Share this

Republican Character: From Nixon to Reagan, Donald T. Critchlow

Reviewed by John J. Pitney Jr.



Character counts. That phrase appears in schoolrooms across the country, and many scholars regard it as an empty cliché. But it also points to a political insight: a political leader's performance depends not just on circumstance and ideology but also on personality and temperament. In this useful and well-written book, Donald T. Critchlow elaborates on this point by examining the careers of four Republicans: Richard M. Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan.

In 1960, Rockefeller threatened to challenge Nixon for the GOP presidential nomination, and eight years later, he ran against him. Despite his vast wealth, Rockefeller fell short. Critchlow argues that his character was as much an obstacle as his liberalism. In 1964, while Nixon was making peace with Goldwater supporters, Rockefeller went out of his way to alienate them, thereby scuttling his chances in an increasingly conservative party. Critchlow links this miscalculation to the same hubris that Rockefeller had displayed throughout his governorship of New York. Nixon's eventual downfall stemmed from a different flaw: a deepening sense that enemies surrounded him. Critchlow suggests that this flaw grew out of the attacks and betrayals that Nixon endured in the 1950s and early 1960s. There is truth in that argument, but a large residue of mystery still surrounds Nixon&

To continue reading, see options above.

About PSQ's Editor


Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.


Book Talk | Phantoms of a Beleaguered Republic: The Deep State and the Unitary Executive
May 24, 2022


Editor’s spotlight

Women's History Month

Woodrow Wilson, Alice Paul, and the Woman Suffrage Movement
Sally Hunter Graham

The Year of the Woman? Candidates, Voters, and the 1992 Elections
Ester R. Fuchs and Michael X. Delli Carpini


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

New APS Book

Perspectives on Presidential Elections, 1992–2020   PERSPECTIVES ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, 1992–2020

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS