The “Compact of Fifth Avenue” resulted from a meeting in 1960 between aspiring presidential candidate Richard Nixon met Nelson Rockefeller in Rockefeller’s New York City home to discuss Nixon’s campaign.
Also referred to as the Treaty of Fifth Avenue, the compact was a way for Nixon to receive the backing of Rockefeller, a powerful force in the Republican party.
In fact, Rockefeller himself was considering seeking the nomination for the presidency that year. But when it was determined he couldn’t win, he decided to take on the role of kingmaker instead.
As laid out by Circa1865.com:
Rockefeller, though no longer seeking the nomination, was determined to influence the GOP platform. As critical as any Democrat of [Eisenhower] administration military policy, the New York governor strongly echoed the 1958 Rockefeller Brothers Fund report on national security, especially the recommendations for a mandatory national fallout shelter program, for accelerated ICBM development, and for bigger conventional forces.
Rockefeller, long considered a more moderate voice than many Republican candidates, gave Nixon his support, but in return Nixon promised to incorporate Rockefeller’s agenda into his campaign and the ensuing presidency, should he win.
As described in the Denver Post:
This was no small tête-à-tête. Nixon succumbed to a GOP policy agenda executed by the Rockefeller, stamping this meeting as a key example of the post-New Deal moderation of the Republican Party.
According the description of the compact from a 1967 edition of Congressional Quarterly, the key points of the Compact of Fifth Avenue were:
It called for expansion and acceleration of the defense program; strong federal action to remove discrimination in voting, housing, education and employment; stimulation of the economy to achieve a minimum 5-percent growth rate; and a medical care plan for the aged.
Many political scientists consider this compact to be a key component of the birth of modern conservatism.
But the compact didn’t sit well with all Republicans: “The so-called Compact of Fifth Avenue created controversy at the convention; conservatives saw the treaty as a backdoor surrender of conservative principles to the moderate Rockefeller.”
Fifty-two years later, during the height of the 2012 Republican primaries for president, the co-op where this so-called treaty was brokered made news again when it went on the market for $27.5 million.
Half-century later, that apartment is up for sale and the Republican Party continues to hash out divisions between conservatives like presidential hopefuls Gov. Rick Perry, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and moderates like former Gov. Mitt Romney. Real estate prices have gone up, but in some ways, it’s just like it’s 1960 all over again.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.