Was the rise of the conservative movement, beginning with the election of Richard Nixon, motivated by a desire to curb the permissive nature of liberalism and its emphases on government intervention, individualism, and civil rights?

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Richard Nixon's election in 1968 was, in part, caused by a conservative surge and a backlash against liberalism and the disorder many people saw occurring in the U.S. Whether this indicated the rise of a specifically conservative "movement" or ideology, however, is another question. As is common knowledge, America at the time was going through a period of rapid and unprecedented social change. Much of it (though most Americans do not view it this way) was actually a kind of catching-up to the rest of the developed world in terms of sexual freedom and a rejection of older societal constructs and values, including legalized racism. Nixon was elected, by the slimmest of margins, by Americans who were bewildered and angered by the fact that so much transformation had occurred so rapidly, or had occurred at all. Their position was essentially a reactive, negative one rather than being founded on a positive or articulated political philosophy or ideology. Nixon and his Vice President Spiro Agnew in fact claimed they stood for a "great silent majority" of Americans who disagreed with the direction the country was taking. If this was true, the very "silence" of these people was evidence that they were not promoting or even stating specific views of their own, let alone ones that centered around a unified or consistent ideology. Given that their own leader was the one asserting this about them, it was probably true.

The irony or paradox of Nixon's election was that many people voted for him because they believed he would end the Vietnam War. Much of what conservatives saw as a kind of anarchy taking over the country was due to the increasing protesting against the war (some of which rose to the level of rioting) by students and others. Yet the war they were demonstrating against had been massively escalated by Lyndon Johnson, a man who was liberal and progressive on domestic issues. Though conservatives had been at least as hawkish as anyone about the war and the need to contain Communism and get their licks in for the U.S.A. in Southeast Asia, by 1968 many of them realized the war was a failure and, as stated, voted for Nixon because they believed he would stop the war. As we know, direct U.S. involvement in Vietnam continued for the entire period of Nixon's first term, and included Nixon's extension of the war into Cambodia in 1970.

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