In part one of this article we looked at the pendulum swings over time between Democratic and Republican parties. By the 1960’s there was a shift in opinion over party values. Much of it had to do with changing social values. It was a difficult transition. President Kennedy was assassinated followed by his brother Robert. Civil rights champion Martin Luther King was also murdered. Lyndon Johnson ushered in the legislation of civil rights purportedly acknowledging that doing so would alienate the south for a generation.
And it did. The ‘Dixiecrats’ turned a solid red Republican and have been so since then while the northeast and west coasts have turned solidly blue. That may have something to do with population consolidation as well (greater population concentrations may lend themselves to more cooperative Democratic policies). The Republican Party was fractured into several different groups. Nixon held the base but Libertarianism and conservatism was beginning to take shape in the form of the Goldwater Rebellion. At the same time, George C. Wallace‘s policies were shoring up the resistance to civil rights in the south.
It was known that Lyndon Baines Johnson was a bit of a bully. At six foot four inches, he was a rather imposing figure and when he wanted something done, he wouldn’t hesitate to impose it upon you with all the intimidation he could muster. Whether this helped or hurt him is a matter of academia. Johnson’s posthumous recordings show him as a dichotomous figure; simultaneously torn about the Vietnam conflict and all the while strong-arming people to get his ‘Great Society’ legislation passed. This included civil rights, environmental reform, social benefits such as food stamps, education rights, voting rights, PBS, and even gun control. Johnson’s domestic record is nearly unparalleled in history. His foreign policy; however, would doom him, as he publicly stated that. “I shall not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as President”. These circumstances would perhaps set the tone for Republicans for the next several years. The Goldwater rebellion was about to foster some familiar names.
Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Alan Greenspan, Grover Norquist, Roger Ailes; there would be a number of conservatives who would start their careers during this period.
The seventies would provide little useful change, although to his credit, Nixon ushered in a lot of environmental changes and was finally forced to get us out of Vietnam. And then, of course, Nixon went down in flames. Jimmy Carter; largely considered to be one of the least effective Democratic Presidents, would be the last President elected with an equitable ideology based upon true Democratic principles. There was a big change coming in politics. A new Sheriff was in town; and his name was Ronald Reagan.
Part III later this week.
- This Ain’t Your Grandpa’s Republican Party (538refugees.wordpress.com)
- GOP’s Return To The Right Goes Too Far For Some (npr.org)
- From Dixiecrats to today’s GOP (timesunion.com)