Defining Rockefeller Republicanism: Promise and Peril at the Edge of the Liberal Consensus, 1958–1975

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This article examines Rockefeller Republicanism and its status within the Republican Party by looking at the evolution of Nelson Rockefeller's support for social welfare policy between 1958 and 1975. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller regularly appears in histories of modern conservatism as the embodiment of the liberalism that conservatives rejected, but these works rarely account for the entirety of Rockefeller's career. Rather than focus on Rockefeller's challenges to the national Republican Party in 1960 and 1964, which results in an incomplete representation of Rockefeller Republicanism, this article reassesses moderate Republicanism's perceived dominance and Rockefeller's advocacy for liberal domestic policies and commitment to racial liberalism in New York. A full account of Rockefeller's struggles to find common ground with conservative New York Republicans and adoption of conservative positions related to law enforcement and welfare reform thwarted one of the GOP's best opportunities to assemble a multiracial and cross-class constituency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-370
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of Policy History
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • 1960s New York
  • 1964 Presidential Election
  • Barry Goldwater
  • Dwight Eisenhower
  • GOP
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Nelson Rockefeller
  • New York Governors
  • Rockefeller Republicans
  • conservatism
  • liberalism
  • welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

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