What Was President Eisenhower's Dynamic Conservatism Approach

What was the "dynamic conservatism" that President Eisenhower believed in?

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The dynamic conservatism approach that Eisenhower espoused in his presidency is said to have combined a religion-based concern for the individual with a political orientation toward constricting government spending and allowing the capital marketplace to operate as freely as possible.

While the roots of his dynamic conservatism--also called Modern Republicanism by Einsenhower's White House biography writers Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey (“The Presidents of the United States of America”)--appeared to be genuine since grounded in his deeply felt and highly motivating religious beliefs, there are nonetheless critics who suspect that, given time, he would have dismantled the New Deal, including the social welfare aspects of it, although his own words discredit this criticism (quoted below).

Eisenhower himself explained dynamic conservatism as meaning he was "conservative when it comes to money, liberal when it comes to human beings" (quoted on countrystudies.us). In presidential actions, this took the form of continuing social welfare programs while reducing government's social welfare monetary obligations.

Some specifics that illustrate this two-pronged approach of dynamic conservatism relate to Social Security and government subsidies (government payments to entities, such as farmers, to shore up the price of goods in the marketplace). Eisenhower increased Social Security, expanding its scope to include categories of workers previously excluded, while upholding farm price supports that he made flexible price supports, with 90 percent price parity guarantee to "cooperator" farmers and 54 percent price parity guarantee to "noncooperator" farmers.

Eisenhower addressed social problems and socioeconomic political problems by appealing to the private sector. For instance, he appealed to voluntary organizations, like private colleges, church boards and philanthropic organizations, to remedy social and economic problems like hunger, under-education and under-employment, while at the same time de-federalizing offshore oil production by turning offshore oil operations over to state governments. 

While Eisenhower's political orientation favored and was sympathetic to business, he was concerned for and exerted his influence in favor of the underprivileged. Although it must be noted that, at the same time, his dynamic conservatism risked rising unemployment by restricting government regulation on monetary policy, which ushered in several recessions. Additionally, he cut government spending on social safety-net programs even though he upheld Social Security, unemployment insurance and labor laws.

President Dwight Eisenhower, Republican, uttered these words on

November 8, 1954:

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid." (quoted on snopes.com)
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larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Eisenhower's dynamic conservatism was his plan to maintain a number of New Deal programs which he would have had difficulty dismantling, and at the same time, moving the country away from large government spending programs.Overall, Eisenhower did not approve of public programs. He abolished the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, ended wage and price controls, and ended farm subsidies. He also engineered a tax reduction plan that reduced taxes for corporations and large bracket taxpayers. He cut the Federal Budget by ten per cent, but was unable to balance it because of a business recession.

Whether Eisenhower would have moved further to abolish New Deal Programs is problematic. There was a Democratic majority in Congress which would have made it difficult for him to do so. Instead, he split the difference and gave the impression that he was a "dynamic conservative." He did not tinker with Social Security and it was in fact amended to cover professionals, farm and domestic workers and the armed services. Additionally the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Interstate Highway system, two programs which had all the earmarks of a New Deal program, were implemented during his presidency.

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gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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President Eisenhower's Dynamic Conservatism or Modern Republicanism was an economic approach of continuing the major New Deal programs (providing support to a society recovering from recession and maintaining its growth) while also cutting expensive programs and federal spending. This approach is also defined as "conservative when it comes to money, liberal when it comes to human beings". He continued the Social Security program and brought an additional ten million people under its cover and also created a new federal agency (the Department of Health, Education and Welfare) to handle these programs. The Interstate Highway System was authorized by President Eisenhower and is similar to the New Deal initiatives. 

Eisenhower also had to contend with federal deficits and multiple recessions during his tenure. He was against excessive military spending, especially deficit spending, and warned against handing out unjustified contracts to private military contractors. He also used military forces to ensure the safety of nine black students in Arkansas during the integration of the public school system.  

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