George H.W. Bush’s broken promise that changed the Republican Party

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Bush's pledge to not raise taxes led to repercussions still felt in conservative politics today.

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Presidents give hundreds of speeches, but, for better or worse, Americans tend to remember just a few one-liners. For George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st US president, that line was his pledge at 1988 Republican National Convention when he accepted the nomination.

“Read my lips. No. New. Taxes.”

The crowd roared in approval, but their cheers were short lived. That’s because when Bush took over the Oval Office, he inherited the consequences of his predecessor Ronald Reagan’s supply-side or “trickle down” economics: massive budget deficits. And in 1990, Bush broke his promise and raised taxes.

Bush was a traditional “country club” Republican, whose relatively moderate economic and social beliefs contrasted with more right wing conservatives that had supported Ronald Reagan. So when he lost to Bill Clinton in 1992, Reaganites abandoned a moderate, bipartisan approach to politics and the Republican Party has moved further to the right ever since.

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