American Conservatism

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Jacob WeithornHIS367
Professor HemmerEssay 2

The religious right has been a part of American politics as far back as the 1940’s but its presence in the late 1960’s and 1970’s was very influential in many ways. The religious right movement focuses on social issues like abortion, school prayer, religion, stem cell research, homosexuality, contraception and pornography. The Religious right was able to navigate its relationship with the conservative movement through American history between multiple presidential administrations due to many reasons. Over the course of the 1970’s Conservatism activists voiced out their opinions on several key topics that had used to fall under the topic of “moral corruption and traditional values that previously had been subsumed under the rubric of anticommunism…these concerns took on new dimensions, in large part in reaction to changes in family life, sexual liberation, a growing youth culture and liberal supreme court decisions that expanded the scope of personal freedoms.” (McGirr) By the end of the 1960’s we were seeing emerging corruption in the form of sex education and abortion. As we climbed into the 1970’s the gay liberation movement had matured and become apparent. “Evangelicals enjoyed a higher degree of wealth and social prestige in the late 1970’s than they had at any other point in the twentieth century.” (GOP) These issues tended to outrage some democratic voters and left them out to dry unless they had seen the potential on jumping on the conservative coalitions side. “Their goal of reclaiming the nation by transforming the Republican Party might have seemed ambitious but they were confident that they would succeed, not only because god was on their side, but also because the voting numbers were. They were now the “Moral Majority”. (Williams) Realizing the numbers was in their favor, they were able to realign their beliefs and party activism in other ways if they believed so. Evangelicals exercised too much influence and power to bee ignored. Ronald Reagan was a very well liked movie actor that had moved to California to seek his fortune in the film industry. He was born in a small town in Illinois and his mother was a religious woman, however his father was a shoe salesman with a drinking problem. He was very handsome and was very well received by his audience. Everyone seemed to like him. He was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild. This showed him how to work out issues within a union. His role of president for the screen actors guild in ways had guided/helped him pave a way into politics. Having experience negotiating on behalf of other people isn’t a bad skill to have. Reagan had appeared on television and delivered a speech on behalf of republican candidate Barry Goldwater. “Reagan warned of twin danger to American traditions or individual freedom from big government at home and communism abroad.” (Dueck) The thing that people were mostly stuck on was Reagan’s delivery of the speech. “His delivery was something fresh” (Dueck) This outing brought Reagan to the attention of GOP conservatives and he was asked to run for the position of Governor of California. He Won and had a very successful 4 years as the governor and when he and the republican party saw the moment in 1976 he tried his luck at the nomination and had fallen short to the re elected president Gerald Ford. Reagan had announced his candidacy for president in 1979 and he was the presumed republican front-runner for the dominant conservative faction. Although many opponents challenged him, they could not overcome the strength of conservative southern and western republicans. At this point the GOP realized that the new conservative ideas were the main ideas of the Republican Party. This included issues like abortion, national defenses and taxes. Carter was defeated when running for re-election against Reagan due to myriad of reasons. One was the reason that he was farther away then...
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