whistle stop comebacks like Harry Truman‘s in 1948 became increasingly difficult.
Only the overwhelming support of organized labor, in the form of millions of dollars and thousandsof volunteers, narrowed the election.
The narrowness of the election, however, only somewhatobscured the fact that the Democratic Party was now rudderless while the Republicans were unitedbehind a master political architect.
Nixon had returned from a political wasteland to lead a rejuvenated Republican Party. He was moreover, by the definitions of the day, a conservative.
Yet there was a difference between
Barry Goldwater‘s movement and Richard Nixon, who had called Goldwater‘s candidacy ―atragedy‖ until it was no longer politically expedient to do so.
Whereas Goldwater wanted to destroy his enemies
he famously hauled Walter Reuther before a Congressional investigation
Nixonsought to co-opt them.
He spent much of his first term building what he called a ―New Majority‖
to replace the New Deal Coalition.
He especially sought to pry organized labor, which had almostbeen his downfall in 1968, from its traditional allies in the Democratic Party. Though he was unableto win over labor leaders like AFL
George Meany, Nixon‘s appeals to the ―Hard–
ters‖ and men like Peter Brennan, head of the New York building trades, helped immensely
in securing the votes of rank and file union members.
Nixon‘s political calculus was vindicated during the election of 1972. Not only did he crush
George McGovern, but he won 54% of the union vote as well.
Just under two years later, however,Richard Nixon was forced to resign in the wake of the Watergate scandal; a crime which resulted inthe worst constitutional crisis since Reconstruction.
His resignation threw the reins of power in theRepublican Party
to a conservative movement which had been waiting to return since Buckley‘s
speech in 1964. They were almost able to unseat an incumbent Republican president, Gerald Ford,at the 1976 convention.
Four years later, they had their apotheosis.