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The Development of Conservatism in American Politics

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Barry Goldwater of Arizona was the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States against the Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. He was supporting a conservative platform that would undo many of the liberal policies that were followed for a few decades in government. Goldwater’s ideas were considered extreme then, which lead to his defeat against Johnson. Later, he proved to be the forerunner that led the movement of a new conservative shift among the masses.

By the 1980s, conservatism got accepted to become mainstream, as compared to the 1960s. This acceptance of conservatism resulted in Ronald Reagan’s victory in the presidency in 1980 against Jimmy Carter. Reagan promoted reduced federal government, deregulation in the business sector, robust nationwide defence against communism.

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As soon as he resumed office, Reagan started passing anti-Soviet statements publicly and referring to them as the “evil empire.” During his presidency, the military budget almost doubled. In fact, he even proposed an anti-ballistic missile defence system called the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI).

Reagans economic program was based on the idea that a capitalist system independent from the burden of taxation and any government interference would be most fruitful. He believed the fortune of a wealthy upper class would “trickle down” to the poor. Reagan’s economic program was popularly called ‘Reaganomics’. He endorsed a three-year twenty-five percent tax cut through Congress in 1981, and a $40 billion reduction in the federal expenditure on student loans, public conveyance and school lunches. The Federal Reserve Board raised interest rates in 1981 to control the inflation, which lead the nation into a severe slump.

Soon unemployment ascended to 10%, and due to the reduction in social expenditure, the poor found themselves without social programs. Not only trade but unemployment and national deficits increased rapidly. Recession then caused a rebound in 1983, inflation stabilized and customers began to spend well again.

From 1983 to 1987, the economy boomed, stimulated by assumption in the stock market. These years are considered as the most thriving in the nation’s economic history. However, in October 1987, when the stock market fell by 20%, the biggest single-day decline in history, the bubble finally burst. This crash brought to light the financial problems that were concealed by the boom period like high trade deficit and increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor. Conservatism since 1980’s has considerably transformed the political and economic scenario in United States. Politically, the government and presidency witnessed key changes, while the financial situation experienced critical fluctuations due to advances made using conservative ideals.

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