In 1964 the Republican Party was at its lowest point since the FDR New Deal era as far as their power in America. Especially in the Federal Government, where they were the opposition minority party. Democrats had the presidency with President Johnson, they had huge majority’s in the Congress. With 289 seats in the House and 68 seats in the Senate. The Senate Republican minority couldn’t even block anything on their own. And this was back when it took 67 votes to stop a filibuster. And yet the Republican Party had one of the most effective Senate leaders in Senate history, in Everett Dirksen.
House Republicans, a very small minority party. Only had 140 seats but they did have a very effective Minority Leader in Gerald Ford. Who went on to become Vice President of the United States and then of course later President of the United States. Who was pretty effective at keeping his conference united against what the President wanted to do. The Great Society being a pretty good example of this, but Minority Leader Ford was also very effective at coming up with alternatives to what President Johnson and House Speaker John McCormack brought to the House floor. The Republican Party was going through a very rough period.
Having been thrown out of power in 1960 when Vice President Richard Nixon lost the Presidency to Senator Jack Kennedy and Democrats retained large majority’s in both the House and Senate. And to make it worse, House and Senate Republicans both lost seats in the 1962 mid-term elections. Generally the opposition party picks up seats in Congress in the mid-term Elections. So the Republican Party was in pretty bad shape. And then of course in 1964 when Senator Barry Goldwater lost in a landslide to President Johnson and Democrats again picked up seats in the House and Senate as well.
Which is one of the reasons why Representative Gerald Ford beat then House Minority Leader Charlie Halak. Because House Republicans felt they needed a new voice and new Leader and Gerry Ford was a very effective Minority Leader. And he helped his conference rebuild itself. And this is where Senator Goldwater’s presidential campaign was very successful. Because he got the party back to classical conservatism and won some states in the South. And Minority Leader Ford was able to take that message to the House and his conference. And effectively communicated their message on TV and radio and in print.
House Republicans under the leadership of Minority Leader Gerald Ford, were able to offer and alternative agenda to President Johnson and House Democrats. And House Republicans picked up 47 seats in 1966 and Richard Nixon was elected President in 1968. And in some ways 1964 and the aftermath was the start of the Republican Party rebuilding. And building their party in the South.