A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 21, 2012
Big Tent

Both Republicans and Democrats used to hold many tent meetings; the terms “Republican tent” and “Democratic tent” were used metaphorically to represent the party and its principles (if any). “Big tent” means that the party welcomes many differences of opinion. Some argue that a political party should be a big tent, while others maintain that a political party must stand for something and should not waiver on core principles.

‘Big tent” essentially was used at least as early as October 1922, when President Warren Harding said that the “Republican tent is big enough for all to get under.” The “big tent” philosophy was much-discussed in 1964’ conservative Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater said that there was room for all party members “under the Republican tent.”


Wikipedia: Big tent
In politics, a big tent party or catch-all party is a political party seeking to attract people with diverse viewpoints. The party does not require adherence to some ideology as a criterion for membership. Such new joining groups may not influence policy or major party decisions measurably at first.

Definition
The big tent approach argues against any sort of single-issue litmus tests or ideological rigidity, and advocates multiple ideologies and views within a party.

This is in contrast to political parties that promote only a more narrowly defined but no less ambitious set of goals within one country’s governmental and economic system. Advocates of a big tent believe that people with a broad variety of political approaches and viewpoints can unite within a single party to advance shared core issues, even if they disagree in other areas. This way the party can attract a large base of support at the polls. Big tent parties are far more common in first past the post systems with only a few large parties.
(...)
Criticism
Critics of catch-all parties accuse them of populism, adopting whatever policies they need to win without any ideological conviction or clear policy goal. Also, the rise of catch-all parties can lead to lower voter-participation, as people don’t see a consistent idea of what each party stands for.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
big tent, n.
attrib. Polit. of or designating a political doctrine or strategy of inclusiveness which embraces a broad spectrum of views and opinions among its members rather than insisting on strict adherence to party policy.
[1962 Appleton (Wisconsin) Post-Crescent 29 June a6/3 If the Democratic party were a single unity, with a common viewpoint, Kennedy could count on a dependable majority. But the party has seldom been like this. It’s like a big tent, sheltering liberals and conservatives.]
1987 New Yorker 21 Dec. 115 We’re running a big-tent campaign—we never let anybody unite a major faction against us.
1999 Independent (Electronic ed.) 16 Feb., Reporters asked if the inclusion of non-Labour Party members in the campaign represented ‘big tent’ politics.

30 October 1922, Lexington (KY) Herald, “The Ways of the World: Harding Styles Himself as Harmonizer” by George R. Holmes, pg. 4, col. 5:
It is Mr. Harding’s philosophy that the “Republican tent is big enough for all to get under.” Right now there are under the tent such contrasts as Lynn J. Frazier, the ex-Non-Partisan League governor of North Dakota, and Elihu Root; Colonel Smith W. Brookhart, of Iowa, and Charles Evans Hughes; James E. Watson and Albert J. Beveridge, political enemies for thirty years; Herbert Hoover and Hiram Johnson; Robert M. La Follette and Harry M. Daugherty—the list runs endlessly.

27 September 1952, Oil City (PA) Derrick, “Capitol Stuff” by John O’Donnell, pg. 6, col. 5:
Significant was his (Dwight Eisenhower—ed.) proclamation of the doctrine: “Membership in our party does not necessarily mean mutual agreement or approval other than on basic objectives and principles.”

In other words, the Republican tent is big enough to cover elephants of all breeds.

1 March 1957, Rockford (IL) Morning Star, pg. 12A, col. 4:
G.O.P. Has Room for All,
Guyer Tells Ericsson Club

“The Republican tent is wide enough and big enough for everyone to get under; maybe my friend is more liberal or more conservative than I, but we can all feel comradeship in the Republican party,” Attorney Stanley H. Guyer, new Illinois G.O.P. chairman, Thursday told the John Ericsson Republican club of Rockford at its annual meeting in Svithiod hall.

5 April 1962, Rockford (IL) Morning Star, pg. 10A, col. 1:
Renk Tells GOP Shortcomings
HARTLAND, Wis. (UPI)—Wilbur Renk, Sun Prairie, Wednesday night told the Lake Country Republican Club four reasons he thinksthe GOP has not been winning.

Renk, a candidate for governor, said his party has had candidates who “have not had a universal appeal,” “the Republican tent has not been made broad enough to cover various shades of opinion,” the party has had a “horse and buggy approach” to urban problems, and the Democrats have done “a better selling job.”

2 November 1964, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Presidential Campaign Seemed Unreal: Race Was Traditional With Jet-Age Color” by Robert E. Baskin and Mike Quinn, sec. 2, pg. 20, col. 7:
In Chicago the other night he (Senator Barry Goldwater—ed.) declared that there was room for all party members “under the Republican tent.”

8 November 1964, Seattle (WA) Daily Times, “State Republican Leaders Take Up Task of Rebuilding Hard-Hit Organiation” by Lyle Burt, pg. 22, col. 4:
“I hope to erect a Republican tent big enough to encompass all regular Republicans, whether they are conservative, moderate or liberal in their thinking, but leaving out the extremists,” Evans said.
(Governor-elect Dan Evans—ed.)

13 August 1965, New York (NY) Times, pg. 1:
SCRANTON ASSAILS
G.O.P. EXTREMISTS
Says Party Has No Room for
a Radical Right and Must
Retain Own Principles

By FRED P. GRAHAM
MIAMI BEACH, Aug. 12.—Gov. William W. Scranton of Pennsylvania said tonight there was not room in the Republican party for the radical right wing.

In resuming his attack upon the party’s extremist fringe after a one-year truce, the Republican Governor said:

“There is a radical ringe which should never find a spiritual home in either o America;s two great political parties, and the Republican party ought to stop the hopless task of trying to accommodate them.

“Every effort to hold the Republican tent open wide enough to let in the radicals, the racists and their brethren has only led to the withdrawal from that tent of thousands and thousand of dismayed American voters.”

Google News Archive
10 December 1976, Reading (PA) Eagle. “Ford Seeks Unification,” pg. 2, cols. 3-4:
WASHINGTON (AP)—President Ford wants to join a high command that would aim to unify the Republican party and drive toward a 1980 GOP victory.

He summoned the reigning factional leaders of the GOP to a White House summit Thursday and got them to agree to a party superstructure in which all would take part.

“We are not kingmakers,” Ford said after meeting with Ronald Reagan, John B. Conally and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller.
(...)
Ford also said, “I think the Republican tent is big enough, broad enough, to encompass the four individuals who met here this afternoon.”

Google News Archive
9 June 1981, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “The duty of an opposition” by William Safire (New York Times), pg. 9A, cols. 3-4:
HOWEVER, “big tent” proponents hold that a party is a root to power and should accommodate many views: That is why the parties overlap, although the center of gravity of the Republican Party is to the right of the Democratic Party. The genius of this two-party system, as it exists today, is that change can be substantial without being wrenching.

I like that “big tent” theory. It is an American invention that has worked remarkably well, helping to make us the most stable democracy on Earth. But a threat to that unique system comes from those who insist that parties should represent ideologies, like Labor vs. Conservative in Britain, or the parties of the left vs. the right in France.
(...)
Goodbye, Republican big tent, hello, ideological purity—and hello ultimate Democratic triumph.

The Congress Dictionary:
The ways and meanings of Capitol Hill

By Paul Dickson and Paul Clancy
New York, NY: John Wiley
1993
Pg. 288:
Republican big tent/Republican tent An inclusive Republican party. When Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) was asked if Sen. Joe McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican, should be read out of the party, he was quoted as replying, “The Republican tent, as you know, is large enough to embrace a good many points of view.”

Google Books
Safire’s Political Dictionary
By William Safire
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
2008
Pg. 53:
big tent The theory that a political party is a specious home for debate, and not a cozy bungalow that permits only a narrow political ideology. A TRUE BELIEVER holds that a political party must “stand for principle” and not muddy up its philosophy with ME TOO ideas held by the opposition.

On the contrary, say the advocates of the big tent: there is plenty of room for divergence of opinion within any party, which should be a device for getting into power. They point to Jefferson’s statement: “Not every difference of opinion is a difference of principle.”

The Colorado Statesman
MARTIN: SPECTER’S SWITCH IS PERFECT EXAMPLE
Republican ‘big tent’ has fallen flat because of lack of diversity and thought
5/29/2009
(...)
Even Ronald Reagan recognized the importance of having a wide range of opinions within his party. He called it “the big tent.” In the last 20 years, I am sad to say, the poles that held up that big tent — the poles of diversity of thought and respect for dissent — have been knocked down. The “big tent” has fallen flat.

You can’t have the party of George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, Barry Goldwater, Everett Dirksen and Howard Baker tossing out everyone with a moderate view.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Saturday, January 21, 2012 • Permalink