Dole Must Appeal To Conservative and Moderate Republicans
SAN DIEGO — For nearly half a century the Republican Party has been beset by a "coming together" problem. Back in the 1950s there were Taft Republicans and Eisenhower Republicans. The division was never a clear one because both were conservative on economic issues. But Ike called himself a "progressive" on matters relating to human relationships. And his followers called themselves "moderates."
The defining issue was civil rights. Moderate Republicans, claiming the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, believed that Republicans should be sensitive to the rights of African-Americans and attentive to their problems. Only gradually have the conservative Republicans come around to this point of view.
Nelson Rockefeller took up the torch from Eisenhower and became the leader of the moderates' cause - so much so that today followers of this wing of the party are more likely to call themselves Rockefeller Republicans than Eisenhower Republicans. And the conservatives are more likely to say they are Goldwater Republicans than Taft Republicans.
Today, of course, Bob Dole has a big "coming together" problem. He "liked Ike," and has a good record on civil rights. Yet on what many see as a "separating" issue - abortion rights - he is a bit ambivalent. He's striving to make room within the party for, and garner support from - those on both sides of the issue.
Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans are also strong on civil liberties. Thus, they decry Mr. Dole's alliance with the Christian right, underscoring their insistence on the separation of church and state. They are particularly uncomfortable with government financial support of private schools - through a school voucher program - which Dole is advocating.
But Dole must somehow bring Republicans together if he is to win. Eisenhower did it. He made his peace with Taft after a convention where many Taft backers felt their man had been robbed of the nomination. Indeed the Eisenhower years were marked by harmony among Republicans, and with this unity came two terms for Ike.
The Republicans have never won without both wings of the party being behind the presidential candidate. Richard Nixon was moderate enough on domestic issues to attract the moderates. And his championing of anticommunism turned him into a darling of the conservatives.
Many of the moderates never quite accepted Mr. Nixon as their leader. Many of them went over to Kennedy in 1960. But in 1968 and '72 most moderates voted for Nixon - partly because they couldn't accept what they saw as the extreme liberalism of Humphrey and McGovern. Ronald Reagan brought both wings of the party behind him. It's debatable that Reagan was a Goldwater (or Taft) conservative, but he also espoused much affection for Ike. This personable politician somehow brought all Republicans behind him and kept winning - first in the California governorship and then in the presidency.
It's arguable that George Bush lost in 1992 because voters didn't like his ties with the Christian right and his stand on abortion; many conservatives voted for Perot because they were upset over Mr. Bush's failure to abide by his pledge not to raise taxes. Thus, Bush lost many voters in both wings of his party, many of whom had stuck together and behind him in 1988 simply because he had been Reagan's vice president.
There are still two ideological thrusts within the Republican Party - conservative and moderate. And to win the presidency the GOP candidate must persuade those who hold one or the other of these conflicting views to come together and vote for him.
Just before the convention, Kemp told journalists at a Monitor breakfast that he was really an "Abraham Lincoln" Republican. That position reaches out to moderates. At the same time, his advocacy of "Reagonomics" should appeal to the conservatives.