Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Views from the Extreme Left, or What Then Was Republican Modernism

Hugh Scott. Come to the Party: An Incisive Argument for Moderate Republicanism. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1968.

Hugh Scott, in this book published in 1968, traces the struggles between conservatives and moderates for control of Republican philosophy and candidates to the 1940 Wendell Willkie Presidential campaign. These “Tories” refused to embrace the Willkie idea that government could be reformed to operate better. Willkie was very critical of much of the New Deal yet wished to preserve those programs that helped the general public. The far right Tories instead wanted to tear apart the government as well as the Republican Party establishment.

A mistake Republicans did, Scott believed, during the 1930s was they rejected Social Security. Instead, Republicans should have taken to improve it. The continued fighting against any government program alienated the Republican Party with voters who found these programs were improving their lives.

Scott chides the “tyrannosauric Republicans” who turned their backs on moderate Republicanism. Scott notes the 1964 landslide defeat of conservative Barry Goldwater for President as an indication that conservatism is not a wise electoral direction.

Scott notes that during the 1960 Nixon for President campaign that far right zealots became more active in Republican politics. Believers in the Communist takeover conspiracy gained root in the Republican Party. Members of the far right John Birch Society became more prevalent in Republican circles. The Mississippi Republican state organization was led by white supremists.

The growing right wing of the Republican Party openly spoke against the “Eastern Establishment” that they claimed had some imagined control of the country. This offended many modern Republicans along the East Coast. In addition, the “barbarism of the lunatic fringe” offended Blacks and drove African Americans out of the Republican Party.

Scott served in Congress and was defeated for reelection in 1942. He then served active duty in World War II on the USS Mt. Olympus. In 1948, he was the only World War II veteran of the Republican National Committee. Thomas Dewey, the Republican Presidential nominee, saw the votes of veterans as important and he named Scott the Republican National Chairman. Scott in retrospect notes that Dewey tried to run a low key campaign with general positions, bland speeches, and passive statements. President Truman meanwhile used the “Turnip Day” to hurt Republicans by requesting the Republican majority Congress to enact the Republican Party platform. When Congress declined to do so, Truman attacked the Republicans for fearing to support their own policies. Truman won.

The Republican factionalized into several camps. There was the Robert Taft faction that attacked Truman and the Eastern Establishment. Scott resigned as Republican National Chairman in 1949. Taft supporters gained control of the Republican National Committee. Republican moderates asked for party unity but did not receive it. Republican Senator Charles Tobey of New Hampshire urged Republicans to stop attacking social welfare programs as socialism and instead “develop a heart as well as a head”.

Southern Republican organizations, in states which then were solidly Democratic, were mostly “paper organizations” according to Scott. They were not interested in developing an election operation for the Republican Party. They existed to bolster the national far right movement.

A problem with Taft supporters controlling the Republican National Committee developed during the 1952 Republican National Convention. Taft supporters were a majority of the Rules and Credentials Committee. The public objected to the heavy handed operations that the Taft supporters did on these committees. Uncommitted delegates who were leaning towards Taft was upset and switched to Dwight Eisenhower. During the first ballot, Eisenhower led with 595 votes to 500 for Taft, 81 for Earl Warren, 20 for Harold Stassen, and 10 for Douglas MacArthur. Eisenhower was nine votes short of the nomination when Stassen had 19 of his vote switched to Eisenhower, leading to a rally where the vote was 845 for Eisenhower to 280 for Taft before the nomination was made unanimous.

Eisenhower wanted someone young and from the West on his ticket, and he picked Richard Nixon as his running mate.

Scott believes that forcing Sherman Adams to resign as Assistant to President Eisenhower was too extreme a punishment for his accepting favors to influence policies. Scott does not condone the behavior but believe such behavior was more common than most realize and Adams was being singled out.

Scott notes the irony of the compromise that admitted Alaska and Hawaii to the union. It was believed that Alaska would elect Democrats and Hawaii would elect Republicans to Congress. The reverse in both states became the norm.

Hugh Scott was the only Republican in Pennsylvania who won a statewide election who he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Democrats nationally took away 13 Republican U.S. Senate seats, most of the defeats attributed to right wing Republican candidates. Scott became one of three new Republican Senators, all moderates, along with Kenneth Keating of New York and Winston Prouty of Vermont.

Scott reached across the aisle and did a bipartisan television with Pennsylvania’ s Democratic Senator Joseph Clark.

Hugh Scott chaired the Pennsylvania delegation to the 1960 Republican National Convention, defeating State Sen. M. Harvey Taylor by 46 to 22.

Scott observes that the Democratic Party, circa 1969, was having problems with its left leaning younger Democrats. Scott believes the Republican Party, back then, should have been reaching out and gaining millions of disgruntled younger voters. Scott and subsequent Republican Party nominee Richard Nixon supported the Vietnam War, which was an issue that would keep many of these voters from turning Republican.

Scott heralded the rise of modern Republicans. He observed how Governor Raymond Shafer helped provide Pennsylvania with a modern Constitution, how Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland implemented tax reform, how Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York reformed the state’s transportation system, and how Governor John Love of Colorado approved the country’s most liberal abortion law. Obviously, Scott probably would not have been happy to see the rise of the anti-abortion social conservatism within the future Republican Party.


Post a Comment

<< Home