Conservatism 1968-1988

• Beginnings
• The Movement
- Religious
• Nixon’s Presidency
- Foreign Policy
- Economic Policy
- Watergate
 1972 Election
‘New Conservatism’
- Religious
 Pro-Life Cause
- Women
• The Reagan
- ‘The Great
- Foreign Policy
 ‘Evil Empire’/ Star
- Immigration
- ‘Reaganomics’
- Domestic Policy
“In the United States at this time liberalism is not only
the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition....
It is the plain fact [that] there are no conservative or
reactionary ideas in general circulation" but only
"irritable mental gestures which seem to resemble
ideas.“ – Lionel Trilling (1950)
Anti-communism/ McCarthyism
Resentment over the New Deal
White backlash to Civil Rights
Consumer culture and the free
• Economic conservatism and/ vs
moral conservatism
• Far less discussed than liberal 1960s
• Militant Anti-Communism
• Disapproval of rights movements/ Counterculture
• Disagreements over Civil Rights
– Racism/ Anti-Integration
– States’ rights activists
• Individualism/ Free Enterprise
• Picked up new voting groups
Blue collar workers
Southern middle class whites
Business interests
‘Old Confederacy’/ extremists
• Envisioned an end to the strict separation of church
and state
• ‘Church and State’ is not the same as ‘Religion and State’
• Morality and the degeneration of society
• Religion paired with ‘decency’ and the mainstream
• The ‘Silent Majority’ before
the term was coined
• Targeted Americans "who
quietly go about the business
of paying and praying,
working and saving”
• ‘Protesting against the 20th
• Allows for extremism (KKK)
“The laws of God, and of nature, have no
dateline. The principles on which the
Conservative political position is based...
are derived from the nature of man, and
from the truths that God has revealed
about His creation. Circumstances do
change. So do the problems that are
shaped by circumstances. But the
principles that govern the solution of the
problems do not”. – Barry Goldwater
• The Nixon Doctrine/
Détente/ Realpolitik
• Warming relations with USSR China
• Tensions rising in the Middle East: Oct 1973 - Yom
Kippur War; Oct 1973-Mar 1974
• ‘Shuttle diplomacy’ excludes
USSR from unstable Middle
• Tensions rising in Latin
- Destabilising Allende
• 1969: ‘Guns and butter’ deficit
• Stagflation (recession + inflation)
• Reduction in manufacturing; increase in
strikes; lower standard of living
• 1971: ‘I am now a Keynesian’
• Increased spending to stimulate economy
• Tried many policies to find one that worked
Froze wages, prices and rent until after the 1972 election
• 1972 Revenue-sharing Act
• 1973: 5 month oil embargo due to Yom Kippur War
Highlighted US dependence on foreign oil
Spiked oil prices: $3/ barrel - $12/ barrel
Caused high inflation
• 1971: CREEP
- To ensure re-election
• 17 June 1972: break-in
at the Watergate
- Wiretapping DNC
• Immediate cover-up
over the break-in
- “no-one in the White House
staff, no-one in this
Administration, presently
employed, was involved in
this bizarre incident”
• November 1972 Nixon re-elected
• Jan 1973: Watergate trial
- Resignation of Principal
Aides Bob Haldeman and
John Ehrlichman
- ‘Dirty Tricks’ exposed
- ‘Smoking gun’ – WH tapes
- Oct. 1973: ‘Saturday Night
• Oct. 1973: VP. Spiro
Agnew’s Resignation
• 1974: Impeachment
proceedings begin
• March 1974: Tapes subpoenaed
– Incomplete, edited versions –
‘national security
• May 1974 Impeachment hearings
• Aug. 9th: WH Tapes released/
Nixon guilty
- Nixon ordered cover-up, obstructed
justice; lied to American people
• Aug. 9th: Nixon Resigned
– Gerald Ford – only unelected US
• Vietnam
– In order to protect liberty and democracy,
government’s power must be limited
– War Powers Act (1973)
• Watergate
– undermines liberal faith
in government institutions
– Damages respect for the
‘office of the Presidency’
– Leads to election of a
Democrat in a heavily
Conservative country
• Economic crisis of 1973
1971: more imports than exports for first time
Decline in manufacturing
Wage and price freezes
Abandoned Gold Standard
Middle Eastern conflicts; oil shortages; prices
quadruple; Japan dominates auto market (smaller
fuel efficient cars)
• Unemployment at 9% in ‘74-’75– highest since
The Great Depression
Carter Presidency
• Pursues détente
– Full diplomatic relations w/ China (1979)/ SALT II w/ S.U.
Reinvigorates Cold War: Aid to insurgent Afghanis
Transfer of Panama Canal 1978 for 2000; unpopular
Unemployment still high
Iran hostage crisis
Carter encourages nuclear power
– 1979: 3 Mile Island disaster
• Seen as one of the worst ever
– One of the most successful
elder-statesmen ever
• Backlash to the 1960s
• Vicious attack on women
– Demanded reversal of Roe v Wade (1973)
– Attacked working women (1980: 51% of workforce)
– ERA failed in 1972 thanks to Phyllis Schlafly
• Gay Americans and the AIDS Crisis
• 1979 Jerry Falwell’s “war
against sin”
– Demanded reversal of laws
protecting pornography as
free speech, and banning
prayer in public schools
• Carter’s approval rating in
1980 is 21%
– Lower than Nixon’s at time of
his resignation
• Reagan, ex-gov of California,
– “let’s make America great
again”– the great communicator
• Condemns affirmative action,
welfare “cheats,” lowers
taxes, raises interest rates
• Reaganomics/ trickledown
• Avid Cold Warrior
– Pursued military build-up
– Rhetoric of the SU as the ‘Evil Empire’
– White House backed military juntas in South America
against leftist insurgencies
• Congress halted military aid to avoid
another Vietnam
• ‘Star Wars’ Strategic Defense
Initiative (SDI)
• Iran-contra (1986-89)
– White House NSC aide Oliver North
guilty of selling arms to Iran to
secretly fund contras in Nicaragua
• 1987: “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall”
• Immigration Reform and Control
Act (1983)
– Gave 3m illegal immigrants legal
– “Latinos are Republicans. They just
don’t know it yet.” Ronald Reagan
• First Latino in Cabinet: Sec. of Education Lauro Cavazos
• Proposition 187 (1994)
- Prevented illegals using public services in CA
- 63% of ethnic European voters and 23% of Latino voters voted
for Prop 187, ruled unconstitutional 1997
• 1995-2004: similar proposals or laws in AZ, IL, CO, FL GA
• ‘Trickle –down economics’
• Deindustrialization/ Downsizing/ Outsourcing
– Steel industry employees decline from 600,000 in
1973 to 170,000 in 1995
• Mid 1990s: richest 1% of Americans owned 40%
of US wealth
• Still high unemployment
– 20% black unemployment
in 1980s compared to 7-8%
• 24 March 1989: Exxon Valdez oil tanker
grounded on a reef off the Alaskan coast
– Dumped 11 million gallons (41.8m litres) of
crude oil into the waters
• Killed more wildlife than any prior
environmental disaster
– 250,000 sea birds; 3,000 otters; 300 harbor seals; 250 bald eagles
and 22 whales
• Captain Joseph Hazelwood admitted drinking vodka before
boarding the vessel
– Acquitted of operating a ship while intoxicated
• Growth of groups like Earth Liberation Front (labelled ‘EcoTerrorists’ by the Right)
– Inspired by irresponsible corporate capitalism and fragility of
environmental laws
• Exxon still hasn’t made restitution for the economic devastation
it wreaked on the sound
The U.S. Census Bureau says that 43.6 million Americans are now living in poverty
and according to them that is the highest number of poor Americans in the 51 years
that records have been kept.
In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 % of U.S.
economic output
In 2008, it represented 11.5%
Next week…
Postmodern America