The political term “Rockefeller Republican” takes its name from Nelson Rockefeller (1908-1979), the Republican governor of New York from 1959 to 1973, who then became vice president of the United States under Gerald Ford. “Rockefeller Republican” dates to 1958 and Rockefeller’s first successful run for governor, but achieved greater definition as Rockefeller’s governorship proceeded.
A “Rockefeller Republican” is a “moderate Republican” or a “liberal Republican,” opposed by a “conservative Republican” such as a “Goldwater Republican” or a “Reagan Republican.” Rockefeller believed in high taxes to pay for large public works, such as the State University of New York, the state Thruway, the capital office buildings at Albany, hospitals, water treatment facilities and parks. Conservative Republicans point to the high taxes and failed social programs as the defining characteristics of “Rockefeller Republicanism.”
The term “Rockefeller Republican” was still used for many years after Nelson Rockefeller’s death in 1979, but gradually began to disappear from the political lexicon—especially after Rockefeller Republicans increasingly failed to win races against Democrats. “Rockefeller Republican” was replaced by the terms “moderate Republican,” “liberal Republican” and “Republican In Name Only” (RINO).
Wikipedia: Nelson Rockefeller
Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (July 8, 1908 – January 26, 1979) was the 41st Vice President of the United States under Gerald Ford, and the 49th Governor of New York, as well as serving the Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Nixon administrations in a variety of positions. He was also a noted businessman, art collector, and philanthropist.
Rockefeller, a Republican, was relatively liberal and his views were generally closer to the Democratic Party’s than the GOP ‘s. In his time liberals in the GOP were called Rockefeller Republicans. As Governor of New York from 1959 to 1973 his achievements included the expansion of the State University of New York, efforts to protect the environment, the building of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza in Albany, increased facilities and personnel for medical care, and creation of the New York State Council on the Arts. After unsuccessfully seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 1960, 1964, and 1968, he served as Vice President from 1974 to 1977 under President Gerald R. Ford, but did not join the 1976 GOP national ticket with President Ford, marking his retirement from politics.
As a businessman he was President and later Chairman of Rockefeller Center, Inc., and he formed the International Basic Economy Corporation in 1947. Rockefeller assembled a significant art collection and promoted public access to the arts. He served as trustee, treasurer, and president, of the Museum of Modern Art, and founded the Museum of Primitive Art in 1954. In the area of philanthropy he established the American International Association for Economic and Social Development in 1946, and with his four brothers he founded the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 1940 and helped guide it.
Main article: Rockefeller Republican
Reflecting his interdisciplinary approach to problem solving Rockefeller took a pragmatic approach to governing. In their book Rockefeller of New York: Executive Power in the State House, Robert Connery and Gerald Benjamin state, “Rockefeller was not committed to any ideology. Rather, he considered himself a practical problem solver, much more interested in defining problems and finding solutions around which he could unite support sufficient to ensure their enactment in legislation than in following either a strictly liberal or strictly conservative course. Rockefeller’s programs did not consistently follow either liberal or conservative ideology.” Early fiscal policies were conservative while later ones were not so. In the later years of his administration “conservative decisions on social programs were paralleled by liberal ones on environmental issues.” Rockefeller was opposed by conservatives in the GOP such as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan because of his liberal political views. As governor, Rockefeller spent more than his predecessors. Rockefeller expanded the state’s infrastructure, increased spending on education including a massive expansion of the State University of New York, and increased the state’s involvement in environmental issues. Rockefeller had good relations with unions, especially the construction trades, which benefited from his extensive building programs. In foreign affairs, Rockefeller supported US involvement in the United Nations as well as US foreign aid. He also supported the U.S.’s fight against communism and its membership in NATO.
Wikipedia: Rockefeller Republican
Rockefeller Republican refers to a faction of the United States Republican Party who held moderate to liberal views similar to those of Nelson Rockefeller. The term largely fell out of use by the end of the twentieth century, and has been replaced by the terms “moderate Republican,” “liberal Republican”, and the derogatory term RINO.
Thomas E. Dewey, governor of New York from 1942 to 1954 and the Republican presidential nominee in 1944 and 1948, was the leader of the moderate wing of the Republican Party in the 1940s and early 1950s, battling conservative Republicans from the Midwest led by Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, known as “Mr. Republican.” With the help of Dewey, General Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Taft for the 1952 presidential nomination and became the leader of the moderates. Eisenhower coined the phrase “Modern Republicanism” to describe his moderate vision of Republicanism.
After Eisenhower, Rockefeller emerged as the leader of the moderate wing of the Republican party, running for President in 1960, 1964 and 1968. Rockefeller Republicans suffered a crushing defeat in 1964 when conservatives captured control of the Republican party and nominated Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona for President.
Other prominent figures in the GOP’s Rockefeller wing included Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer, Illinois Senator Charles H. Percy, Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield, Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller (who was somewhat of an aberration in a conservative, heavily Democratic Southern state) and President Richard Nixon.
After Rockefeller left the national stage in 1976, this faction of the party was more often called “moderate Republicans” or Nixonians, in contrast to the conservatives who rallied to Ronald Reagan.
Historically Rockefeller Republicans were moderate or liberal on domestic and social policies. They typically favored New Deal programs and a social safety net; they sought to run these programs more efficiently than the Democrats. Rockefeller Republicans also saw themselves as champions of “good government”, contrasting themselves to the often corrupt machine politics of the Democratic Party (particularly in large cities). They were strong supporters of big business and Wall Street; many Republicans of the Eisenhower-Rockefeller vein were major figures in business, such as auto executive George W. Romney and investment banker C. Douglas Dillon. In fiscal policy they favored balanced budgets, and were not averse to raising taxes in order to achieve them; Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush once called for Congress to “raise the required revenues by approving whatever levels of taxation may be necessary”. In state politics, they were strong supporters of state colleges and universities, low tuition, and large research budgets. They favored infrastructure improvements, such as highway projects. In foreign policy, they tended to be Hamiltonian, espousing internationalist and realist policies, supporting the United Nations and promoting American business interests abroad.
Disuse of the term
The term “Rockefeller Republican” is now somewhat archaic (Nelson Rockefeller having died in 1979), and Republicans with these views are now generally referred to as simply “moderate Republicans,” “liberal Republicans” or, in a more derogatory term, Republicans in Name Only (RINOs). Colin Powell is a noted modern person who referred to himself as a “Rockefeller Republican” as recently as 1995.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Rockefeller Republican n. U.S. Polit. a member of the Republican Party holding views likened to those of Nelson Rockefeller; a moderate or liberal Republican.
In quot. 1958 denoting a supporter of Nelson Rockefeller’s campaign for the governorship of New York.
1958 Hartford Courant 28 Oct. 2/1 *Rockefeller Republicans defend his campaign as being aimed at Democrats and independents.
1959 N.Y. Times 11 May 54/4 With an aggressive, alert, forward-looking party in the dynamic traditions of Eisenhower Republicans and Rockefeller Republicans, we will win.
1982 N.Y. Mag. 15 Feb. 36/3 Rosenbaum, 50, a former G.O.P. state chairman, has chosen to run to the left of the field as a Rockefeller Republican.
1995 Newsweek 13 Nov. 32/2 A pro-choice, pro-affirmative-action Rockefeller Republican who is all too comfortable with Big Government.
27 August 1961, New York (NY) Times “Student Politics: Undergraduates Indicate Rejection Of Ultra-Conservative Position” by Fred M. Hechinger, pg. E9:
One student leader, who has atended the past three years’ Congresses, described the vas majority as “moderates,” composed largely of “Kennedy Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans”—or liberal moderates and conservative moderates. If it is conceded that Kennedy Democrats are more conservative than the earlier F. D. R. and Harry Truman models and that Rockefeller Republicans are more liberal than their Taft and even Eisenhower predecessors, the picture is one of the consolidation at a safe and moderate center.
14 September 1962, Life magazine, pg. 5:
JOHN LINDSAY, 40
A skilled politician, Lindsay has won two terms in Congress from Manhattan’s “silk stocking” 17th district. He is a Rockefeller Republican and one of the brightest hopes in the GOP’s liberal wing.
New York (NY) Times
The Region; It’s Grand And Old But It’s No Party
By SAM ROBERTS
Published: June 3, 1990
National and New York Republicans have often been estranged since Barry Goldwater defeated Nelson A. Rockefeller for the Presidential nomination in 1964, although the alienation began years earlier. ‘’New York has been out of step with the national Republican Party since the party derived its strength from the Sunbelt,’’ says John Buckley, a Washington-based Republican political consultant whose uncle James was elected a United States Senator from New York on the Conservative Party line in 1970. ‘’Nelson Rockefeller’s dominance of the party right up to the rise of Reagan,’’ Mr. Buckley said, was emblematic of the divergence between Goldwater and Reagan conservatism and a more moderate brand of Republicanism tailored to a largely urban state punctuated by Democratic power bases.
Antidote to Rockefeller
‘’The New York State Republican Party,’’ says Roger Stone, another Republican consultant, ‘’was never part of the Reagan revolution.’’ But the New York Conservative Party was. It was created as an antidote to what was described disdainfully as Rockefeller Republicanism.
A Limousine Republican
What made Nelson A. Rockefeller run?
By Steven R. Weisman
Posted Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1996, at 3:30 AM ET
The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer 1908-1958
By Cary Reich
(Doubleday; $35; 875 pages)
More than 15 years after his death, you can still start a fight by calling someone a “Rockefeller Republican.” Among other things, this book helps explain what the term actually means.
To admirers, “Rockefeller Republican” alludes to Nelson’s creation of an outstanding state university system, a vast network of hospitals, housing projects, mental health facilities, water treatment plants, parks, and highways. To enemies, it refers to a legacy of bankrupt state government and failed social programs. What is most striking about The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer 1908-1958 (the first of a projected two volumes), though, is that this duality—the push to achieve wed to a penchant for flamboyant failure; the ability to win a passionate following yet alienate the people who could keep him in power—was evident well before he thought about running for public office.
Wed Sep-10-03 02:15 PM
What’s the difference between a Rockefeller Republican and ...
... a “socially liberal, fiscal conservative?”
Do the socially liberal, fiscally conservative people just call themselves that to avoid the stigma of being a Rockefeller Republican? Is there any meaningful difference?
I consider myself to be a moderate swing voter, since I have not always voted a straight Democratic ticket. On many issues, I’m right-of center, on others, left-of-center. I don’t have any specific ideology, like libertarianism, or capitalism/communism.
But while everyone on DU is pretty socially liberal, we have a lot of economic right-wingers that sound more like Republicans than Democrats. Is there any substantial difference?
Wed Sep-10-03 02:20 PM
a Rockefeller Republican
was sometimes more liberal overall than some Democrats. For instance Jacob Javitz was Rockefeller Republican and he was pretty liberal. So too was Jim Jeffords. By the way, Rockefeller was not a fiscal conservative either. NY had huge spending programs and deficits under his watch which is why the right wing of his party despised him.
Boston (MA) Globe
Last days for the ‘Rockefellers’
Moderate GOP tradition fades
By Mark Arsenault
Globe Correspondent / November 1, 2008
Tuesday’s election will not only decide the presidency, it may also determine the future of the New England brand of moderate Republicanism, which is facing extinction.
The Northeast moderates, often called the Rockefeller Republicans after the former New York governor, were once as much a New England tradition as traffic jams on the Kancamagus Highway in leaf-peeping season. Their ranks included James Jeffords in Vermont, Lowell Weicker in Connecticut, Edward Brooke and William Weld in Massachusetts, and two generations of Chafees in Rhode Island.
The Rockefeller Republicans are dead
“Between the Lines” by Joseph Farah
Posted: November 13, 2008
1:00 am Eastern
I now officially pronounce the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party as dead as its namesake, the late Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York, who assumed room temperature nearly 30 years ago.
This is a good thing – a very hopeful, even promising, eventuality for a potential rebirth of the Republican Party as a party of ideas.
I’ll tell you what: The Republican Party has the next four years to determine whether it will be relegated to the dustbins of history a la the Whigs, or whether it plans to rise like a phoenix and take power once again.
Time is short.
It is not on the side of Republicans who want to keep playing the same, old losing game.
It is not on the side of the “Big Tent” faction.
In fact, the day of the Rockefeller Republicans has come and gone.
Washington (DC) Times
TAUBE: Decline of the unlamented RINOs
4:45 a.m., Thursday, April 30, 2009
The history of Rockefeller Republicanism dates to World War II. These “liberals of the right” supported many New Deal policies, civil rights and a strong welfare state. They also favored high tax levels, long-term economic-growth strategies and increased funding of infrastructure programs.
New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey was the first liberal Republican to gain national prominence during his failed 1944 and 1948 presidential campaigns. Liberal Republicans eventually gained some political influence when their chosen candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was elected president in 1952 and 1956.
Yet the rise of New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller - who ran for president unsuccessfully in 1960, 1964 and 1968 - shifted liberal Republicans directly into his camp. His popular appeal increased when he became vice president under Gerald Ford - and brought a whole new generation of politicians under the Rockefeller Republican banner.
New York (NY) Times
A Tea Party Without Nuts
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: March 23, 2010
But hyperpartisanship has frustrated those hopes. (Alas, though, it is not equal. There are still many conservative Blue Dog Democrats, but the liberal Rockefeller Republicans have been wiped out.)
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Tuesday, July 27, 2010 • Permalink