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History of the Republican Party


Turmoil

Eisenhower's vice president, Richard Nixon, lost the 1960 presidential election to John F. Kennedy by the narrowest margin in U.S. history, and, with the establishment of the Camelot mystique, it seemed the Republican Party was again at an ebb in the political tide. Yet four years later, Sen. Barry Goldwater emerged to revitalize the grass-roots strength of the GOP with his energy and his laissez-faire principles, and despite losing the presidential election to Lyndon B. Johnson, the Republican Party slowly re-established itself.

In 1968, Nixon led the party to victory in a hard-fought presidential contest. In the next four years, Nixon established his place in history as an expert in foreign affairs. He firmly believed that the United States had a form of government that was better than any other system, and therefore, the United States should play a major role in world politics in order to protect American interests as well as to promote our values. He opened relations with mainland China, which not only led 20 years later to a major market for American products but also fundamentally altered the Cold War strategic balance. He ended the U.S. involvement in Vietnam--a war that had torn this country apart. He dramatically improved American security through his policy of detente with the USSR, which led to the signing of the ABM and other arms control treaties.

Domestically, Nixon brought inflation under control by implementing the traditional Republican policy of fiscal control and by the innovative tactic of cutting the dollar loose from the gold standard. In addition, The Clean Air Act, which began the process of environmental controls in the United States, was crafted and passed under the Nixon administration. His administration also promoted America's manned space program.

Nixon won a landslide victory in 1972, carrying every state except Massachusetts. In 1973, Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice President while under investigation for corruption during his term in the 1960s as county executive of Baltimore County, Maryland. Using provisions of the 25th Amendment, President Nixon appointed House Republican Leader Gerald R. Ford to the vice presidency. When Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal in 1974, Ford assumed the presidency, selecting former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president.

Under the Ford administration, the United States regained its confidence in politics and in the integrity of national government. At the same time, America's double-digit inflation rate was cut in half, taxes were cut significantly and the role of municipal and state governments was enhanced by reducing federal government expansion. However, the country's first appointed president was denied election to office in 1976 by a narrow loss to Jimmy Carter.