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Party Brands and the Democratic and Republican National Committees, 1952–1976

  • Boris Heersink (a1)


Political scientists have traditionally dismissed the Democratic and Republican National Committees as “service providers”—organizations that provide assistance to candidates in the form of campaign funding and expertise but otherwise lack political power. I argue this perspective has missed a crucial role national committees play in American politics, namely that national party organizations publicize their party's policy positions and, in doing so, attempt to create national party brands. These brands are important to party leaders—especially when the party is in the national minority—since they are fundamental to mobilizing voters in elections. In case studies covering the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC) in the period 1952–1976, I show that minority party committees prioritize their branding role and invest considerably in their publicity divisions, inaugurate new publicity programs, and create new communication tools to reach out to voting groups. Additionally, I show that in cases where the party is out of the White House, the national committees have considerable leeway in deciding what party image to publicize. Rather than being mere powerless service providers, I show that party committees have played crucial roles in debates concerning questions of ideology and issue positioning in both parties.


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Acknowledegements: I thank Julia Azari, Brian Balogh, Andrew Clarke, Jeffrey Cohen, Christopher Donnelly, Paul Freedman, Daniel Galvin, Jeffrey Grynaviski, Hans Hassell, Jeffery Jenkins, David Karol, Kenneth Lowande, Seth Masket, Monika McDermott, Robert Mickey, Sidney Milkis, Costas Panagopoulos, Brenton Peterson, Paromita Sen, Anthony Sparacino, Richard Valelly, and Craig Volden; the participants at presentations at the University of Virginia, Fordham University, and the 2016 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Philadelphia; and the editors and two anonymous reviewers for their comments, suggestions, and advice.



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1. V. O. Key introduced the term “party-in-organization” as part of the three domains of American political parties (the others being party-in-government and party-in-the-electorate). See Key, V. O. Jr., Politics, Parties and Pressure Groups (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1952). The national party organization here specifically refers to the national committees of both parties and any organizations linked to them (such as the youth organizations or the women's federations of both parties). It does not include congressional party institutions such as the Democratic or Republican Congressional Campaign Committees. For more on the DCCC and RCCC, see Kolodny, Robin, Pursuing Majorities: Congressional Campaign Committees in American Politics (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998).

2. See Cotter, Cornelius P. and Hennessy, Bernard C., Politics without Power: The National Committees (New York: Atherton Press, 1964); Cotter, Cornelius P. and Bibby, John F., “Institutional Development of Parties and the Thesis of Party Decline,” Political Science Quarterly 95, no. 1 (1980): 1–27; Herrnson, Paul S., “The Evolution of National Party Organizations,” in The Oxford Handbook of American Political Parties and Interest Groups, ed. Maisel, Louis Sandy and Berry, Jeffrey M. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 245–64; Herrnson, Paul S., Party Campaigning in the 1980s (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988); Aldrich, John H., Why Parties? The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

3. Bawn, Kathleen, Cohen, Martin, Karol, David, Masket, Seth, and Noel, Hans, “A Theory of Political Parties: Groups, Policy Demands and Nominations in American Politics,” Perspectives on Politics 10, no. 3 (2012): 571. See also Cohen, Marty, Karol, David, Noel, Hans, and Zaller, John, The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); Karol, David, Party Position Change in American Politics: Coalition Management (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Noel, Hans, Political Ideologies and Political Parties in America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013); Masket, Seth, No Middle Ground: How Informal Party Organizations Control Nominations and Polarize Legislatures (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009).

4. See Masket, No Middle Ground.

5. See Hassell, Hans J. G., “Party Control of Party Primaries: Party Influence in Nominations for the US Senate,” The Journal of Politics 78, no. 1 (January 2016): 7587.

6. Karol, David, “Parties and Leadership in American Politics,” in Leadership in American Politics, ed. Jenkins, Jeffery A. and Volden, Craig (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2018), 141–66.

7. Klinghard, Daniel, The Nationalization of American Political Parties, 1880–1896 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010). See also McGerr, Michael E., The Decline of Popular Politics: The American North, 1865–1928 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

8. Galvin, Daniel J., “The Transformation of Political Institutions: Investments in Institutional Resources and Gradual Change in the National Party Committees,” Studies in American Political Development 26 (April 2012): 5070.

9. See Klinkner, Philip A., The Losing Parties: Out-Party National Committees, 1956–1993 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994); Galvin, Daniel J., Presidential Party Building: Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

10. Conley, Brian M., “The Politics of Party Renewal: The “Service Party” and the Goldwater Republican Right,” Studies in American Political Development 27, no. 1 (2013): 5167.

11. Goldman, Ralph M., The National Party Chairmen and Committees: Factionalism at the Top (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1990), 569. Note that while (1) and (2) are intended to distinguish the party-in-the-electorate from the party-in-government, they are essentially the same—that is, the party that has a majority in the electoral college by definition also hold the White House.

12. Goldman's definition may raise questions. First, the assumption that in a situation of divided government there is no such thing as a “majority party” may be controversial. Second, even in cases where a party does have unified control of government, it is possible that the context of this majority may be such that party leaders may not perceive themselves to be the “true” national majority party. For example, while the Republican Party had unified control of government at the time, in 2005 RNC chairman Ken Mehlman described the party as only being “the dominant party in America,” explaining that it did not have a “deep” or “broad majority … . We're certainly not in the position that F.D.R. Democrats were in the 1930s and 40s. We're not the overwhelming favorite” (Adam Nagourney and Richard W. Stevenson, “Some See Risks for G.O.P. as It Revels in New Powers,” New York Times, January 24, 2005). Third, and relatedly, party leaders may also differ in how they interpret different “versions” of being in the national minority—such as whether a party has the White House but not a majority in Congress or vice versa. Fourth, this definition relies on a dichotomous measure of national party status (that is, holding the White House or not, and having control of both chambers of Congress or not) rather than an ordinal or continuous measure of party strength. These are valid concerns. However, for the purpose of this study—in which the dependent variable cannot easily be measured as either a continuous or ordinal variable due to a lack of consistent internal data from within the national committees—the definition provided here helps produce a basic, but clear, expectation as to party behavior based on party leaders' likely perception of their party's strength. In the case studies, I show that party leaders do indeed have these perceptions of their party's status and present them as reasons as to why national committee investments in publicity services are needed. Note also that the theory identifies a difference in the type of minority the party finds itself in—that is, while national committees of minority parties are all predicted to invest in branding activities, those with an incumbent president are expected to have considerably less agency in determining what brand they promote.

13. Galvin defines party building in this regard as providing campaign services, developing human capital, recruiting candidates, mobilizing voters, financing party operations, and supporting internal activities (Galvin, Presidential Party Building, 5). See also Galvin, “The Transformation of Political Institutions.”

14. This assumption is perhaps controversial: Mayhew argues that divided government has no impact in the provision of major legislation. Binder has countered that divided government does produce gridlock but that the cause is in part inherent to the design of the House and Senate. From the perspective of branding, it still seems likely that a national majority party can claim full responsibility for legislation more effectively. See Mayhew, David, Divided We Govern: Party Control, Lawmaking and Investigations, 1946–2002, 2nd ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005); Binder, Sarah A., Stalemate: Causes and Consequences of Legislative Gridlock (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2003).

15. State party organizations select the individual members of the DNC and RNC. The manner of selection differs by state and has included possibilities such as primaries, state convention votes, and selection by state party committees. Additionally, in some states members of the national committee would also need to be delegates to the national convention. For a more detailed discussion, see Cotter and Hennessy, Politics without Power, 22–33.

16. Ibid., 4, 63–67.

17. Note that out-party national committee chairs do need majority support of their committees' membership to be elected in the first place and can be replaced by a majority of the committee, though that is a rare occurrence. The combination of the two means that committee chairs do not have total freedom even when their party is out of the White House: First, committee chairs are likely to represent the preferences of a major wing within the party due to their ability to win the chairmanship election. Second, even out-party chairpersons may face some constraints in that they could, theoretically, lose their position. However, unlike for in-party chairpersons, such a replacement procedure requires considerable coordination among committee members.

18. This is not to say that such national committee chairs are entirely independent actors: After all, they are selected by the membership of the national committee and thus are likely to reflect the preferences of local party leaders to same extent. However, chairs do not always present themselves as ideological actors during the selection process, and they may change their approach as time passes. For example, as the case study of the DNC in the 1950s will illustrate, when DNC chairman Paul Butler was elected in 1955, he was seen as a moderate and received considerable support from Southern DNC members. After 1956, Butler pushed for a liberal brand on civil rights—to the frustration of those same Southerners. It also does not mean that committee chairs and congressional party leaders must be in an adversarial relationship: It is not uncommon for these two types of party leaders to agree on what the national party image should be and to cooperate in promoting it. However, what it does mean is that when there is disagreement between the two, congressional leaders do not have direct powers to constrain out-party national committee chairs. Additionally, note that the national committees are rarely alone in their attempts at trying to shape the party's brand: Presidents, parties in Congress, governors, state parties, and others political actors and institutions all are likely to help shape voters' perception of the party's image.

19. See Kiewiet, D. Roderick and McCubbins, Mathew D., The Logic of Delegation: Congressional Parties and the Delegation Process (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Cox, Gary W. and McCubbins, Mathew D., Legislative Leviathan: Party Government in the House (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Snyder, James M. and Ting, Michael M., “An Informational Rationale for Political Parties,” American Journal of Political Science 46, no. 1 (2002): 90110.

20. Grynaviski, Jeffrey D., Partisan Bonds. Political Reputations and Legislative Accountability (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

21. Congress scholars have argued that the party leadership has the power to constrain its membership—most notably through “negative agenda control.” For more on when and how parties in Congress succeed in constraining their members see, among many others, see Cox, Gary W. and McCubbins, Mathew D., Setting the Agenda: Responsible Party Government in the U.S. House of Representatives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Jenkins, Jeffery A., “Examining the Robustness of Ideological Voting: Evidence from the Confederate House of Representatives,” American Journal of Political Science 44, no. 4 (October 2000): 811–22; Snyder, James M. and Groseclose, Tim, “Estimating Party Influence in Congressional Roll-Call Voting,” American Journal of Political Science 44 (2000): 193211; Snyder, James M. and Ting, Michael, “Roll Calls, Party Labels, and Elections,” Political Analysis 11 (2003): 419–44.

22. Note that according to the theory of conditional party government this only occurs when there is already sufficient homogeneity among members of Congress. See Rohde, David W., Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Aldrich, Why Parties?

23. To be clear, party branding concerns any activities intended to help shape the understanding voters have of the national party's positions on policy issues. The national committees (or, indeed, any element of the party) do not have a direct way of creating this understanding. Rather, they try to send signals to voters in the hope of affecting this image. Part of this brand is valence—that is, voters' perception of the party's general competence. Another part is ideology. This article focuses on the national committees' attempts at shaping the ideological side, as this is where intraparty disagreements are most likely to occur. One crucial way in which the committees try to shape brands is through political advertisements—while such ads are frequently focused on more general valence arguments, the kind of topics addressed in the ads and the voting groups the committees target may still indicate an intention at shaping a more specific brand. The committees also rely on a broad variety of other approaches—including by producing TV and radio shows, publishing magazines, other party publications, policy statements, and press releases, and through public appearances by national committee leaders—each of which can concern attempts at altering the valence or ideology side of the party's brand.

24. Klinghard, The Nationalization of American Political Parties.

25. Ibid., 113.

26. Contemporaneous political observers noticed this expansion of committee influence: Journalist Rollo Ogden, writing in The Atlantic Monthly in 1902, noted the “quiet and almost unperceived usurpations of political power by the party National Committee, during the past fifteen or twenty years.” Similarly, political scientist Jesse Macy, writing in 1904, concluded that “historically speaking, the committee has grown in consequence and power with the growth of the party” and “supplanted the irregular and self-appointed agencies of the early days and assumed prestige and authority.” See Ogden, Rollo, “New Powers of the National Committee,” The Atlantic Monthly (January 1902): 76; Macy, Jesse, Party Organization and Machinery (New York: The Century Company, 1904), 65.

27. Note that this theory attempts to explain the logic of choices made by political actors: It does not argue that the DNC and RNC are always successful in changing the party's brand. Indeed, measuring this historically is difficult since national committees do not operate in isolation and frequently represent positions that are shared with, at least, some subset of the broader party. Since it is likely that those elements of the party also engage in attempts at adjusting the national brand by sending their own signals to voters, shifts in opinion polls or election results in the direction the national committees attempt to move their party in do not necessarily mean that the committees were the cause of this change. While experimental research has suggested that voters do incorporate their assessment of the “valence” component of party brands—that is, the extent to which parties are competent—in their voting decisions, as of now there is no clear answer as to how voters compile a party brand from the different signals they receive from the party as a whole. See Butler, Daniel M. and Powell, Eleanor Neff, “Understanding the Party Brand; Experimental Evidence on the Role of Valence,” Journal of Politics 76, no. 2 (2014): 492505.

28. See Klinkner, The Losing Parties; Galvin, Presidential Party Building.

29. Milkis, Sidney M., The Presidents and the Parties: The Transformation of the American Party System (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).

30. Cordell Hull, DNC chair between 1921 and1924, described this important difference between in- and out-parties in his autobiography, noting that “with the Party out of power and in the minority in both Houses of Congress, whoever occupied the office of chairman of the National Committee was in the highest position of Democratic Party leadership in the nation.” Hull, Cordell and Berding, Andrew Henry Thomas, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull (New York: Macmillan Company, 1948), 113.

31. See Galvin, “The Transformation of Political Institutions.”

32. One major legislative change in this regard—campaign finance regulations passed in the wake of Watergate—did not go into effect until 1976 at the tail end of the last case study. See Mutch, Robert E., Buying the Vote: A History of Campaign Finance Reform (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014).

33. Note that these cases were selected on the independent but not the dependent variable—that is, with knowledge of the national party status within each time period, but not of the extent of national committee publicity activities. As such, they can function—at least within the scope conditions of the limited time period of the cases included—as a test of the theory.

34. Stephen Mitchell to Lawrence M.C. Smith, January 7, 1954, container 24, folder 4, Stephen Mitchell Papers, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library. Note that the Republican Party was in a minority status throughout most of the 1950s as well: After Democrats regained control of the House and Senate in the 1954 midterms, the RNC (under direction of Eisenhower) invested in a variety of new publicity programs including promoting the Republican Party in the South. See Galvin, Presidential Party Building, 41–70; Lowndes, Joseph E., From the New Deal to the New Right: Race and the Southern Origins of Modern Conservatism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 4748.

35. Stephen J. Spingarn to Adlai E. Stevenson, November 6, 1952, container 413, folder 1, DNC Chairman's Files 1956–1960, Records of the Democratic National Committee, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library (hereafter cited as DNC Chairman's Files 1956–1960).

36. “Report to Members of the Democratic National Committee and State Chairmen,” January 20, 1953, container 219, folder 2, Records of the Democratic National Committee, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library (hereafter cited as Records of the DNC).

37. “Pocket Sized Digest Planned by Democrats,” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1953; “Democrats to Issue ‘Digest’ Monthly 25-Cent Magazine,” New York Times, May 31, 1953.

38. Arthur Krock, “In the Nation,” New York Times, July 19, 1955.

39. Marz, Roger H., “The Democratic Digest: A Content Analysis,” American Political Science Review, 51, no. 3 (1957): 696.

40. Report to Members of the Democratic National Committee and State Chairmen, September 4, 1953, container 114, folder 4, Democratic National Committee Meeting Transcripts, Democratic National Committee Records, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library (hereafter cited as DNC Meeting Transcripts).

41. The DNC did not intend the Digest to be a money making venture: While it had an impressive run from its introduction on, the Digest was never financially self-sustaining. Nonetheless, the DNC happily paid the Digest's deficit due to the value it placed on this new communication tool.

42. See “Proceedings DNC Executive Meeting,” May 5, 1954, container 223, folder 5, Records of the DNC. The Digest also attracted other interested parties: Early subscribers included the Eisenhower White House, General Motors, and the Soviet Union's embassy in Washington, DC. “Democratic Digest Has a Broad Reader Appeal,” New York Times, June 17, 1953.

43. Transcript Meeting of the DNC Executive Committee, April 1, 1953, container 114, folder 1, DNC Meeting Transcripts.

44. Edward T. Folliard, “Democrats Aim ’54 Drive at Downswing,” Washington Post, February 23, 1954; John N. Popham, “Democrats Meet on Fall Strategy,” New York Times, March 5, 1954.

45. “Truth Kits Sent to Fight McCarthy,” New York Times, February 6, 1954; “Mitchell Assails ‘Hate’ Campaign,” New York Times, March 18, 1954.

46. The Digest rarely mentioned civil rights in this period. Only two exceptions during the first Eisenhower term exist. The first concerned a short article in the Democratic Digest of November 1953. This condensed reprint of a Cincinnati Post article discussed African American POWs who were separated from white POWs by their North Korean captors. The article praises the black soldiers for withstanding attempts at indoctrination: “For once, [the African American POWs] are proud of their country on the issue of segregation. The army has abolished segregation. Communists practiced it”; see “Communists Failed to Convert Negro POWs,” Democratic Digest 4 (November 1953), 102. Meanwhile, the July 1954 issue included an article condensed from the book Breakthrough on The Color Front by Nichols, Lee (New York: Random House, 1954), which argued that the Korean War was evidence of successful racial integration of the Armed Services: All Americans Can Fight,” Democratic Digest 12 (July 1954). In both cases the Digest defended a policy instituted by the last Democratic president.

47. “Transcript of DNC Meeting,” December 4, 1954, container 223, folder 7, Records of the DNC.

48. Lester Tanzer, “Democratic Row: Northern ‘Liberals' Prepare to Do Battle with the South for Control of the Party,” Wall Street Journal, December 14, 1956. Political strategist Samuel Lubell described the 1956 election as representing the peculiar situation of having “the Negro and the white Southerner could cast a protest vote against one another by voting for the same man, Dwight D. Eisenhower.” Butler's own analysis of the 1956 election also indicated considerable Republican success among black, Catholic, and union voters—all previously reliable Democratic non-Southern voting blocs. See Savage, Sean J., JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004), 36.

49. As Butler explained in a 1959 TV interview, “members of the Democratic Party from Southern states, both members of the Senate and House, have longer service, longer tenure than Democrats generally from Northern Congressional Districts, or Northern States for Senators, and the seniority system lends itself to the build up of power and influence, control of committees; by Southern Democrats, when the Democrats are in control of Congress. And this point of view generally expressed by these Southern leaders does not represent the national point of view” (Celebrity Parade, WMAL-TV, July 5, 1959, container 460, folder 21, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960).

50. For example, California DNC member Paul Ziffren expressed his concern that “the Republican Party is going to pose … as a great liberal party, a champion of civil rights” (Transcript DNC Executive Committee Meeting, November 26–27, 1956, container 119, folder 4, DNC Meeting Transcripts).

51. Transcript DNC Executive Committee Meeting, November 26–27, 1956, container 119, folder 4, DNC Meeting Transcripts.

52. Ibid.

53. Publicity Division Press Release B-1491, April 9, 1957, container 449, folder 1, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960.

54. Robert C. Albright, “Democrats Set ‘Liberal’ Goals,” Washington Post, November 28, 1956.

55. The creation of the DAC was, in part, inspired by calls from political scientists for more nationalized political party organizations. The classic American Political Science Association (APSA) report, Towards a More Responsible Party System, called for the creation of a “party council” that would “consider and settle the larger problems of party management”—including proposing a draft of the party platform and interpreting the platform in between national conventions. In 1953, Butler had received a copy of the report from Paul Willis, an assistant professor of government at Indiana University. See APSA Committee on Political Parties, Toward a More Responsible Two-Party System (New York: Rinehart, 1950); Roberts, George C., Paul M. Butler: Hoosier Politician and National Political Leader (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987), 36.

56. “Democrats Name 20 to Chart a Program,” New York Times, December 6, 1956; “Rayburn Balks Party Plan to Sit as Adviser,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 9, 1956.

57. “Democrats Name 20 to Chart a Program.”

58. Gravel, the DNC member from Louisiana, was the sole Southern member on the DAC's steering committee. Gravel was ousted by the Louisiana Democratic Party for being too liberal on civil rights in 1958. Remarkably, the DNC voted to allow Gravel to remain on the committee regardless. See Lawrence E. Davies, “Democrats Press Civil Rights Bills,” New York Times, February 18, 1957; “Party Ousts Louisianan,” Washington Post, October 9, 1958; Allen Drury, “Butler Rejects Removal of Aide,” New York Times, October 10, 1958.

59. “Democrats Agree on Rights Policy,” New York Times, February 17, 1957.

60. See DNC Publicity Division Press Release B-1560, September 15, 1957, container 449, folder 1, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960; Democratic Advisory Council Press Release, October 21, 1957, container 449, folder 1, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960; Transcript of Meeting of the Advisory Council of the Democratic National Committee, May 5, 1957, container 121, folder 7, DNC Meeting Transcripts. See also “M'Clellan Scored on Right-to-Work,” New York Times, May 9, 1957.

61. Schickler, Eric, Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932–1965 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016), 226.

62. See A. E. Johnson to Paul Butler, September 19, 1955, container 457, folder, 10, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960; Manny Rohatiner to Paul Butler, October 12, 1955, container 457, folder 10, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960; James Roosevelt to Paul Butler, October 17, 1955, container 457, folder 10, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960; Paul Ziffren to Paul Butler, January 12, 1956, container 457, folder 10, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960.

63. Paul Butler to Paul Ziffren, February 16, 1956, container 457, folder 10, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960.

64. Butler also concluded that, despite him talking “softly” on civil rights, “he got the label anyhow of being too liberal” and that with “a surprisingly noticeable shift of Negro votes to the Republican side” the national party would need to embrace more liberal policies to prevent future losses in the North, East, and West. See Ethel L. Payne, “Top Man on Democratic Totem Pole,” Chicago Defender, April 26, 1958; Lester Tanzer, “Democratic Row: Northern ‘Liberals’ Prepare to do Battle with the South for Control of the Party,” Wall Street Journal, December 14, 1956.

65. “Butler Assails Southern Governors,” Daily Defender, September 9, 1958.

66. Allen Drury, “Smathers Chides Butler on Rights,” New York Times, October 22, 1958.

67. Rohde, Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House, 7.

68. Sinclair, Barbara, The Transformation of the U.S. Senate (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press), 31.

69. Schickler, Racial Realignment, 226–29.

70. Don Shannon, “Follow Steps of F.D.R., Party Urged,” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1959.

71. Robert C. Byrd to Paul Butler, July 10, 1959, container 449, folder 7, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960.

72. Spessard L. Holand to Paul Butler, July 10, 1959, container 449, folder 7, DNC Chairman's Files, 1956–1960.

73. See W. H. Lawrence, “Dixiecrats Set Up Worry for Party,” New York Times, March 29, 1959. In response, Butler had the DNC readopt the 1956 convention rules, which required state party organizations to ensure that the national party candidate would be on the ballot in their state. “Butler Presses ’56 Rule for ’60,” New York Times, August 26, 1959; “Southerners Score Butler's 1960 Plea,” New York Times, September 5, 1959; Russell Freeburg, “Revised Delegate Plan Approved by Democrats,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 17, 1959.

74. W. H. Lawrence, “Democratic Split on Rights Widens,” New York Times, March 16, 1960.

75. Sundquist, James L., Politics and Policy. The Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson Years (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1968), 409.

76. Undeniably, the DNC's support for civil rights after the 1956 election was in part inspired by the increased salience of the issue—including the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Little Rock school integration crisis (both in 1957), the bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama (in 1958), and protests against segregation in busses and schools across the South (in 1958, 1959, and 1960). However, the issue of civil rights was hardly new and similar cases existed prior to the party's 1956 electoral performance and the subsequent creation of the DAC. Yet, when it came to issues such as the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and subsequent defiance of the ruling by Southern (Democratic) governors and the previously noted lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi (in 1955), the DNC did not take the kind of unequivocal positions it would take after the 1956 election.

77. Paul Kesaris, Blair Hydrick, and Douglas D. Newman, Papers of the Republican Party (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1987), series B, reel 1, frame 280.

78. Robert C. Albright, “Nixon, Rockefeller Discuss Role of Party in Leadership Dilemma,” Washington Post, December 3, 1960.

79. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 1, frame 88.

80. Goldwater argued that the 1960 election identified the “necessity for a return to a vigorous, forward-looking, dynamic conservative philosophy which will clearly identify the Republican Party and Republican candidates as supporters of a concept of government totally different from that which Mr. Kennedy and his people offer the nation.” (Barry Goldwater, “The Republican Party's Choices are Conservatism or Liberalism,” Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1960.)

81. “G.O.P. Names Panel to Scan Urban Vote,” New York Times, January 29, 1961.

82. William Anderson, “G.O.P. to Name Successor to Morton June 2,” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 22, 1961.

83. “G.O.P. Is Expected to Name Miller,” New York Times, May 27, 1961.

84. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 1, frames 543–50.

85. Ibid., frame 623.

86. Ibid., frame 562–63.

87. Ibid., frame 770.

88. This consisted of the Public Relations, Research, and Speaker's Bureau divisions. Combined, these three publicity divisions counted for $339,400 of the RNC's total $1.3 million 1962 budget—the largest subset within the budget. Within publicity, Public Relations represented more than 61 percent of expenses. See Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 2, frame 484.

89. Ibid., frames 636–38.

90. Additionally, proponents of the Big City approach were not blind to the value of Republican investments in the South; Ray Bliss, the chairman of the Big City committee, for example, supported “long-range” party-building programs in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas with an eye on creating a two-party South in the future. See Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 1, frame 694.

91. “GOP Designs Program, Hopes to Win Negro Vote,” Chicago Daily Defender, January 18, 1962.

92. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 3, frame 8.

93. Klinkner, The Losing Parties, 54. The RNC had begun investing in the South after the Dixiecrat walkout in 1948, but despite Eisenhower's success in winning Southern states in both 1952 and 1956, in the 1950s the RNC's Southern outreach program (known as Operation Dixie) saw relatively little congressional success. See Lowndes, From the New Deal to the New Right, 45–68; Galvin, Presidential Party Building, 63–67.

94. Though note that Republican Party organizations were maintained in each Southern state, and Southern Republicans maintained considerable influence on the party through their representation at Republican National Conventions. See Heersink, Boris and Jenkins, Jeffery A., “Southern Delegates and Republican National Convention Politics, 1880–1928,” Studies in American Political Development 29, no. 1 (April 2015): 6888.

95. Galvin, Presidential Party Building, 65.

96. See also, Lowndes, From the New Deal to the New Right, 47–48.

97. Cited in Klinkner, The Losing Parties, 55.

98. Ibid.

99. Carroll Kilpatrick, “GOP Snaps 1-Party Grip in the South,” Washington Post, November 8, 1962.

100. Congressional Quarterly Almanac, 88th Congress, 1st Sess., 1963, 19, 1168.

101. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 2, frame 577.

102. “GOP Leaders Approve All-Out Drive in South,” Los Angeles Times, December 8, 1962.

103. Schickler, Racial Realignment, 253–55.

104. Quoted in Ibid., 254.

105. Hedrick Smith, “G.O.P. Is Attacked for Its Aid to Segregationists in the South,” New York Times, November 26, 1962; “Keating Urges G.O.P. to Shun Segregation in Bid for the South,” New York Times, December 1, 1962.

106. Clayton Knowles, “Javits Declares G.O.P. Right Wing Is Peril to Party,” New York Times, February 13, 1962.

107. Joseph Alsop, “The Southern Strategy,” Washington Post, December 7, 1962.

108. “GOP Leaders Approve All-Out Drive in South.”

109. Kabaservice, Geoffrey, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 8384.

110. Ibid., 101. Goldwater's no vote inspired another moderate—Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton—to announce his candidacy for the presidential nomination, with Rockefeller dropping out in support. This last-ditch effort to derail Goldwater's presidential nomination was too little and too late: Goldwater had secured an unsurmountable majority in delegates.

111. George Kelley, “South's GOP Chiefs Reassured on Rights,” Washington Post, July 11, 1964.

112. Notably, Goldwater selected RNC chairman Miller as his running mate.

113. Burch welcomed Thurmond to the party, describing him as “a man of rare honesty, courage, and integrity” and noted that Thurmond's “fundamental American principles have led him into our party.” See Cabell Phillips, “Thurmond Given Praise and Scorn,” New York Times, September 17, 1964.

114. The one silver lining in an otherwise bleak election was that Goldwater did indeed do well in the South: Of the mere six states Goldwater won nationally, five were in the South. Additionally, Goldwater came within 5 points of winning two other Southern states (Florida and Virginia) and received 49 percent of votes cast in the former Confederate South—breaking the previous records Herbert Hoover and Eisenhower had set for Republican presidential candidates in 1928, 1952, and 1956.

115. “Dirksen Puts Onus on Republican Committee,” Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1964.

116. David Halvorsen, “G.O.P. Told Why Barry Lost,” Chicago Tribune, January 24, 1965.

117. George Tagge, “Balk ‘Convention’ Plan of G.O.P.,” Chicago Tribune, January 22, 1965.

118. Outgoing chairman Burch during the January 1965 RNC meeting that voted to create the RCC noted that during the Eisenhower years “the Democrats had a committee—I don't even recall the name of it … . You may further recall that Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn black-balled this particular organization—would not participate in it. Nevertheless, this Advisory Committee did function. It did release its reports and got considerable attention in the press. The press looked at the stature of the people on this committee. As I recall, Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, people of that nature and they gave a good deal of attention to their deliberations and to their report.” See Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 4, frame 647.

119. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, frame 909; reel 5, frames 830–31.

120. Ibid., reel 5, frames 456–57.

121. Ibid., reel 6, frames 622–23.

122. Ibid., reel 6, frames 340–41; 624.

123. Russell Freeburg, “Bliss Starts Shuffle of G.O.P. Staff Jobs,” Chicago Tribune, March 31, 1965.

124. Thomas J. Foley, “Supporter of Scranton Given Key GOP Post,” Los Angeles Times, January 25, 1967. Bliss also expelled the conservative “Rat Fink” faction of the New Jersey Young Republicans organization and opposed conservative Phyllis Schlafly's attempts at becoming the chairwoman of the National Federation of Republican Women. See Robert J. Donovan, “Bliss Curbs YR Clubs, Acts to Expel ‘Finks,’” Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1966; Critchlow, Donald T., Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman's Crusade (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 155–62.

125. John Herbers, “G.O.P. to Give Party Governors $100,000 for Office in Capital,” New York Times, December 20, 1966.

126. “12 Negroes Chosen as G.O.P. Advisers,” New York Times, February 27, 1966.

127. David S. Broder, “Negro to Get Post on Top G.O.P. Unit,” New York Times, March 12, 1966; Adolph J. Slaughter, “GOP Moves to Change Image,” Chicago Defender, May 7, 1966.

128. Jack Nelson, “Civil Rights Aide Offered GOP Position,” Los Angeles Times, December 16, 1966; George Tagge, “Waner Gets G.O.P. Race Expert's Aid,” Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1967.

129. “GOP Designs Blueprint to Snag Negro Vote,” Chicago Defender, February 4, 1967.

130. Klinkner, The Losing Parties, 84.

131. Cited in Hess, Stephen and Broder, David S., The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the G.O.P. (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 52.

132. Brennan, Mary C., Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the GOP (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 109.

133. See: Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 5, frame 826. After the 1968 election, Bliss also praised the RCC for producing position papers which formed the basis of the party's platform. See: Ibid., reel 7, frame 148.

134. Edward T. Folliard, “Democrats Cut National Headquarters Staff,” Washington Post, November 17, 1960.

135. “Digest Suspends,” New York Times, November 18, 1960; “Party Digest Shifts,” New York Times, November 22, 1960.

136. “Advice without Consent,” Wall Street Journal, December 19, 1960.

137. John D. Morris, “Democrats End Advisory Council,” New York Times, March 12, 1961.

138. Specifically, “the practice will be to send a telegram to the Democratic chairman in the member's state or district advising him of the vote and suggesting that he get the ‘facts’ of the situation as widely publicized as possible.” See Cabell Phillips, “Party Will Press Kennedy Program,” New York Times, April 5, 1961.

139. In doing so, the DNC mostly targeted Republican districts. However, the DNC was forced to apologize after it was revealed that it had also sent materials to Tennessee to influence Senator Albert Gore (“Democrats Mail Tax Cut Publicity,” New York Times, October 15, 1963; “Democrat Takes Blame for Tax-Cut Slap at Gore,” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 1963). Operation Support falls in the type of branding activity we would expect to see limited to national minority parties. However, the Kennedy administration found itself frustrated with an unreliable Democratic congressional majority and relied on the DNC in an attempt to tie individual members of Congress to the administration's policies. Crucially, though, Operation Support was not designed to expand the party's coalition or to promote a specific party image. Rather, it saw the party try to pass individual pieces of legislation and move on to other topics as the legislative agenda moved forward. The White House and DNC thus “aimed to activate the natural Democratic majority to bring pressure to bear on Congress in this session, on behalf of certain policies that were being considered now [emphasis in original]” rather than promote a party brand as part of a long term electoral strategy (Galvin, Presidential Party Building, 166).

140. Savage, JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party, 153.

141. See also Galvin, Presidential Party Building, 175–77.

142. Savage, JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party, 154.

143. Arthur Krock, “The Parties' Futures,” New York Times, November 13, 1960.

144. Savage JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party, 155.

145. Ibid., 160.

146. See Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “The Democratic Deficit,” Washington Post, September 23, 1965; Don Irwin, “Democrats Reduce Jobs in National Committee,” Los Angeles Times, December 22, 1965; Rosemarie Brooks, “Demo Committee Cuts Staff, ” Chicago Defender, December 25, 1965; David S. Broder, “Republicans Intensifying Efforts in Big Cities as Democrats Cut Back Their Urban Staff,” New York Times, December 29, 1965.

147. Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “Campaign Breakaway,” Washington Post, March 25, 1966.

148. Ibid.

149. See Evans and Novak, “Campaign Breakaway”; Alan L. Otten, “Democrats in Distress,” Wall Street Journal, March 30, 1966; Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “President Failed to Satisfy Governors on National Committee Shortcomings,” Washington Post, January 1, 1967; Warren Weaver Jr., “Democrats Grope for Fresh Ideals, for Fresh Ideas,” New York Times, January 2, 1967.

150. A November 1967 mailer, in which Democratic critics of the Vietnam War, was identified by Washington Post columnists Evans and Novak as “the sophomoric tone of ‘Campaign ’68” and described as “a jumbled, poorly-written eight-page compilation of anecdotes and pronouncements” that revealed “once again the low level of competence at the Democratic National Committee.” Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “Democratic Campaign letter Gibes at Many Anti-LBJ Party Leaders,” Washington Post, November 24, 1967.

151. Savage, JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party, 165.

152. Walter Pincus, “Major Fund-Raising Halted by Democrats,” Washington Post, April 5, 1968.

153. David E. Rosenbaum, “Klein Says Nixon Will Help Party,” New York Times, November 18, 1968.

154. Warren Weaver Jr., “G.O.P. Governors Cool to Ray Bliss,” New York Times, December 7, 1968.

155. Russell Freeburg, “Morton Urges G.O.P. to Shed Stand-By-Role,” Chicago Tribune, April 15, 1969.

156. Critchlow, Donald T., The Conservative Ascendancy. How the GOP Right Made Political History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 88.

157. Galvin, Presidential Party Building, 77.

158. Ibid., 79.

159. “GOP Shows Nixon Film: First Year in Office Extolled,” Washington Post, February 20, 1970.

160. R.W. Apple Jr., “Dole Is Selected to Direct G.O.P.,” New York Times, January 6, 1971. Other articles reported that Dole was expected to be the “party's public spokesman,” or “the Senate's White House spokesman.” See Philip Warden, “Dole Eases into Role as Head of G.O.P. National Committee,” Chicago Tribune, January 14, 1971; Thomas J. Foley, “Dole New GOP Chief,” Los Angeles Times, January 16, 1971.

161. See, for example, Walter Trohan, “’72 Dem Hopefuls Draw Dole Reply,” Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1971; “Dole Blasts Coverage of War Protests,” Washington Post, May 6, 1971; “Dole Assails Critics of Vietnam Policy,” Washington Post, June 13, 1971; Richard D. Lyons, “Dole Urges Panel to Fix War Blame,” New York Times, January 22, 1972; “Dole Assails Democrats for Vietnam War Role,” Washington Post, January 22, 1972.

162. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 8, frame 512.

163. Ibid., frame 513–14.

164. See “GOP Assails Democrats on Peace Plan,” Los Angeles Times, March 21, 1971; John Pierson, “The GOP Newsletter Prepares for ’72, Hits at All Possible Foes,” Wall Street Journal, April 23, 1971; “Hartke Wrong on POW Trade, GOP Declares,” Washington Post, May 17, 1971; William Anderson, “Muskie's Temper Rapped by G.O.P.,” Chicago Tribune, October 10, 1971.

165. Lou Cannon, “Republicans' Monday Calls It a Day,” Washington Post, July 31, 1973. Vice President Spiro Agnew, in December 1972, also lauded the success of Monday: “no party organ in my memory has ever been quite as effective as this one, not simply because it is newsworthy, but because it is constructively partisan… . What it does is to try to draw the issues between our political positions and those of the opposition party and it does it in a highly partisan effective sense … .” See Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 9, frame 158.

166. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 9, frame 95.

167. Lou Cannon, “Victory Bittersweet for GOP,” Washington Post, November 9, 1972.

168. Ibid.

169. “GOP Chief Dole Getting Set to Leave,” Washington Post, December 2, 1972; “Bush to Take GOP Post as Dole Quits,” Los Angeles Times, December 11, 1972.

170. Galvin, Presidential Party Building, 96.

171. Ibid., 96.

172. Lou Cannon, “Bush Remolds GOP Committee into Adjunct of White House,” Washington Post, March 19, 1973.

173. Jim Squires, “G.O.P. Aide Resigns; Cite ‘Kiddie Spy Corps’” Chicago Tribune, April 25, 1973.

174. “G.O.P. Committee, Facing Deficit, to Cut Staff 25%,” New York Times, July 18, 1973.

175. During a September 1973 RNC meeting, Bush stressed that the end of the weekly Monday publication was purely for financial reasons. See Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 11, frames 270–71.

176. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, series B, reel 11, frame 271.

177. Ibid., frames 285–86.

178. Suzanne O'Dea, Madam Chairman: Mary Louise Smith and the Republican Revival after Watergate (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2012), 71.

179. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, reel 12, frame 56.

180. “GOP Seeks to Improve Its Image,” Washington Post, November 15, 1974.

181. Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, “Marketing the GOP,” Washington Post, November 24, 1974.

182. Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, reel 12, frames 392–93.

183. Robert Shogan, “Hard-Pressed GOP Unit to Close for 2 Weeks,” Los Angeles Times, October 25, 1975.

184. For example, Sen. Charles Percy (R-IL) warned that a major advertising push could “lose votes and the money would be better spent for research and for supporting good Republican candidates than for promotional television commercials.” Neil Mehler, “G.O.P.’s Ad Plan Hit by Percy,” Chicago Tribune, February 12, 1975.

185. Smith described the shows as being “a kind of Republican magazine of the air” in which the party could promote “an exciting program launched by one of our governors, … a legislative report on bills pending in Congress, comments by Republican leaders on current issues… .” The shows thus represented “a Republican perspective on the news, on goings on in this country among Republicans and what they are doing” (Kesaris et al., Papers of the Republican Party, reel 12, frame 393).

186. Christopher Lydon, “G.O.P. Plans TV Advertising to Combat Its ‘Fat Cat’ Image,” New York Times, June 5, 1975.

Acknowledegements: I thank Julia Azari, Brian Balogh, Andrew Clarke, Jeffrey Cohen, Christopher Donnelly, Paul Freedman, Daniel Galvin, Jeffrey Grynaviski, Hans Hassell, Jeffery Jenkins, David Karol, Kenneth Lowande, Seth Masket, Monika McDermott, Robert Mickey, Sidney Milkis, Costas Panagopoulos, Brenton Peterson, Paromita Sen, Anthony Sparacino, Richard Valelly, and Craig Volden; the participants at presentations at the University of Virginia, Fordham University, and the 2016 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Philadelphia; and the editors and two anonymous reviewers for their comments, suggestions, and advice.

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Party Brands and the Democratic and Republican National Committees, 1952–1976

  • Boris Heersink (a1)


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