The Rise and Fall of Third Parties: From Anti-Masonry to Wallace

By Willlam B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
THE REPUBLICAN PRESENT

The sweeping success of the Republican Party in 1946 was not a victory for any clear-cut philosophy. It did not mean that either the agrarian liberals of the party nor the reactionaries had won control of the organization. In the Congressional elections of 1946 the most potent slogan was "Had Enough? Vote Republican." The voters, who had clearly had enough, took revenge on the Democrats, but when they voted Republican they endorsed no special program. The Republican Party had failed to formulate such a program.

For 14 years of the New Deal and the second World War, the GOP was characterized by confusion, incredulity, acquiescence, and hopeful expectancy. Divided among themselves, bearing the odium of having been in power when the Great Depression came, the Republicans had been unable to capture the spotlight from the Democrats' dramatic leaders. Young men left the Republican ranks, and seasoned hacks sought office by offering to out-New Deal the Democrats. Confronted by the improvident improvisations of the New Deal, Republicans sounded alarms, pointed fingers of warning, and engaged in all the other cliches of partisan oratory, but they never offered a plausible substitute.

The Republican failure to formulate a program sprang naturally from the party's internal confusions. These confusions had been apparent in the glorious '20s, when the

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