In recent years historians have paid substantial attention to the
origins of modern political conservatism and the record of the
Nixon administration in building a Republican majority in the late
twentieth century. In Richard Nixon and the Quest for a New
Robert Mason analyzes Nixon's response to the
developing conservative climate and challenges revisionist claims
about the activist nature of the Nixon administration. Nixon was an
activist in intent, Mason contends, but not in deed.
Nixon's "silent majority" speech of 1969 not only undermined the
growth of the antiwar movement, Mason shows, but also identified a
constituency for Nixon to cultivate in order to secure reelection.
However, the implementation of his new-majority project was
hindered by the resort to dirty tricks against political opponents
and the ineffectual pursuit of a policy agenda. Although some Nixon
initiatives were enacted, says Mason, they were not substantial
enough to rival the Democrats' bread-and-butter issues. While Nixon
built Republican strength at the presidential level, Mason argues
that he did not succeed in mobilizing popular support for
broad-based political conservatism.