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The politics of symbolism: Richard Nixon's appeal to white ethnics and the frustration of realignment 196972

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Sensing a tangible political opportunity to bolster his and his party's minority status, Richard Nixon made an unprecedented attempt to align disaffected ethnic Americans with the Republican Party in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Nixon possessed a keen awareness of the ethnic revival of the early 1970s and engaged with specifically ethnic issues such as parochial school aid and ethnic heritage studies, and also shaped much of his early substantive policy to appeal to ethnics, culminating in the publication of the Rosow Report on blue-collar workers in May 1970. However, Nixon's presidential style and eventual prioritisation of symbolic or ephemeral issues, notably the appointment of ethnic Americans to government positions, over more substantive policy doomed any attempt to build a new Republican majority to failure. If white ethnic voters were to realign, Nixon would need to offer enduring presidential policy that appealed to their ethnic and class interests, but his politics of symbolism subjugated his plans for a new Republican majority to quick-fix tactics for ensuring his re-election.
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Keywords: 1972 election; Nixon; Republican party/Republicans; ethnic; politics; realignment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Oxford.

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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