The rise of conservatism in the USA

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How did the United States in the 1950s and 1960s contribute to the rise of conservatism in the 1970s and Reagan era? Was conservatism’s rise already determined? Please provide a detailed explanation from your point of view.

While the 1950s in America are often viewed as a time of complacency, the subsequent decades of the 1960s and 1970s underwent significant change. However, during the 70s, the economy faced instability due to the Oil crisis, leading to struggles for presidents in finding solutions for revival.

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The right-wing attributed excessive spending on social programs by the federal government as the cause. Conservatism aims to maintain a social and political framework with limited government intervention focused on societal maintenance and order. Its principles encompass individual freedom without interference from the federal government, economic freedom, and a strong international political status.

These economic, social, and political advancements over the past twenty years left many Americans disillusioned and distrustful of their government’s capability to effectively address deep-rooted issues. The conservatism witnessed during this period was reactionary towards liberal politics and ultimately gave rise to the New Right movement in the 1980s.

In the 1960s, there was a shift from conformity to collective action, giving marginalized groups more freedom. However, this progress came at a cost with violence targeting black marchers, university protesters, and anti-war demonstrators. The tragic deaths of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy appeared to signal the end of hope for organized and peaceful political change towards a fairer society. For those not involved in these challenges, it felt like their world was falling apart. This feeling was intensified by nightly television broadcasts showing riots, rebellion, and destruction. This turbulent decade challenged fundamental American beliefs such as the importance of hard work and traditional family values.

“Middle” America made up 55% of the population with incomes ranging from $5000 to $15000 per year. They mainly lived between city slums and wealthy suburbs while dealing with significant debt. These individuals desired protection under the law and valued etiquette, respect for authority, and patriotism.

The changes that occurred during the sixties left many people confused and angry; they were unsure who to blame for social unrest. This silent minority became Nixon’s main focus in his campaign rhetoric and ultimately helped him win the election.

These individuals expressed their resentment and reactionary stance towards the ongoing social unrest. They made an effort to protect their possessions and deemed it unfair that the government provided economic support to those who were less diligent than them. Their goal was to establish a lawful and well-organized society.

The individuals desired a state that could provide them with security due to their feelings of insecurity caused by the student movement and liberal culture. They felt neglected by the Democratic government as they lacked financial aid, housing, and healthcare security. Both political parties faced pressure groups and individuals who effectively used media to advocate for their causes. The decision of President Johnson not to run again, coupled with Robert Kennedy’s assassination, weakened the Democratic Party. In the November election, Nixon ran as the Republican candidate while Humphrey represented the Democrats. Nixon’s victory resulted in a more conservative political agenda for the following two decades, signifying the end of the liberal sixties and a call for a more unified society.

Kennedy’s 1960 campaign focused on revitalizing the American economy by achieving a 4-6 percent annual economic growth and a 4 percent unemployment rate. To stimulate growth, Kennedy proposed twelve measures to Congress. These included raising the minimum wage from $1.00 to $1.25 per hour, expanding its coverage, increasing unemployment benefits, aiding children of unemployed individuals, broadening social security benefits, providing relief for feed grain farmers, promoting area redevelopment, offering vocational training for displaced workers, and allocating federal funds for home construction and slum eradication. Despite opposition from conservatives who believed in self-reliance rather than state aid for the poor, laws were enacted to extend the Food Stamp Program, improve consumer protection and safety standards, train health professionals, assist disabled Americans,and advance urban programs. However,the right-wing still opposed these measures as they relied on tax revenue from citizens.

The rise of an unprecedented level of affluence led to the formation of a new middle class that strongly opposed high taxes and various social programs funded by these taxes. Moreover, social turmoil such as urban riots, violent crime, and student protests contributed to the desire for stability among many Americans. This inclination towards conservative candidates who vowed to reinstate law and order was primarily driven by a growing disillusionment with the federal government. The Vietnam War’s impact and deteriorating conditions in urban areas profoundly affected the lives of working middle-class Americans, prompting them to question whether the government genuinely served their interests. Ultimately, they began perceiving the Democratic Party’s promises as hollow due to its perceived failure in combating communism.

During the oil crises, Americans realized their vulnerability due to dependence on others for essential resources. Ford faced challenges from rising oil prices. Johnson’s budget deficits led to inflation in the 1970s. Throughout Ford’s presidency, there was a rise in unemployment and inflation, decline in productivity and stock market prices, increase in interest rates, and slowdown in construction. The 1975 recession left Americans feeling insecure. Ford tried to restore trust after Watergate but his hasty pardon of Nixon undermined his objective. Carter, an outsider to Washington politics, became president in 1977. However, his lack of experience hindered him from meeting liberal ideals or calming stability fears. Inflation continued to rise with unemployment at 7% and interest rates hitting a historical high of 20% by 1980.Carter couldn’t effectively address the energy crisis. After the turbulent 70s, Americans faced economic stagnation, an underclass challenging American Dream values, and deep divisions over cultural beliefs.The New Right movement centered around evangelical groups like Moral Majority had conservative political ideasThe excesses of the sixties were criticized by the New Right in 1980. They argued that this era did not improve the economy but instead harmed standards and law and order, while disregarding traditional family and church values. Two factions drove this catalyst for change: economic conservatives who wanted lower taxes for individuals to spend as they pleased, rather than on social welfare, and social conservatives who advocated for a return to family values and opposed abortion and homosexuality. Demographic shifts also played a role, with a larger older population and migration from liberal eastern states to conservative Sun Belt states influencing political dynamics. In response, Reagan championed smaller federal government, business deregulation, reduced taxes, and strong national defense against communism. He represented the aspirations of conservative Americans and believed that Carter’s policies promoted excessive government control as the root cause of America’s economic crisis at that time.

Various social measures implemented in the 1960s led to the rise of the right. Increased government spending on poverty alleviation and two oil crises impacting America’s economy sparked a reaction from the right. As a result, many Americans saw the right as the solution to their numerous problems.

During the sixties, numerous social revolutions and measures took place. Conservative Americans who feared changes in the values of their country found solace in the right-wing ideology. They believed that the power to restore America’s traditional values of work, family, and church resided on the right. The economic instability also frightened many Americans who advocated for reduced federal government spending. They believed that increased economic freedom would strengthen the economy. Their aspirations were realized when they elected a conservative president who represented the ideals of the New Right.

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