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The GOP's Identity Crisis | The National Interest


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In fact, a dispirited Republican Party struggled to define an agenda throughout the 1960s and would not win control of the Senate until 1980. Republicans would not prevail in the House until the revolution of 1994. Though Republican Richard Nixon was seen as the biggest loser of the 1958 election—an assessment strengthened by his 1960 defeat, which he discussed at length in his book Six Crises—he absorbed the political lessons of these losses as well as Goldwater’s and won the presidency in 1968. Nevertheless, neither Nixon’s election nor his landslide reelection in 1972 would significantly shape the Democrat-dominated Congress. The GOP’s later success on Capitol Hill took place only after a fresh generation of conservatives had emerged, with a new agenda and message.

ONCE AGAIN, Republicans are energetically debating the reasons underlying the GOP’s recent electoral losses. In the aftermath of what then president George W. Bush memorably described as the party’s 2006 midterm “thumping” in the Senate and the House of Representatives, followed by President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential election victories, the GOP is engaged in a fresh bout of soul searching. Yet even after seven years, not to mention losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, neither leaders nor rank-and-file Republicans have managed to agree on the causes or cures of the party’s troubles, even as a new election looms.

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