The Last Liberal Republican
An Insider's Perspective on Nixon's Surprising Social Policy
Sales Date: June 18, 2021
384 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: June 2021
- Published: June 2021
- Published: November 2023
The Last Liberal Republican is a memoir from one of Nixon’s senior domestic policy advisors. John Roy Price—a member of the moderate wing of the Republican Party, a cofounder of the Ripon Society, and an employee on Nelson Rockefeller’s campaigns—joined Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and later John D. Ehrlichman, in the Nixon White House to develop domestic policies, especially on welfare, hunger, and health. Based on those policies, and the internal White House struggles around them, Price places Nixon firmly in the liberal Republican tradition of President Theodore Roosevelt, New York governor Thomas E. Dewey, and President Dwight Eisenhower.
Price makes a valuable contribution to our evolving scholarship and understanding of the Nixon presidency. Nixon himself lamented that he would be remembered only for Watergate and China. The Last Liberal Republican provides firsthand insight into key moments regarding Nixon’s political and policy challenges in the domestic social policy arena. Price offers rich detail on the extent to which Nixon and his staff straddled a precarious balance between a Democratic-controlled Congress and an increasingly powerful conservative tide in Republican politics.
The Last Liberal Republican provides a blow-by-blow inside view of how Nixon surprised the Democrats and shocked conservatives with his ambitious proposal for a guaranteed family income. Beyond Nixon’s surprising embrace of what we today call universal basic income, the thirty-seventh president reordered and vastly expanded the patchy food stamp program he inherited and built nutrition education and children’s food services into schools. Richard Nixon even almost achieved a national health insurance program: fifty years ago, with a private sector framework as part of his generous benefits insurance coverage for all, Nixon included coverage of preexisting conditions, prescription drug coverage for all, and federal subsidies for those who could not afford the premiums.
The Last Liberal Republican will be a valuable resource for presidency scholars who are studying Nixon, his policies, the state of the Republican Party, and how the Nixon years relate to the rise of the modern conservative movement.
"Price's story is more than just a helpful explainer for the more recent thorny and contentious debates over child tax credits. It’s also a portrait of a Republican party that once knew how to broker its own coalition, governing through the power of two wings, a conservative ‘base,’ and an ‘establishment’ leadership."—Law & Liberty
"Price’s compelling and persuasive book will be of great interest to those who study domestic policy as well as party politics."—Political Science Quarterly
"Contains abundant, telling historical detail and analysis."—Choice
“Are you ready for some revisionism? Price’s Nixon was trying to bring the country together. He understood that politics was ‘poetry’—you needed more than good policy positions. But good ones he had. His domestic policies would have ended the financial incentives to break up low-income families and would have kept catastrophic health issues from bankrupting middle-class families. We see Nixon doing the right thing because it is the right thing. This book is thought-provoking from beginning to end.”—Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, author of Fan in Chief: Richard Nixon and American Sports, 1969–1974
“John Roy Price’s The Last Liberal Republican is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the Nixon presidency as well as the presidential/congressional relationship as it relates to domestic policymaking. Price’s memoir not only explains the domestic policy agenda during a seminal point in American history but also shows how a Republican president worked with a Democratic Congress to revise and expand parts of the New Deal and Great Society agendas. Price’s ability to illustrate the policy battles as they played out on the political frontlines makes this book essential reading.”—Lori Cox Han, author of Advising Nixon: The White House Memos of Patrick J. Buchanan
“For all those who thought there was nothing more—nothing new—to say about Richard Nixon, John Roy Price has a surprise, and an important one. Here is a Nixon seldom seen, a Nixon leaning left even as he moved the Republicans right, a Nixon worried about his place in history even as he was soiling his place in history. No biography of the thirty-seventh president written in the remainder of this century can be unaffected by this vital and indispensable book.”—David Shribman, Pulitzer Prize–winning nationally syndicated columnist and former executive editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“John Roy Price’s The Last Liberal Republican is an indispensable memoir about working the domestic policy beat for President Richard Nixon. Price writes well, has commanding knowledge of the era, and is determined to set the historical record straight. I consider it a gift to Cold War–era scholarship. Highly recommended!”—Douglas Brinkley, Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and professor of history, Rice University, and coeditor of The Nixon Tapes
“Not so very long ago the Republican Party was the home of serious policy thinkers and doers who believed in the power of the federal government to improve American lives and then exercised that power with skill and finesse. John Roy Price throve in that world, and in these pages he brings it captivatingly to life with fresh, nuanced portraits of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Robert Finch, George Shultz, and many others, including, most remarkably, Richard Nixon. The Last Liberal Republican is just the book we need in our own illiberal time.”—Sam Tanenhaus, author of The Death of Conservatism: A Movement and Its Consequences and Whittaker Chambers: A Biography
List of Abbreviations
1. The Path to Eisenhower and Nixon: The Struggle for the Soul of the Republican Party
2. The Disruptive Decade: The 1960s and the Formation of the Ripon Society
3. Partisan Strife, San Francisco’s 1964 Convention, and Electoral Calamity
4. 1965-1968: Back to the Center?
5. The Oval Office Has a new Occupant
6. Organizing for Domestic Policymaking: Enter Daniel P. Moynihan
7. the Council for Urban Affairs: The Launch
8. A President in a Hurry
9. “Our Monument”: Laying the Foundation
10. The Battle for Nixon's Decision
11. The Fencing Moves Épées to Sabers
12. The Hunger Issue and the Food Stamp Revolution
13. “A Gamble on Human Nature”: Nixon in a Minority in His Cabinet
14. Briefing Ronald Reagan: The Beginnings of the Conservative Rebellion
15. The Center Does Not Hold—Nixon Folds His Hand on FAP
16. Richard Nixon and a Health Strategy