Seeking A New Majority: The Republican Party and American Politics, 1960-1980

By Bass, Harold F. | The Historian, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

Seeking A New Majority: The Republican Party and American Politics, 1960-1980


Bass, Harold F., The Historian


Seeking A New Majority: The Republican Party and American Politics, 1960-1980. Edited by Robert Mason and Iwan Morgan. (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 2013. Pp. vii, 238. $39.95.)

This edited volume effectively analyzes events associated with the generally upward trajectory in Republican Party fortunes in recent decades. The explicitly titled timeframe, 1960-1980, is overly restrictive. Several chapters extend the calendar to provide background and follow-through.

The editors ably provide introductory and concluding chapters. The introduction outlines the eleven chapters to come within the broad context of the deterioration of the Democratic Party's New Deal coalition that provided the GOP with an opportunity to reestablish itself as the majority party for the first time since the onset of the Great Depression. The epilogue carries the party-building narrative forward from 1980 to the present.

The chapters themselves offer eclectic, occasionally idiosyncratic accounts of pieces of the puzzle. The initial chapter focuses on the advancement of conservative ideological homogeneity within the ranks of the party faithful. Donald T. Critchlow identifies the ideological currents within the triumphant conservative movement that came to dominate a party in which moderates and liberals had long prevailed in factional struggles.

Four chapters detail party-building initiatives focused on region, religion, gender, and race and ethnicity. Timothy Thurber analyzes the remarkable rise in the party's fortunes in the South, rooting it in race, economic development, and culture. Robert Freedman assesses the rise of the religious Right and its alliance with the Republicans. Joe Merton considers the party's successful outreach efforts directed toward white ethics in the 1970s, which was aimed at detaching them from their traditional Democratic loyalties. In turn, Catherine Rymph details the party's more problematical efforts to accommodate expectations for more racial and gender diversity, focusing on the national party organization's enactment of party rules. …

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