The Ripon Society was the first major Republican organization to support passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s. In the early 1970s, it called for the normalization of relations with China, and the abolition of the military draft.
When many young people fear that their ideas cannot have an impact in American politics, the members of the Ripon Society have effectively proven otherwise. By thinking long and hard about public programs and by arguing its positions in a vigorous and reasonable manner, the Ripon Society has notably enriched our political dialogue.
The Ripon Forum is the bimonthly magazine published by the Ripon Society since 1965.
The magazine reports on current issues with essays in politics, business, and academia. Recent issues include articles examining education in the 21st century, progressive tax policy, healthcare and information technology, and election reform.
The Forum has featured guest writers such as American business magnate T. Boone Pickens in 1985. Actor Chuck Norris once wrote an article in the Ripon Forum titled, "Why I Am A Republican."
Several U.S. presidents and Republican nominees have written guest articles in The Ripon Forum: President Richard M. Nixon
In 1968, President Richard Nixon wrote a guest column in The Ripon Forum. Nixon advocated for a robust national jobs program, writing: "I propose that we use existing computer technology to match the unemployed with available jobs."
The Ripon Forum ran cover story on President Bush in 2008, reflecting on the 20 years since Bush had stood before the Republican National Convention and accepted the nomination for president. "There is no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others," Bush wrote.
Senator McCain presented his view of world peace, as he prepared to accept the Republican nomination for president in 2008. McCain wrote, "I am, from hard experience and the judgment it informs, a realistic idealist. I know we must work very hard and very creatively to build new foundations for a stable and enduring peace. We cannot simply wish the world to be a better place than it is."
In 2008, Senator Dole wrote about sacrifice and service, arguing for better treatment of American veterans.
Emil Frankel and the Bow Group
Emil Frankel was a Harvard law student in the early 1960s. He had studied in England on a Fulbright scholarship. While in England, he met members of a group called the Bow Group. The Bow Group founders had been "dissatisfied with the Conservative Party’s image as ‘the Stupid Party’." The Bow Group impressed Frankel, particularly regarding the level of detail that its members would study public policy problems and the proactive way its members became experts on policy topics.
Dr. John S. Saloma III was a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Like Frankel, Saloma had studied in England on a Fulbright scholarship. Both Frankel and Saloma became editors at Advance magazine.
In December 1962, Frankel and Saloma "circulated a confidential 'Proposal for an American Bow Group'". Saloma and Frankel held a meeting on December 12, 1962, in Cambridge, Massachusetts at Harvard College. The meeting would become the first meeting of the group that eventually became known as the Ripon Society. The name is a reference to Ripon, Wisconsin, the birthplace of the Republican Party.
One of the main goals of the Ripon Society is to promote ideas and principles that have contributed to the GOP's past success. These ideas include keeping the nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is not just smaller, but smarter and more accountable to the people.
A Call to History
On November 22, 1963, a group of Ripon Society members were having lunch in a dining hall at Harvard University. During lunch, they were planning a trip to campaign for Nelson Rockefeller, who was at that time the Republican governor of New York. Near the end of their lunch meeting, the members got word that President John F. Kennedy had been shot.
Political historian and author Geoffrey Kabaservice writes, "Although they (the Ripon Society members) were Republicans, JFK had been their political inspiration. When the news confirmed that Kennedy had been killed, they were caught between grief for their fallen hero and fear of Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded to the presidency".
The Ripon members wrote a manifesto over the weeks following President Kennedy’s death. The manifesto was called "A Call to Excellence in Leadership: An Open Letter to the New Generation of Republicans". Newspapers around the U.S. published the manifesto. The New York Herald Tribune even published the manifesto in full.
The Ripon Papers
The Ripon Society wrote its first public statement in the weeks that followed President Kennedy's assassination and published the statement on January 6, 1964:
“While we yet sorrow, so must we seize this moment before our thoughts slip away to be lost in the noise of ‘life as usual.’ It is in this context that we have chosen to speak. We speak as a group of young Republicans to that generation which must bear the responsibility for guiding our party and our country over the coming decades. We speak for a point of view in the Republican Party that has too long been silent.
"We believe that the future of our party lies not in extremism, but in moderation. The moderate course offers the Republican Party the best chance to build a durable majority position in American politics. This is the direction the party must take if it is to win the confidence of the “new Americans” who are not at home in the politics of another generation: the new middle classes of the suburbs of the North and West – who have left the Democratic cities but have not yet found a home in the Republican party; the young college graduates and professional men and women of our great university centers – more concerned with “opportunity” than “security”, the moderate of the new South – who represent the hope for peaceful racial adjustment and who are insulted by a racist appeal more fitting another generation. These and others like them hold the key to the future of our politics.
"We believe that the Republican Party should accept the challenge to fight for the middle ground of American politics. The party that will not acknowledge this political fact of life and courageously enter the contest for power does not merit and cannot possibly win the majority support of the American people.”
Dr. John Saloma, Founding President
The Founding President of the society was Dr. John S. Saloma III. He served as President from 1963 until 1967. In 1962, Dr. Saloma founded the American Bow Group, a society of university intellectuals. In 1963, the American Bow Group became the Ripon Society.
In 1964, conservative activists within the Republican Party nominated Barry Goldwater for president. The Ripon Society argued against Goldwater", writing:
"We believe that the future of our party lies not in extremism, but in moderation. The moderate course offers the Republican Party the best chance to build a durable majority position in American politics. This is the direction the party must take if it is to win the confidence of the ‘new Americans’ who are not at home in the politics of another generation: the new middle classes of the suburbs of the North and West — who have left the Democratic cities but have not yet found a home in the Republican party; the young college graduates and professional men and women of our great university centers — more concerned with ‘opportunity’ than ‘security’; the moderates of the new South — who represent the hope for peaceful racial adjustment and who are insulted by a racist appeal more fitting another generation. These and others like them hold the key to the future of our politics.”
Summary of major historical events
The Ripon Society has played a role in major political and policy events in America since the 1960s
In 1966, the society publicly announced its support of stopping the U.S. military draft at the conclusion of the Vietnam War. The society published a 10,000 word essay on its ideas for ending the draft. Ideas included increasing military salaries, paying volunteers higher salaries than draftees, and getting rid of “irrelevant induction standards to increase the flow of volunteers.”
During President Nixon's first term, the Ripon Society publicly asked Nixon to change the Republican Party's political tactics by getting rid of what was known as the "southern strategy." The Society arrived at this position because George Wallace had won the vote in Alabama, and the Society believed that Wallace's victory "killed it [the southern strategy] as a national tactic," the Kentucky New Era wrote in 1970.
Senatorial rating system
In 1970, the Society created its first system to rate Members of Congress' voting records. The system rated the votes of U.S. Senators on key issues. The Society said that the goal of the rating system was to help people distinguish between liberal and conservative politicians. In that first year of rating, two senators received a near-perfect rating record: Senator Charles A. Goodell (R-NY) and Senator John Sherman Cooper (R-KY). The rating system was based on 29 specific roll call votes in the U.S. Senate.
Interior Secretary Hickel "Man of the Year"
In November 1970, President Nixon fired his Secretary of the Interior, Walter J. Hickel. In April 1971, the Ripon Society gave Hickel the Ripon Society Man of the Year award. The Society made its decision by looking at the results of a poll it had taken of the readers of its magazine, The Ripon Forum.
In 1972, the Ripon Society awarded George Romney the Ripon Society "Republican of the Year" award. George Romney is Mitt Romney's father. At that time, George Romney served in as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.The Society used a number of criteria when selecting Romney. For example, the Society supported Romney's work in the areas of "new housing, metropolitan planning, and federal revenue sharing with state and local governments," according to the Rome News-Tribune.
In 1981, the Ripon Society voiced public support for sanctions on nuclear-exporting countries. The society asked President Reagan to sanction any nation that sold weapons-grade nuclear materials or facilities.
Republican party direction
In 1984, Congressman Jim Leach, who served as head of the Ripon Society at the time, held a notable press conference on Capitol Hill. At the press conference, Leach said that the Republican Party had been the first party to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment; that the party was founded on the “Lincolnian notion that rights, to be valid, must be color-blind”; and that the party had historically been supportive of the separation of church and state. As the Milwaukee Journal characterized it, “Leach…had some rough words for the GOP.”
The Ripon Society hosts breakfast forums that feature members of Congress. For example, the breakfast forums have hosted the Republican Women’s Policy Committee, National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and House Ways and Means Committee members.
Rough Rider awards
Between 1999 and 2004, the society gave what was known as the Rough Rider Awards to recognize public officeholders who have "'stood in the arena, and pushed for innovative policy solutions on a range of issues." Notable recipients included former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, former Wisconsin Governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, future House Speaker John Boehner, and White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card.
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Gillette, Howard F. "Ripon Society records, 1963-1978". Collection Number 2824. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (New York, NY: Cornell University Library). "Includes correspondence, research projects, civil rights material, reports, fund raising material, programs, minutes of meetings, financial records, memoranda, press releases, newsletters, publications, correspondence and other material related to various Republican organizations, mailings to potential contributors and subscribers, membership records, research materials and papers, clippings, and other records of the Ripon Society. Also records of the Ripon Society collected by Howard F. Gillette, Jr.”
"The Ripon Society". Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. (TV) (New York, NY: PBS). 24 February 1969. "During the battles for the Republican Party in the 1960s, the Ripon Society was founded in Massachusetts to further liberal ("moderate" in the Society's own terminology) tendencies in the party--the Rockefeller, Scranton, Romney wing, as opposed to the Goldwater, Reagan, and even Nixon wing. Today's conversation changes none of the participants' minds, but it clearly lays out the two wings' current positions. WFB: "The Ripon Society certainly seems to me to have affected most people as an organization that is industriously engaged in trying to persuade the Republican Party to be like the Democratic Party." TEP: "No, it's engaged in persuading the Republican Party to do those things that will enable it to compete with the Democratic Party in states where the Democratic Party is strong. That's a bit different. We try to take Republican ideas and formulate them so that they can embrace the necessary role of government in the last few decades of this century.”"
Hunter, Marjorie; Weaver Jr., Warren (30 July 1985). "Republican of the Year". Briefing. The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2014. "When Vice President Bush sought the Republican nomination for President in 1980, he was generally billed as a moderate, at least more of a moderate than Ronald Reagan. But as President Reagan's Vice President, Mr. Bush has kept a relatively conservative profile. And so it is of more than passing interest to note that he will receive the Republican of the Year award tonight from the Ripon Society, a research organization that fosters moderate Republicanism, commitment to arms control, expansion of civil rights, fiscal responsibility and renewal of environmental resources. The award places the Vice President on a par, at least within the Ripon ranks, with two other men who might seek the Republican Presidential nomination in 1988. The two, Bob Dole and Howard H. Baker Jr., were past recipients of the Republican of the Year award."
King; Wayne; Weaver Jr., Warren (11 August 1986). "Loyalty and Then Some". Washington Talk: Briefing. The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2014. "The Ripon Society has prided itself over the years on being younger, more academic-oriented and more progressive in philosophy than the rest of the Republican Party, but it has nevertheless remained resolutely inside that party. Just now, with the Democrats trying to regain in November the Senate majority they lost six years ago, the society is proclaiming and demonstrating its supervening loyalty to the G.O.P."
Smith, Terence (8 July 1981). "U.S. Frames Policy on Halting Spread of Nuclear Arms". World. The New York Times. Retrieved 3 April 2014. "The Reagan policy stops short of suggestions that have been made since the June 7 Israeli attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor. For instance, the Ripon Society, an organization of moderate and liberal Republicans, recently called on the Administration to declare that any shipment of weapons-grade nuclear material or facilities that could be used to produce weapons would be construed as an act of international terrorism, subject to American economic sanctions. The Reagan guidelines contain no such provision."
White, John Kenneth; Mileur, Jerome M. (1992). Challenges to Party Government. SIU Press. pp. 66–67. ISBN9780809318346. "In another 1975 decision, Ripon Society v. National Republican Party, in which the liberal Ripon Society challenged the Republican Party’s delegate-apportionmnet formula as favoring conservative states, the Court upheld the national party’s right to define its own delegate apportionment formula. It should be emphasized that while this was a victory for national prerogatives, the Ripon Society wanted the apportionment formula to reflect the party’s geographical strength more accurately, an objective also endorsed by the committee."
Viteritti, Joseph P. (2014). Summer in the City: John Lindsay, New York, and the American Dream. JHU Press. ISBN9781421412627. "Most of Lindsay’s campaign white papers were compiled by progressive Republican activists from organizations such as the Ripon Society, Republican Advance, and Republicans for Progress . . . Numbers derived from the 1964 endorsements of the Committee to Support Moderate Republicans and the Ripon Society, plus National Review’s listing of House Republicans who permitted Democratic victories on “crucial Administration measures of an anti-conservative nature."