Conservatism is a strong force in American politics and society. It has helped shape and define America’s political and social landscape. This essay explores the concept and parameters of conservatism in America. It will conclude by stating that conservatism has had an impact on American society and politics and has affected the way in which America thinks about itself. The first paragraph will cover the history and philosophy surrounding conservatism. This will include the definition of conservatism, its influences, and beliefs. The second paragraph will explore conservatism in America, including its historical and political implications.
As a political ideology, conservatism has a complicated and ambiguous nature, encompassing a broad range of ideas, beliefs, and concepts. In terms of ideology, conservatives are well known for seeing change with weariness at best and complete disdain at worst. It is well known that many conservatives cling blindly to the past. It should be noted, however, that conservatives do not necessarily oppose all change. Conservatives oppose change which they see as threatening to the moral and social fabric of society. This is because conservatives which to protect society’s institutions, traditions, and moral framework.
According to Andy Stern, the former President of the Service Employees International Union, conservatives come with five characteristics. First, conservatives appreciate the need for fiscal balance. To this end, they are generally concerned about overspending, budget deficits, and so forth. Second, conservatives understand people’s romanticism with the concepts of hard work, personal responsibility, and see the Government as lacking understanding in this matter. Third, conservatives are suspicious of big government which they do not necessarily see as the solution to major problems. Fourth, conservatives are strong supporters of private sector growth which they see it as solving problems better than the Government. Fifth, conservatives are, likewise, strong supporters of small business.
Furthermore, conservatism comes with numerous advantages. Gary Jacobsen, a political scientist at the University of California, came up with several strengths of genuine conservatism. First, conservatives acknowledge materialisms role in encouraging particular forms of behaviour. To this end, conservatives are suspicious of bureaucracy which they see as stifling of this simple fact. Second, conservatives view with disdain the idea that social science theories can be applied to real-world problems. Third, conservatives value personal autonomy and freedom very highly. They realise that it is the individual that helps build and improve a society, not governments. Fourth, conservatives believe in good parenting having realised that good citizenry starts in the home. Fifth, conservatives believe in the superiority of the market system which they feel encourages more efficient use of resources. It would be foolish to place conservatism or conservatives into the category of simplicity. In fact, conservatism is a complicated political ideology with a history and philosophy more complex than may initially meet the eye.
Conservatism in America has had a long and varied history and impact on American society and politics. A series of essays known as the Federalist Papers, written between 1787 and 1788, serves as a strong influence of conservative thought in America. Federalist Ten by James Madison, for instance, was written to create awareness of the issues surrounding factionalism and insurrection in the union. In Madison’s own words: “no man is allowed to judge his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgement and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.” However, conservatism in America differs greatly from many other parts of the world. Because America is a relatively young country their conservatism is based on people’s personal values rather than on social class.
In fact, American conservatism is based on four distinct pillars. The first pillar is freedom based on the notions of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, religious and economic liberty. The second pillar is tradition. As mentioned previously, conservatives are strong supporters oppose change which threatens the established social exoskeleton. The third pillar is the rule of law. The fourth pillar is a strong belief in God.
Politically, conservatism has had a strong influence on American society. Take conservative President Ronald Reagan, for example. In his eight years in office, between 1981 and 1989, Reagan strengthened the American economy by curbing inflation, stimulating economic growth, and increasing employment. He exempted many low-income people from paying income tax through his income tax reform.
Today, the Republican Party consists of a mix of libertarians, neoconservatives, and the Christian Right. As a result, these groups have become a powerful force in American politics. Conservatism in America is more value-based than ideological in nature. It represents who identify strongly with America’s philosophical past and view with suspicion any attempts to alter this system.
As a social and political force, conservatism has had a great impact on American politics and society. The first paragraph explored the history and philosophy surrounding conservatism as an ideology. In this paragraph, it was found that conservatism incorporates a broad range of ideas, beliefs and concepts, and that conservatives value society’s institutions, traditions, and moral framework. The second paragraph explored conservatism in America more specifically. It looked specifically at the history of American conservatism using Federalist Ten by James Madison as an example and discussed how American conservatism differs from conservatism in other parts of the globe. Finally, it focused on Ronald Reagan’s Presidency and the nature of conservative politics today. In conclusion, one would be hard-pressed to argue that conservatism has not had an impact on American. It could be argued that, to an extent, the very way in which Americans view themselves can be attributed, in part at least, to the influence conservatism has had.
- Alan Brinkley, ‘the Problem of American Conservatism”, the American Historical Review 99 no. 2 (April 1994), pp. 409 – 429
- Alfred S. Regerney, The Pillars of Modern American Conservatism (Spring 2012), First Principles ISI Web Journal, Delaware, available at: http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/articles.aspx?article=1813. [accessed 15/04/2015]
- David Barstow, ‘Tea Party Movement Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right’, the New York Times, 15/2/2010
- Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey, Ronald Reagan (2006), the White House, Washington D.C, available at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/ronaldreagan [accessed 15/04/2015]
- James Madison, ‘The Federalist Ten: the Utility of the Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection (continued)’, Daily Advertiser, 22/11/1787
- John Mickelthwait and Adrian Wooldridge, ‘Introduction’ in, The Right Nation: Conservative Power in Amerce (Penguin, 2004)
- Liliana Mihut, ‘Two Faces of American Pluralism: Political and Religious’, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 11 no. 33 (Winter 2012), pp. 39 – 61
- Thomas B. Edsay, ‘What the Right Gets Right’, The New York Times: Campaign Stops: Strong Opinion on the 2012 Election, 15/1/2012
- Thomas Turnstall Allcock, ‘America’s Right: Anti-Establishment Conservatism from Goldwater to the Tea Party’, European Review of History: Revue Européenne d’Historie 21 no. 6 (2014), pp. 937 – 939
- Bradford Littlejohn, Three Things Conservatives Could Learn from Richard Hooker (February 2014), John Jay Institute: Center for a Just Society, available at: http://www.centerforajustsociety.org/three-things-conservatives-could-learn-from-richard-hooker/ [Accessed 15/04/2015]
- Wendy Dackson, ‘Richard Hooker and American Religious Liberty’, Journal of Church and State 41 No. 1 (1999), pp. 117 – 138
- Zelizer, J.E., 2010. Rethinking the History of American Conservatism. Reviews in American History. 38 (2), pp. 367 – 392