizant of the realities facing the candidate, the party, and the county, put aside his anger and formed a reluctant partnership with

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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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