The Conservative Resurgence

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At Least Three Reasons For The Rise Of Conservatism In The Last Part Of The 20th Century.

Three reasons for the rise of conservatism in the last part of the 20th century.

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Though the Conservative movement began to build in the 1950s and reached a crescendo of sorts with the Republican nomination of Barry Goldwater for President in 1964, some historians contend that The New Right movement did not really emerge until the late 1970s, arguably around 1976. It is important to remember that Goldwater lost the 1964 election to President Lyndon B. Johnson in a landslide.

In their book, Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics, Mary and Thomas B. Edsall argue that the emergence of The New Right, or The Silent Majority, can be linked to the issues mentioned in their title. The Silent Majority was mostly composed of older, white Americans. As the previous educator mentioned, many of them lived in The Sun Belt. Goldwater was, after all, a senator from Arizona.

The Edsalls provide the three reasons that you seek in your question. They contend that the instability caused by race riots encouraged whites to seek politicians who were more authoritarian, which partly explains the election of Richard Nixon in 1968. The adoption of affirmative action policies in the 1970s diminished white privilege and supremacy.

In 1976, the Hyde Amendment, a bill introduced by Illinois Representative Henry Hyde, disallowed government funding for abortions. This was the first legislative response to the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. It would lead to other efforts to limit, or discourage, women's access to abortion. Abortion, by the late-1970s, had become the issue that would mobilize evangelical voters. 

In regard to taxes, the Edsalls explain the appeal of conservatism to white, blue-collar males. Economically, the 1970s was a difficult decade impacted by inflation. Furthermore, wages stagnated, while the tax burden increased. The perception was that tax dollars were funding welfare programs that catered mostly to blacks, Latinos, and the waves of immigrants who were still arriving in major cities.

Lingering racism and ambivalence about the changes wrought by the Civil Rights and women's rights movements created insecurity among many older voters and white male voters, particularly those of the working-class who worried for their jobs and their modest possessions. 

This confluence of events set the stage for the election of Ronald Reagan, who promised to cut taxes. He appealed to some voters' nostalgia for the post-war era, in 1980.

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There were several reasons why the conservative movement became more popular in the 1950s. One of the reasons dealt with the Cold War. In the Cold War, we were fighting the spread of the Communist system. In a communist economy, there is a lot of government control, influence, and regulation. There also was a de-emphasis on religion. The people in the conservative movement were concerned we would have increasing government control in our economy. They wanted to prevent that from happening. They also want to be sure there was no decline in religious values or religious practice. The fear that these ideas might come to our country allowed for the conservative movement to grow.

Another factor leading to the growth of the conservative movement was the growth of the Sun Belt. As people moved to the South and the West, they saw many opportunities available. They didn’t want the government to impose rules and regulations that may restrict these opportunities.

Conservative writers such as William Buckley also influenced people. These writers spread the ideas of the conservative movement. The National Review was a magazine that focused on conservative values and the spread of these values.

Finally, people were moving away from the cities into suburban areas. Suburban areas tend to be more affluent than city areas. People who are more affluent tend to support conservative ideas. People left the cities to escape the riots and poverty in the cities. These people didn’t want to have higher taxes to support a lot of government programs. These suburban areas tended to be more conservative.

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