A Marriage Made in Heaven, Now Destined for Doom? The Long-Term Prospects for the New Right
Division: Humanities; Social Sciences
Dept/Program: History; Political Science
Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research
Mentor(s): John Lapinski
Date of this Version: 01 April 2013
As analysts and pundits scrambled feverishly to publish their obituaries on the Grand Old Party in the wake of the November 2012 Presidential Election, Republicans wandered aimlessly in a state of stunned morosity, searching for answers to questions thought previously to be imponderable regarding the future viability of the Party.
From the latter stages of the 20th century to the early years of the 21st century, America witnessed two different versions of the Republican Party, marked by their contrasting attitudes toward conservatism. The early Grand Old Party, led by fiscal conservatives and foreign policy hawks, and exemplified vividly by the Hoover, Taft, and Eisenhower presidential administrations, was hinged firmly on a vision of free market economics. However, Republican leaders, amidst the cultural and fiscal uncertainties of the 1970s, recognized that the problems of the nation extended well beyond the economic realm. They sensed correctly that Americans desired a Party whose fiscal conservative principles would be guided by a moral compass. It was at this point that members of the burgeoning Christian Right movement and of the Republican Party, understanding the inextricable ties between each of their conservative philosophies, united to form the New Right movement. Ultimately, the alliance between social and fiscal conservatism translated into an extremely compelling dual-dimensioned Republican platform that propelled conservatives, notably, Ronald Reagan, into power and transformed the GOP into a national brand supported by a diverse bipartisan coalition.
As some of the luster of the New Right movement faded in the early 21st century, many Republicans overreacted by shunning publicly the alliance between the Christian Right and the Party. Even worse than the attacks by their critics and Democratic opponents, persistent Republican infighting regarding the appropriate balance of the fiscal and social principles of conservatism undermined Party unity and portended a reversion to one-dimensional politics.
As an interested observer, I am convinced that ignoring the social roots of conservatism will be perilous for the future of the Party. As such, I intend to provide the reader with an understanding of the core ideological ties that bind the conservative philosophy and the various wings of the Republican Party. In this process, I will attempt to explain the relatively recent circumstances that led Republican leaders, particularly presidential candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain, to resort to the doomed monotonic messaging of the early 20th century. Lastly, I will emphasize the urgency with which the Party must utilize the historical blueprint of the New Right era to advance proposals to reinvigorate the dual-dimensional components of the conservative philosophy. Critically, I believe the nation has reached an inflection point, with many Americans demanding that Republican leaders must arise and unite with an unwavering commitment to conservatism.