The seeds of today’s bitter political division were sown in the 1978 Republican primary.


While the outcome of the 2024 presidential nomination race is sure to get the most attention, this spring is sure to include some interesting intra-party agendas. Some of the hallmarks of modern politics are battles over ideological purity, loyalty to party agendas, the crime of not supporting party leaders, and the disappointment of voters who are slow to progress on issues.

This was not always the case. At a time when elected leaders pursued agendas not explicitly endorsed by their own party, at a time when it was considered acceptable to create bipartisan legislation, officials believed other members of the party There was a time when people worked without fear of being “primaries” for not endorsing things. Party members could challenge incumbents without being part of a larger war—often for the direction and soul of the party.

That all changed 45 years ago in the 1978 Republican primary. It was at that moment that the great shift began, and the once common traits of independence and bipartisan notions began to wane.

In the late 1970s, some Republican leaders pledged for the first time to reorganize the party. There used to be many factions within the party — Liberals in the Eastern Establishment, Midwestern Moderates in the Midwest, Conservatives in the South and West — many believe that the best path forward is Conservatives. Fueled by Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Gerald Ford in 1976, the use of more sophisticated direct mail, and frustration over the party’s lack of identity, the 1978 primary was their experiment. chosen as the venue. The first step of this daring group was the purge of infidels.

targeted moderates

Three moderate Republicans climb to the top of the conservative hit list.Anderson is the first target since Illinois hosted its first primary in 1978. Anderson was chairman of the House Republican Party meeting, so beating the party leader at the season-opening election event would draw widespread attention.

Anderson was the right choice as a conservative target. He often strayed from the Republican agenda and took controversial positions, resulting in him losing support in his district and having little campaign experience.

His opponent was Don Lyon, a televangelist with conservative beliefs and values ​​and media experience. This was not a symbolic opposition. Although Lyon was a novice in politics, he devoted himself to the election campaign and ran for victory.

Anderson tried to ignore the challenge, but was quickly unsuccessful. Lyon raised funds through her direct mail, attended candidate training his workshops, hired experienced election administrators, and received support from conservatives across the country.

Lyon built its campaign around some of the same issues that still divide voters today, including tax cuts, abortion, handgun registration, foreign aid, government spending policies, and issues of the time such as the ERA and the Panama Canal Treaty. Did. Polls show Lyon is on the rise.

Anderson was an impressive Congressman. He possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of law. He was a news media favourite, so he made frequent appearances on national television. To strengthen his Republican credentials, Anderson persuaded prominent Republicans to campaign for him. Starring Ford, Henry Kissinger and Jack Kemp. Anderson raised a lot of money, hired a political consulting firm, and aired his commercials on television. All of these were things he had never done before. In March 1978, aided by a large turnout, Anderson defeated Lyon by his 58% to 42%.

scars that remain today

Case and Brooke were unhappy. Bold by nearly knocking out Anderson, the conservatives took power against them. Case lost his primary in June. Brooke barely survived the September challenge, but suffered a double-digit loss in November. Rather than face another challenge, this would be Anderson’s final term.

Anderson won the election, but conservatives won the war because of the spirit and direction of the party. It became unacceptable to deviate from party legitimacy. Cooperating with Democrats on legislation was frowned upon. Disloyalty to the party became an open wound. Those who questioned the party’s ethos were often on the challenger’s hit list.

45 years later, we still suffer from these scars. If any politician, whether it’s Liz Cheney, Joe Manchin, or Mike Pence, chooses to speak for themselves, they risk their careers to do so. We ask—why has it become so important to be aligned and so wrong to work together for the common good?

Jim Mason said,Don’t Hesitate: The 1980 John B. Anderson Presidential Campaign.” He lives in New York City.

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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