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

By Michael Bowen | Go to book overview

EIGHT
Moderating Republicanism,
1953–1964

With Taft’s death the Old Guard lost both its guiding force and its most visible public presence. Without its figurehead and legislative leader, the conservative faction lost much of its cohesiveness just as the White House and the RNC planned a concerted effort to remove its members from the Republican organization. No other partisan had enough stature to challenge Eisenhower and the moderate agenda of the Dewey wing effectively. The two who would do so later in the decade, Senators William F. Khowland and Barry Goldwater, openly expressed their displeasure with certain policies, but in the mid-1950s neither had the reputation or following of Taft. As the conservatives searched for a new leader, the Dewey wing escalated its purge of the Old Guard and sought to use Eisenhower’s popularity to rebuild the GOP as a liberal organization. As the Deweyites would discover, a personality-driven campaign could succeed in a presidential contest with the right candidate but by itself could not provide a stable base for a political party. As the battle for the party’s identity continued, the Old Guard slowly gave way to a new generation of Republican opposition. Without a strong leader to coalesce around, this new group organized itself on the basis of conservative ideas and principles and solidified the ideological divisions with the GOP and American politics more broadly. Eisenhower’s personal moderation led to numerous policies that further angered conservatives and provoked them to challenge the administration and the GOP from within. By 1960 party insiders, who had initially backed candidates out of self-interest and patronage, factored ideology much more prominently into their decisions.1

In 1953 the Republicans had not occupied the executive branch for twenty years and had difficulty staffing the bureaucracy. Throughout the 1952, campaign, the GOP had pledged to clean up the “mess in Washing-

-173-

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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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