Republican Campaign Rhetoric Then and Now: The John G. Tower Senate Collection

John G. Tower was a Republican Senator representing the state of Texas from 1961 to 1985, and a Southwestern University alumnus. When he died, a large collection of his personal papers and correspondence was donated to the school, and now resides in Smith Library Center's Special Collections wing. The collection includes many statements and speeches issued, or at least drafted, by Tower and his speechwriters for use in his political campaigns. These artifacts demonstrate both how startlingly unchanged "current" political issues are – immigration from Mexico, for example – and how the rhetoric of the Republican party, and what it means to be a Republican, has shifted over time, as can be seen in Tower's speech on environmental protection. In Peter N. Carrol's It Seemed Like Nothing Happened: The Tragedy and Promise of America in the 1970s, Carrol deconstructs the term "The New Right," describing it as "dismissing" the quandary many Conservatives face: trying to "conserve" a nonexistent social order. Carrol quotes from Paul Weyrich, the founder of the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, who described the New Right as "radicals who want to change the existing power structure" (Carrol 326). This exhibit contrasts campaign statements that Tower made in the early 1970s with current Republican discourse drawn from the 2016 electoral race in order to highlight reccurence and question notions of "newness."


Andrew Josefchak