American conservatism, Talk:American conservatism
, Talk:American Conservatism/removed
is a constellation of political ideologies within the United States
under the blanket heading of conservative
. Included are fiscal conservatives, free market or economic liberals, social conservatives
[ http://usconservatives.about.com/od/theconservativephilosophy/p/social.htm The Conservative Philosophy ]
and religious conservatives,
[ http://atheism.about.com/library/weekly/aa070898.htm About atheism ] [ http://www.icr.org/ Institute for Creation Research ]
as well as supporters of a strong American military
, opponents of internationalism
[ http://www.conservative.org/columnists/divine/001226dd.asp The American Conservative Union ]
and proponents of states' rights
[ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13067747/ ]
Modern American conservatism coalesced in the latter half of the 20th century, responding over time to the political and social change associated with events such as the Great Depression
, the confrontation and defeat of Communism in the Cold War
, the American Civil Rights Movement
, the counterculture
of the 1960s, the deregulation
of the economy in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the overthrow of the New Deal Coalition
in the 1980s, and the terrorist threat of the 21st century. Its prominence has been aided, in part, by the emergence of vocal and influential economists, politicians, writers, and media personalities. While conservatives were once significant minorities in both major parties, the conservative wing of the Democratic party has all but died out and most conservatives today identify themselves as Republicans. In 2000 and 2004, about 80% of self-described conservatives voted Republican
of the American Revolution
were mostly political conservatives, some of whom produced political discourse of a high order, including lawyer Joseph Galloway
and governor-historian Thomas Hutchinson
. After the war, the great majority remained in the U.S. and became citizens, but some leaders emigrated to other places in the British Empire. Samuel Seabury
was Loyalist who returned and as the first American bishop played a major role in shaping the Episcopal religion, a stronghold of conservative social values.
The Founding Fathers
created the single most important set of political ideas in American history, known as republicanism
, which all groups, liberal and conservative alike, have drawn from. The Federalist Party
, followers of Alexander Hamilton
, developed an important variation of republicanism that can be considered conservative. Rejecting monarchy and aristocracy, they emphasized civic virtue as the core American value. The Federalists spoke for the propertied interests and the upper classes of the cities. They envisioned a modernizing land of banks and factories, with a strong army and navy.
On many issues American conservatism also derives from the republicanism of Thomas Jefferson
and his followers, especially John Randolph of Roanoke
and his "Old Republican" followers. They idealized the yeoman farmer as the epitome of civic virtue, warned that banking and industry led to corruption, that is to the illegitimate use of government power for private ends. Jefferson himself was a vehement opponent of what today is called "judicial activism".
The Jeffersonians stressed States' Rights
and small government. In the 1830-54 period the Whig Party
attracted conservatives such as Daniel Webster
of New England.
Ante-Bellum: Calhoun and WebsterDaniel Webster
and other leaders of the Whig Party
, called it the conservative party in the late 1830s.
[The word was originally used in the French Revolution. The British used it after 1839 to describe a major party. The first American usage is by Whigs who called themselves "Conservatives" in the late 1830s. Hans Sperber and Travis Trittschuh, American Political terms: An Historical Dictionary (1962) 94-97.] John C. Calhoun
, a Democrat, articulated a sophisticated conservatism in his writings. Richard Hofstadter (1948) called him "The Marx of the Master Class." Calhoun argued that a conservative minority should be able to limit the power of a "majority dictatorship" because tradition represents the wisdom of past generations. (This argument echoes one made by Edmund Burke
, the founder of British conservatism, in Reflections on the Revolution in France
(1790)). Calhoun is considered the father of the idea of minority rights, a position adopted by liberals in the 1960s in dealing with Civil Rights.
The conservatism of the ante-bellum period is contested territory; conservatives of the 21st century disagree over what comprises their heritage. Thus William J. Bennett (2006) a prominent conservative leader, tells conservatives to NOT honor Calhoun, Know-Nothings
and 20th century isolationists.
Lincoln to Cleveland
Since 1865 the Republican party
has identified itself with President Abraham Lincoln
, who was the ideological heir of the Whigs and of both Jefferson and Hamilton. As the Gettysburg Address
shows, Lincoln cast himself as a second Jefferson bringing a second birth of freedom to the nation that had been born 86 years before in Jefferson's Declaration. The Copperheads
of the Civil War reflected a reactionary opposition to modernity of the sort repudiated by modern conservatives. A few libertarians have adopted a neo-Copperhead position, arguing Lincoln was a dictator who created an all-powerful government.
In the late 19th century the Bourbon Democrat
s, led by President Grover Cleveland
, preached against corruption, high taxes (protective tariffs), and imperialism, and supported the gold standard
and business interests. They were overthrown by William Jennings Bryan
in 1896, who moved the mainstream of the Democratic Party permanently to the left.
The 1896 presidential election was the first with a conservative versus liberal theme approaching the way in which these terms are now understood in the U.S. Republican William McKinley
won using the pro-business slogan "sound money
and protection," while the anti-bank, anti-modernity populism of the Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan, had a lasting effect on his party.William Graham Sumner
, Yale professor (1872-1910) and polymath, vigorously promoted a libertarian conservative ethic. After dallying with Social Darwinism
under the influence of Herbert Spencer
, he rejected evolution in his later works, and strongly opposed imperialism. He opposed monopoly and paternalism in theory as a threat to equality, democracy and middle class values, but was vague on what to do about it.
[Curtis, Bruce. "William Graham Sumner 'On the Concentration of Wealth.'" Journal of American History 1969 55(4): 823-832.]
Early 20th centuryright|thumb|200px|[Robert A. Taft
]see also|Old Right (United
In the Progressive Era
(1890s-1932), regulation of industry expanded as conservatives led by Senator Nelson Aldrich
of Rhode Island were put on the defensive. However, Aldrich's proposal for a strong national banking system was enacted as the Federal Reserve System
in 1913. Theodore Roosevelt
, the dominant personality of the era, was both liberal and conservative by turns. As a conservative he led the fight to make the country a major naval power, and demanded entry into World War I
to stop what he saw as the German attacks on civilization. William Howard Taft
promoted a strong federal judiciary that would overrule excessive legislation. Taft defeated Roosevelt on that issue in 1912, forcing Roosevelt out of the GOP and turning it to the right for decades. As president, Taft remade the Supreme Court
with five appointments; he himself presided as chief justice in 1921-32, the only former president ever to do so.
Pro-business Republicans returned to dominance in 1920 with the election of President Warren G. Harding
. The presidency of Calvin Coolidge
(1923-29) was a high water mark for conservatism, both politically and intellectually. Classic writing of the period includes Democracy and Leadership
(1924) by Irving Babbitt and H.L. Mencken's magazine American Mercury
(1924-33). The Efficiency Movement
attracted many conservatives such as Herbert Hoover
with its pro-business, pro-engineer approach to solving social and economic problems.
During the Great Depression
, other conservatives participated in the taxpayers' revolt at the local level. From 1930 to 1933, Americans formed as many as 3,000 taxpayers' leagues to protest high property tax
es. These groups endorsed measures to limit and rollback taxes, lowered penalties on tax delinquents, and cuts in government spending. A few also called for illegal resistance (or tax strikes). Probably the best known of these was led by the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers
in Chicago which, at its height, had 30,000 dues-paying members.
An important intellectual movement, calling itself Southern Agrarians
and based in Nashville, brought together like-minded novelists, poets and historians who argued that modern values undermined the traditions of American republicanism
and civic virtue.
The Depression brought liberals to power under President Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933). Indeed the term "liberal" now came to mean a supporter of the New Deal
. In 1934 Al Smith
and pro-business Democrats formed the American Liberty League
to fight the new liberalism, but failed. In 1936
the Republicans rejected Hoover and tried the more liberal Alf Landon
, who carried only Maine and Vermont. When Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court in 1937 the conservatives finally cooperated across party lines and defeated it with help from Vice President John Nance Garner
. Roosevelt unsuccessfully tried to purge the conservative Democrats in the 1938 election. The conservatives in Congress then formed a bipartisan informal Conservative Coalition
of Republicans and southern Democrats. It largely controlled Congress from 1937 to 1964. Its most prominent leaders were Senator Robert Taft
, a Republican of Ohio, and Senator Richard Russell
, Democrat of Georgia.thumb|275px|1936 cartoon shows GOP building its platform from the conservative planks abandoned by the Democrats
In America, the Old Right
, also called the Old Guard, was a group of libertarian
, free-market anti-interventionists, originally associated with Midwestern Republicans and Southern Democrats. The Republicans (but not the southern Democrats) were isolationists in 1939-41, (see America First
), and later opposed NATO
and U.S. military intervention in Korea
. According to historian Murray Rothbard
, "the libertarian intellectuals were in the minority...and
theirs was the only thought-out contrasting ideology to the New Deal."
Later 20th century: Goldwater, Buckley, the Dixiecrats
By 1950, American liberalism
was so dominant intellectually that author Lionel Trilling
could dismiss contemporary conservatism as "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas."
In the 1950s, principles for a conservative political movement were hashed out in books like Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind
(1953) and in the pages of the magazine National Review
, founded by William F. Buckley Jr.
Whereas Taft's Old Right
had been isolationist the new conservatism favored American intervention overseas to oppose communism. It looked to the Founding Fathers for historical inspiration as opposed to Calhoun and the antebellum South.
Ironically, as the Democratic Party became identified with the American Civil Rights Movement
of the 1950s through 1970s, many former southern Democrats joined the Republican Party, even in the face of greater proportional support for civil rights legislation among Republicans, thereby increasingly cementing the Republicans' alignment as a conservative party. Senator Barry Goldwater, sometimes known as "Mr. Conservative," argued in his 1960 Conscience of a Conservative
that conservatives split on the issue of civil rights due to some conservatives advocating ends (integration, even in the face of what they saw as unconstitutional Federal involvement) and some advocating means (constitutionality above all else, even in the face of segregation
). Republicans joined northern Democrats to override a filibuster of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Later that year, Goldwater was resoundingly defeated by President Lyndon B. Johnson
] Out of this defeat emerged the New Right
, a political movement that coalesced through grassroots organizing in the years preceding Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign. The American New Right is distinct from and opposed to the more moderate/liberal tradition of the so-called Rockefeller Republican
s, and succeeded in building a policy approach and electoral apparatus that propelled Ronald Reagan
into the White House in the 1980 presidential election
Nixon, Reagan, and BushSee also: Nixon and the liberal consensus
The Republican administrations of President Richard Nixon
in the 1970s
were characterized more by their emphasis on realpolitik
, and economic policies such as wage and price controls, than by their adherence to conservative views in foreign and economic policy.left|thumb|200px|[Ronald W. Reagan
Thus, it was not until the election of 1980
and the subsequent eight years of Ronald Reagan
's presidency that the American conservative movement truly achieved ascendancy. In that election, Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time since 1954, and conservative principles dominated Reagan's economic and foreign policies, with supply side economics
and strict opposition to Soviet Communism defining the Administration's philosophy.
An icon of the American conservative movement, Reagan is credited by his supporters with transforming the politics of 1980s
America, galvanizing the success of the Republican Party, uniting a coalition of economic conservatives who supported his economic policies
, known as "Reaganomics
," foreign policy conservatives who favored his staunch opposition to Communism and the Soviet Union
over the détente
of his predecessors, and social conservatives who identified with Reagan's conservative religious and social ideals.
It is hotly debated whether the successive Republican Administrations of Presidents George H. W. Bush
and George W. Bush
are truly conservative. George W. Bush campaigned in 2000
as a "compassionate conservative
," but in his second term, conservative critics have negatively cited his expansion of the Medicare
program and his increases in Federal spending and the Federal deficits; in contrast, he is often lauded by some conservatives for his commitment to conservative social and religious values, tax-cut initiatives, and a strong national defense.
Types of conservatism
Defining "American conservatism" requires a definition of conservatism in general, and the term is applied to a number of ideas and ideologies, some more closely related to core conservative beliefs than others.
or institutional conservatism
- Opposition to rapid change in governmental and societal institutions. This kind of conservatism is anti-ideological insofar as it emphasizes process (slow change) over product (any particular form of government). To the classical conservative, whether one arrives at a right- or left-leaning government is less important than whether change is effected through rule of law rather than through revolution
and sudden innovation.
2. Ideological conservatism
or right-wing conservatism
-- In contrast to the anti-ideological classical conservatism
, right-wing conservatism
is, as its name implies, ideological.
It is typified by three distinct subideologies: social conservatism
, fiscal conservatism
, and economic liberalism
. Together, these subideologies comprise the conservative ideology of people in some English-speaking countries: separately, these subideologies are incorporated into other political positions.
, in its United States usage
, has come to refer to the views of a subclass of conservatives who support a more assertive foreign policy coupled with one or more other facets of social conservatism,
in contrast to the typically isolationist views of early- and mid-20th Century conservatives. Neoconservatism was first described by a group of disaffected liberals, and thus Irving Kristol
, usually credited as its intellectual progenitor, defined a "neoconservative" as "a liberal who was mugged by reality." Although originally regarded as an approach to domestic policy (the founding instrument of the movement, Kristol's The Public Interest
periodical, did not even cover foreign affairs), through the influence of figures like Dick Cheney
, Robert Kagan
, Richard Perle
, Ken Adelman and (Irving's son) William Kristol
, it has become more famous for its association with the foreign policy of the George W. Bush Administration.
4. Small government conservatism
-- Small government conservatives look for a decreased role of the federal government, and as well weaker state governments. Small government conservatives rather than focusing of the protections given individuals by the Bill of Rights, they try to weaken the federal government, thereby following the Founding Fathers who were suspicious of a centralized, unitary state like Britain
, from which they had just won their freedom.
, which arose in the 1980s in reaction to neoconservatism, stresses tradition, civil society, classical federalism and heritage of Christendom
. They see social democracy, ideology, and managerial society as malevolent attempts to remake humanity.http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/Chronicles/January2001/0101RoundTable.htm
Supporters say that the dominant forces in Western society no longer support conserving the traditions, institutions, and values that created and formed it.http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/Chronicles/March2004/0304Principalities.html
Therefore, they say true conservatives must oppose the status quo. In statecraft, they call for decentralism, local rule, private property and minimal bureaucracy.http://homepages.cs.ncl.ac.uk/chris.holt/home.informal/lounge/politics/conservativism/
In society, they are traditionalist, support a Christian moral order and proclaim the nuclear family is a wise system. Some like Samuel P. Huntington
argue that multiracial, multiethnic, and egalitarian states are inherently unstable.
[ Samuel P. Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations," Foreign Affairs Summer 1993, v72, n3, p22-50, http://www.alamut.com/subj/economics/misc/clash.html online version.]
Paleos tend to be isolationist, arguing that American entry into foreign wars is unnecessary and unwise.
Conservatism as "ideology," or political philosophy
Classical conservatives tend to be anti-ideological, and some would even say anti-philosophical,
promoting rather, as Russell Kirk
explains, a steady flow of "prescription and prejudice." Kirk's use of the word "prejudice" here is not intended to carry its contemporary pejorative connotation: a conservative himself, he believes that the inherited wisdom of the ages may be a better guide than apparently rational individual judgment.
In contrast to classical conservatism, social conservatism
and fiscal conservatism
are concerned with consequences as well as means.
There are two overlapping subgroups of social conservatives—the traditional and the religious. Traditional conservatives strongly support traditional codes of conduct, especially those they feel are threatened by new ideas. For example, traditional conservatives may oppose the use of women soldiers in combat. Religious conservatives focus on rules laid down by religious leaders. In America, they especially oppose abortion
. They often favor the use of government institutions, such as schools and courts, to promote Christianity.
Fiscal conservatives support limited government, limited taxation, and a balanced budget. Some admit the necessity of taxes, but hold that taxes should be low. A recent movement against the inheritance tax labels such a tax a death tax
. Fiscal conservatives often argue that competition in the free market is more effective that the regulation of industry, with the exception of industries that exhibit market dominance or monopoly powers. For some this is a matter of principle, as it is for the libertarians and others influenced by thinkers such as Ludwig von Mises
, who believed that government intervention in the economy is inevitably wasteful and inherently corrupt and immoral. For others, "free market economics" simply represents the most efficient way to promote economic growth: they support it not based on some moral principle, but pragmatically, because it "works".
Most modern American fiscal conservatives accept some social spending programs not specifically delineated in the Constitution. As such, fiscal conservatism today exists somewhere between classical conservatism and contemporary consequentialist political philosophies.
Throughout much of the 20th century, one of the primary forces uniting the occasionally disparate strands of conservatism, and uniting conservatives with their liberal and socialist
opponents, was opposition to communism
, which was seen not only as an enemy of the traditional order, but also the enemy of western freedom and democracy.
Social conservatism and tradition
:Main article: Social conservatismSocial conservatism
or "Cultural Conservatism" is generally dominated by defense of traditional social norms and values, of local customs and of societal evolution, rather than social upheaval, though the distinction is not absolute. Often based upon religion
, modern cultural conservatives, in contrast to "small-government" conservatives and "states-rights" advocates, increasingly turn to the federal government to overrule the states in order to preserve educational and moral standards.
Social conservatives emphasize traditional views of social units such as the family
, or locale. Social conservatives would typically define family in terms of local histories and tastes. To the Protestant
, social conservatism may entail support for defining marriage as between a man and a woman (thereby banning gay marriage) and laws placing restrictions on abortion
From this same respect for local traditions comes the correlation between conservatism and patriotism. Conservatives, out of their respect for traditional, established institutions, tend to strongly identify with nationalist movements, existing governments, and its defenders: police, the military, and national poets, authors, and artists. Conservatives hold that military institutions embody admirable values like honor, duty, courage, and loyalty. Military institutions are independent sources of tradition and ritual pageantry that conservatives tend to admire. In its degenerative form, such respect may become typified by jingoism, populism, and perhaps even bigotry or isolationism.
Some conservatives want to use federal power to block state actions they disapprove of. Thus in the 21st century came support for the "No Child Left Behind
" program, support for a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage
, support for federal laws overruling states that attempt to legalize marijuana
or assisted suicide
. The willingness to use federal power to intervene in state affairs is the negation of the old state's rights position.
Anti-intellectualism has always been an important component, especially in a society that has politicized religious arguments.
[Richard Hofstadter, Anit-Intellectualism in American Life (1963)]
Thus social conservatives like William Jennings Bryan
in the 1920s led the battle for prohibition in the United States
, and against Darwinism and evolution, while simultaneously he was a leading exponent of economic liberalism.
main|Fiscal Fiscal conservatism
is the economic and political policy that advocates restraint of governmental taxation and expenditures. Fiscal conservatives since the 18th century have argued that debt is a device to corrupt politics; they argue that big spending ruins the morals of the people, and that a national debt creates a dangerous class of speculators. The argument in favor of balanced budgets
is often coupled with a belief that government welfare programs should be narrowly tailored and that tax rates should be low, which implies relatively small government institutions.
This belief in small government combines with fiscal conservatism to produce a broader economic liberalism
, which wishes to minimize government intervention in the economy. This amounts to support for laissez-faire
economics. This economic liberalism
borrows from two schools of thought: the classical liberals' pragmatism and the libertarian's notion of "rights." The classical liberal maintains that free markets work best, while the libertarian contends that free markets are the only ethical markets.
Fiscal conservatives have complained about high-spending conservatives, such as Ronald Reagan
, George H. W. Bush
, and George W. Bush
, especially regarding military spending.
The economic philosophy of conservatives in America tends to be liberalism
. Economic liberalism
can go well beyond fiscal conservatism's
concern for fiscal prudence, to a belief or principle that it is not prudent for governments to intervene in markets. It is also, sometimes, extended to a broader "small government
" philosophy. Economic liberalism is associated with free-market
, or laissez-faire
Economic liberalism, insofar as it is ideological
, owes its creation to the "classical liberal
" tradition, in the vein of Adam Smith
, Friedrich A. Hayek
, Milton Friedman
, and Ludwig von Mises
support free markets on moral, ideological grounds: principles of individual liberty morally dictate support for free markets. Supporters of the moral grounds for free markets include Ayn Rand
and Ludwig von Mises
. The liberal tradition is suspicious of government authority, and prefers individual choice, and hence tends to see capitalist economics as the preferable means of achieving economic ends.
Modern conservatives, on the other hand, derive support for free markets from practical grounds. Free markets, they argue, are the most productive markets. Thus the modern conservative supports free markets not out of necessity, but out of expedience. The support is not moral or ideological, but driven on the Burkean notion of prescription: what works best is what is right.
Another reason why conservatives support a smaller role for the government in the economy is the belief in the importance of the civil society
. As noted by Alexis de Tocqueville
, a bigger role of the government in the economy will make people feel less responsible for the society. The responsibilities must then be taken over by the government, requiring higher taxes. In his book Democracy in America
, De Tocqueville describes this as "soft oppression".
It must be noted that while classical liberals and modern conservatives reached free markets through different means historically, to-date the lines have blurred. Rarely will a politician claim that free markets are "simply more productive" or "simply the right thing to do" but a combination of both. This blurring is very much a product of the merging of the classical liberal and modern conservative positions under the "umbrella" of the conservative movement.
The archetypal free-market conservative administrations of the late 20th century -- the Margaret Thatcher
government in the UK and the Ronald Reagan
government in the U.S. -- both held the unfettered operation of the market to be the cornerstone of contemporary modern conservatism (this philosophy is sometimes called neoliberalism
). To that end, Thatcher privatized industries and Reagan cut the maximum capital gains tax from 28% to 20%, though in his second term he raised it back up to 28%. Contrary to the neoliberal ideal, Reagan increased government spending from about 700 billion in his first year in office to about 900 billion in his last year.
[ The World Almanac and Book of Facts, ISBN 0-88687-910-8 ]
The interests of capitalism
, fiscal and economic liberalism, and free-market economy
do not necessarily coincide with those of social conservatism. At times, aspects of capitalism and free markets have been profoundly subversive of the existing social order, as in economic modernization, or of traditional attitudes toward the proper position of sex in society, as in the now near-universal availability of pornography
. To that end, on issues at the intersection of economic and social policy, conservatives of one school or another are often at odds.
Conservatism in the United States electoral politicsSee also: Dixiecrats, Southern strategy, Solid South, Contract with America
In the United States, the Republican Party
is generally considered to be the party of conservatism. This has been the case since the 1960s
, when the conservative wing of that party consolidated its hold, causing it to shift permanently to the right of the Democratic Party
. The most dramatic realignment was the white South, which moved from 3-1 Democratic to 3-1 Republican between 1960 and 2000.
In addition, many United States libertarians, in the Libertarian Party
and even some in the Republican Party, see themselves as conservative, even though they advocate significant economic and social changes – for instance, further dismantling the welfare system
or liberalizing drug policy. They see these as conservative policies because they conform to the spirit of individual liberty that they consider to be a traditional American value. It should be noted that although libertarians
have had closer ties with conservatives, they do not typically believe themselves to be conservative.
On the other end of the scale, some Americans see themselves as conservative while not being supporters of free market policies. These people generally favor protectionist
trade policies and government intervention in the market to preserve American jobs. Many of these conservatives were originally supporters of neoliberalism
who changed their stance after perceiving that countries such as China
were benefiting from that system at the expense of American production. However, despite of their support for protectionism, they still tend to favor other elements of free market philosophy, such as low taxes, limited government and balanced budgets.
Conservative geography, "Red States"
Today in the U.S., geographically the South
, the Midwest
, the non-coastal West
, and Alaska
are conservative strongholds. However, the division of the United States into conservative red states
and liberal blue states
is artificial and does not reflect the actual distribution of voters of either stripe. College towns are generally liberal and Democratic. People who live in rural areas and the "exurbs
" tend to be conservative (socially, culturally, and/or fiscally) and vote Republican. People who live in the urban cores of large metropolitan areas tend to be liberal and vote Democrat. The medium cities and suburbs are split. Thus, within each state, there is a division between city and country, between town and gown
Conservatism and change
"Conservatism" is not necessarily opposed to change. For example, the Reagan administration in the U.S. and that of Margaret Thatcher
in the UK both professed conservatism, but during Reagan's term of office, the United States radically revised its tax code, while Thatcher dismantled several previously nationalized industries and made major reforms in taxation and housing; furthermore, both took, or attempted, significant measures to reduce the power of labor union
s. These changes were justified on the grounds that they were changing back to the conditions of a better time.
Various "Conservative" parties have presided over periods of economic expansion which have been disruptive of previous social and political arrangements, for example the Republican Party
America, and the BJP
in late 1990s
Political memory can be of various durations, and the traditions conservatives embrace can be of relatively recent invention. The prevalence of the nuclear family
is, at most, a few centuries old. Western democracy itself is a late 18th century
invention. Corporate capitalism is even newer. The reference to God
in the Pledge of Allegiance
only goes back to the 1950s
. The race-blind meritocracy
now embraced by many U.S. conservatives as an alternative to affirmative action
would have seemed quite radical to most U.S. conservatives in the 1950s
Contemporary conservative platform
In the United States
and western Europe
, conservatism is generally associated with the following views, as noted by Russell Kirk
in his book, The Conservative Mind
#"Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience."
#"Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems;"
#"Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and the Leviathan becomes master of all."
#"Faith in prescription and distrust of 'sophisters, calculators, and economists' who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs."
#"Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress."
There is currently debate over whether the policies of the George W. Bush Administration
accurately reflect American conservative values: Peggy Noonan
, writing for the Wall Street Journal
, recently said, "For this we fought the Reagan revolution? A year into his second term, President Bush is redefining what it means to be a Republican and a conservative.
Conservatism and the Courts
One stream of conservatism exemplified by William Howard Taft
extols independent judges as experts in fairness and the final arbiters of the Constitution. However, another more populist stream of conservatism condemns "judicial activism" -- that is, judges rejecting laws passed by Congress or interpreting old laws in new ways. This position goes back to Jefferson's vehement attacks on federal judges and to Abraham Lincoln
's attacks on the Dred Scott
decision of 1857. In 1910 Theodore Roosevelt
broke with most of his lawyer friends and called for popular votes that could overturn unwelcome decisions by state courts. President Franklin D. Roosevelt
did not attack the Supreme Court directly in 1937, but ignited a firestorm of protest by a proposal to add seven new justices. The Warren Court
of the 1960s came under conservative attack for decisions regarding redistricting, desegregation, and the rights of those accused of crimes.
A more recent variant that emerged in the 1970s is "originalism
", the assertion that the United States Constitution
should be interpreted to the maximum extent possible in the light of what it meant when it was adopted. Originalism should not be confused with a similar conservative ideology, strict constructionism
, which deals with the interpretation of the Constitution as written, but not necessarily within the context of the time when it was adopted.
Semantics, language, and media
In the late 20th century conservatives found new ways to use language and the media to support their goals and to shape the vocabulary of political discourse. Thus the use of "Democrat" as an adjective, as in "Democrat Party" was used first in the 1930s by Republicans to criticize large urban Democratic machines. Republican leader Harold Stassen
stated in 1940
, "I emphasized that the party controlled in large measure at that time by Hague in New Jersey, Pendergast in Missouri and Kelly Nash in Chicago should not be called a 'Democratic Party.' It should be called the 'Democrat party.'" Safire 1994
In 1947 Senator Robert A. Taft
said, "Nor can we expect any other policy from any Democrat Party or any Democrat President under present day conditions. They cannot possibly win an election solely through the support of the solid South
, and yet their political strategists believe the Southern Democrat Party will not break away no matter how radical the allies imposed upon it." Taft Papers 3:313
. The use of "Democrat" as an adjective is standard practice in Republican national platforms (since 1948), and has been standard practice in the White House since 2001, for press releases and speeches. It seems to be quite common on conservative talk
Conservatives gained a major new communications medium with the advent of talk radio
in the 1990s. Rush Limbaugh
proved there was a huge nationwide audience for articulate and heated discussions of current events from a conservative viewpoint. Major hosts who describe themselves as either conservative or libertarian
include: Michael Peroutka
, Ben Ferguson
, Lars Larson
, Sean Hannity
, G. Gordon Liddy
, Laura Ingraham
, Michael Savage
, Bill O'Reilly
, Glenn Beck
, Larry Elder
, Michael Reagan
, and Ken Hamblin
. The Salem Radio Network
syndicates a group of religiously-oriented Republican activists, including evangelical Hugh Hewitt
, and Jewish
conservatives Dennis Prager
and Michael Medved
. One popular Jewish conservative Dr. Laura
offers parental and personal advice, but is an outspoken critic of social and political issues. Libertarian
s such as Neal Boortz
(based in Atlanta
), and Mark Davis
(based in Ft. Worth
, Texas) reach large local audiences. Art Bell
held some Libertarian views before his talk show adapted a new paranormal format. Many of these hosts also publish books, write newspaper columns, appear on television, and give public lectures (Limbaugh was a pioneer of this model of multi-media punditry). At a rarer level, University of Chicago
professor Milt Rosenberg has been hosting a talk show "Extension 720"
on WGN radio in Chicago since the 1970s. Talk radio provided an immediacy and a high degree of emotionalism that seldom is reached on television or in magazines. Pew researchers found in 2004 that 17% of the public regularly listens to talk radio. This audience is mostly male, middle-aged, well-educated and conservative. Among those who regularly listen to talk radio, 41% are Republican and 28% are Democrats. Furthermore, 45% describe themselves as conservatives, compared with 18% who say they are liberal.
Pew further reports that conservatives and liberals are increasingly polarized in their TV news preferences. The cable news audience is more Republican and more strongly conservative than the public at large or the network news audience. Among regular cable news viewers, 43% describe their political views as conservative, compared with 33% of regular network news viewers; 37% of cable viewers are moderate, compared to 41% of network viewers; and 14% are self-described liberals versus 18% of network viewers.
The audience for the Fox News Channel
has grown since 1998, becoming much more conservative and more Republican. In 1998, the Fox News audience mirrored the public in terms of both partisanship and ideology. However, the percentage of Fox News Channel viewers who identify as Republicans has increased steadily from 24% in 1998, to 29% in 2000, 34% in 2002, and 41% in 2004. Over the same time period, the percentage of Fox viewers who describe themselves as conservative has increased from 40% to 52%.
Conservative political movements
Contemporary political conservatism — the actual politics of people and parties professing to be conservative — in most western democratic
countries is an amalgam of social and institutional conservatism, generally combined with fiscal conservatism, and usually containing elements of broader economic conservatism as well. As with liberalism, it is a pragmatic and protean politics, opportunistic at times, rooted more in a tradition than in any formal set of principles.
It is certainly possible for one to be a fiscal and economic conservative but not a social conservative; in the United States at present, this is the stance of libertarianism. It is also possible to be a social conservative but not an economic conservative — at present, this is a common political stance in, for example, Ireland
— or to be a fiscal conservative without being either a social conservative or a broader economic conservative, such as the "deficit hawks" of the Democratic Party (United States)
. In general use, the unqualified term "conservative" is often applied to social conservatives who are not fiscal or economic conservatives. It is rarely applied in the opposite case, except in specific contrast to those who are neither.
It can be argued that classical conservatism tends to represent the interests of the Establishment
. Yet, this is not always the case. Considering the conservative's opposition to political abstractions, the "true" conservative ought never support a contrived social state, be that on the left (Communism
) or on the right (Fascism
). There is an independent justification of the attitude of conservatism, which tends to favour what is organic and has been shaped by history, against the planned and artificial.
Some criticisms of American conservatism on ideological or philosophical grounds are:
*A common progressive
criticism of conservatism is that its emphasis on tradition serves to retard the inherently necessary evolution
of a nation or society - particularly as one exists within the shifting paradigm
s of a constantly changing world.
*Progressive critics also believe that the predominate economic positions among conservatives for freer trade, weaker unions
and limited government intervention (with regards to welfare programs
and a minimum wage
) have contributed to the rise in income inequality in America.
[ http://www.economist.com/world/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7055911 ] [ http://www.nber.org/reporter/winter03/technologyandinequality.html ]
*Many American conservatives believe that America is or should be a Christian nation.
[ http://www.americanchristianhistory.com/ ] [ http://www.e-thepeople.org/article/39185/ ]
Critics say that forcing students (or anyone) to acknowledge a particular religion violates the Constitution. Likewise critics say conservatives who believe that government or public schools should judge scientific questions (especially regarding evolution) by the Bible are violating the constitution.
[http://www.pfaw.org People for the American Way. ] [ http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/edwards-v-aguillard/amicus1.html Nobel prizewinners on creation science. ]
*Barbara R. Bergmann claims that conservative opposition to affirmative action
might lead to a return to de facto segregation.
[ Barbara R. Bergmann, In Defense of Affirmative Action, Basic Books, 1997, ISBN 0-465-09834-7 ]
* Dunn, Charles W. and J. David Woodard; The Conservative Tradition in America
Rowman & Littlefield, 1996
*Filler, Louis. Dictionary of American Conservatism
Philosophical Library, (1987)
* Literature of Liberty, vol. 1 no. 3, 1978 pp 1-31 online">http://oll.libertyfund.org/Home3/Essay.php?recordID=0789 Foner, Eric. "Radical Individualism in America: Revolution to Civil War," Literature of Liberty, vol. 1 no. 3, 1978 pp 1-31 online
*Bruce Frohnen et al eds. American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia
(2006) ISBN 1-932236-44-9, the most detailed reference
*Genovese, Eugene. The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatism
Harvard University Press, 1994
. The Conservative Movement
*Guttman, Allan. The Conservative Tradition in America
Oxford University Press, 1967.
*Willmoore Kendall, and George W. Carey. "Towards a Definition of 'Conservatism." Journal of Politics
26 (May 1964): 406-22.
. The Conservative Mind
. Regnery Publishing
; 7th edition (2001): ISBN 0-89526-171-5
. Conservative Minds in America
*Lowi, Theodore J. The End of the Republican Era
(1995) http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=25826907962221 online review
*Meyer, Frank S. ed. What Is Conservatism?
*Murphy, Paul V. The Rebuke of History: The Southern Agrarians and American Conservative Thought
. The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945
(1978) influential history
*Nisbet, Robert A. Conservatism: Dream and Reality.
University of Minnesota Press, 1986.
*Ribuffo, Leo P. 1983. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War
. Temple University Press.
*Rossiter, Clinton. Conservatism in America.
2nd ed. Harvard University Press, 1982.
*Melvin J. Thorne; American Conservative Thought since World War II: The Core Ideas
*Peter Viereck; Conservatism: from John Adams to Churchill
*Hart, Jeffrey. The Making of the American Conservative Mind: The National Review and Its Times
*Lora, Ronald.; The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America
Greenwood Press, 1999
*McDonald, Forrest. States' Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio, 1776-1876
*Malsberger, John W. From Obstruction to Moderation: The Transformation of Senate Conservatism, 1938-1952
*Patterson, James. Congressional Conservatism and the New Deal: The Growth of the Conservative Coalition in Congress, 1933-39
*Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus
(2004) on 1964
*Reinhard, David W.; Republican Right since 1945
University Press of Kentucky, 1983
*Shelley II, Mack C. The Permanent Majority: The Conservative Coalition in the United States Congress
*Wilensky, Norman N. Conservatives in the Progressive Era: The Taft Republicans of 1912
*Bell, David. ed, The Radical Right.
*Huntington, Samuel P. "Conservatism as an Ideology." American Political Science Review
52 (June 1957): 454-73.
*Coser Lewis A.
, and Irving Howe
, eds. The New Conservatives: A Critique from the Left
New American Library, 1976.
* H. Lee Cheek Jr.;Calhoun and Popular Rule: The Political Theory of the Disquisition and Discourse
University of Missouri Press. 2001. Stresses Calhoun's Republicanism
*Robert M. Crunden. The Mind and Art of Albert Jay Nock
* Dierenfield, Bruce J. Keeper of the Rules: Congressman Howard W. Smith of Virginia
(1987), leader of the Conservative coalition
*Fergurson, Ernest B. Hard Right: The Rise of Jesse Helms
*Fite, Gilbert. Richard B. Russell, Jr, Senator from Georgia
(2002) leader of the Conservative coalition
*Goldberg, Robert Alan. Barry Goldwater
*John B. Judis, William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives
*Daniel Kelly. James Burnham and the Struggle for the World: A Life
*Patterson, James T. Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert A. Taft
*Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, Mencken: The American Iconoclast
*Michael P. Federici. Eric Voegelin: The Restoration of Order
*Pemberton, William E. Exit with Honor: The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan
*Kevin J. Smant, Principles and Heresies: Frank S. Meyer and the Shaping of the American Conservative Movement
(2002) (ISBN 1-882926-72-2)
*Smith, Richard Norton. An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover
(1994) strongest on 1933-64
*Sam Tanenhaus. Whittaker Chambers: A Biography
(1997) (ISBN 0-394-58559-3)
*Whittaker Chambers, Witness
(1952), a memoir his Communist years
*John B. Bader; Taking the Initiative: Leadership Agendas in Congress and the "Contract with America"
Georgetown University Press, (1996)
*Berkowitz, Peter . Varieties Of Conservatism In America
* Himmelstein, Jerome and J. A. McRae Jr., "'Social Conservatism, New Republicans and the 1980 Election'", Public Opinion Quarterly
, 48 (1984), 595-605.
*Micklethwait, John, and Adrian Wooldridge. The Right Nation
* http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~nunberg/attacks.html Geoffrey Nunberg, "Language and Politics"
*Rae; Nicol C. Conservative Reformers: The Republican Freshmen and the Lessons of the 104th Congress
M. E. Sharpe, 1998
*Schoenwald; Jonathan . A Time for Choosing: The Rise of Modern American Conservatism
*Allan Bloom. The Closing of the American Mind
*Gerson, Mark. The Neoconservative Vision: From the Cold War to Culture Wars
*Halper, Stefan & Clarke, Jonathan, America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order
(Cambridge University Press, 2004) ISBN 0-521-83834-7
*Stelzer, Irwin. Neo-conservatism
*Diamond, Sara. Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States.
*Koopman; Douglas L. Hostile Takeover: The House Republican Party, 1980-1995
Rowman & Littlefield, 1996
*Lapham, Lewis H. "Tentacles of Rage" in Harper's
, September 2004, p. 31-41.
*Martin, William. 1996. With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America
, New York: Broadway Books.
*Buckley, William F., Jr., ed. Up from Liberalism
Stein and Day, (1958)
*Buckley, William F., Jr., ed. Did You Ever See a Dream Walking? American Conservative Thought in the 20th Century
*Mark Gerson, ed., The Essential Neo-Conservative Reader
(Perseus Publishing, (1997)) ISBN 0-201-15488-9
*Irving Kristol, Neoconservatism: the Autobiography of an Idea
, ISBN 0-02-874021-1
*Gregory L. Schneider, ed. Conservatism in America Since 1930: A Reader
ed. The NeoCon Reader
(2005) ISBN 0-8021-4193-5
*Wolfe, Gregory. Right Minds: A Sourcebook of American Conservative Thought.
*American Enterprise Institute
*Common sense conservative
*Neoconservatism (United States)
*The Weekly Standard
*United States Republican Party
*Action democratique du Quebec
*Conservative Party (UK)
*Conservative Party of Canada
*Christian Democratic Union of Germany
*http://turnabout.ath.cx:8000/node/3/#36 James Kalb's Conservatism FAQ
*http://www.cerium.ca/article2211.html Conservative Predominance in the U.S. : A Moment or an Era ?
21 experts from the U.S. and abroad, ponder the future of conservatism. Videos and texts online.
*http://www.calpatriot.org/ California Patriot
– "Berkeley's conservative voice"
*http://www.cofcc.org Council of Conservative Citizens
*http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv1-60 Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Conservatism
*http://www.volconvo.com/ Conservative debate
*http://www.amconmag.com The American Conservative
– Paleoconservative Magazine
*http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org Chronicles Magazine
*http://www.heritage.org/Research/PoliticalPhilosophy/HL811.cfm The Origins of the Modern American Conservative Movement
*http://www.nationalreview.com National Review
– influential conservative political magazine
– Conservative news, information, and commentary
*http://www.heritage.org/ The Heritage Foundation
– Conservative think tank
*http://www.cato.org/ CATO Institute
– Libertarian think tank
*http://www.newamericancentury.org/ Project for a New American Century
– Neoconservative think tank*