Many people argue that the conservative movement started with an article in the National Review on November 19, 1955. The name of the article was the “Publisher’s Statement”, written by William F. Buckley Jr., the magazine’s editor-publisher. At the age of 30, Buckley declared, “let’s face it: Unlike Vienna it seems altogether possible that did National Review not exist, no one would have invented it.” During the first five years, the magazine’s circulation hovered around 20,000. This would be the start of a new type of thinking, a newer, bolder more “conservative” type of thinking. This year, 1955, would start what would be called the conservative movement. The conservative movement has a vast history, an active present, and an expanding future.
The father of modern conservatism (although he never used the term “conservatism”) was the British parliamentarian Edmund Burke. Burke’s ideas developed as a result of his reaction to the French Revolution in 1789. In his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Burke attacked the French activists for their preoccupation with theory and with ideas. In America Federalists were guided by conservative principles like those of Burke. American political movements did not finally divide into conservative and progressive factions until about the time of the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828. After World War II, the conservatives became strident opponents of international communism.
Like mentioned before, the Conservative movement in America started in 1955 with William F. Buckley’s article in the National Review. The roots of conservatism formed from two completely different views of thinking. One, from the doctrines of classical liberalism, grounded in the British emphasis on political and economic freedom. The second derived from our Judaeo-Christian heritage itself. As the United States approaches the halfway point in the twentieth century, both views were out of style and the liberalist form of thinking was known for being assertive. When Russell Kirk published The Conservative Mind in 1953. The book touched base on the early views of Conservative thinking at the turn of the Century and how it was basically hated by almost everyone in the political spotlight. Kirk’s book also gave several opinions that changed America’s way of thinking and also influenced Buckley’s opinions greatly. Kirk proclaimed that secretly, Conservatism single-handedly built the Western world in the early Christian centuries. If it could do that, why could the ideas of Conservatism not work in today’s society? That’s what Kirk’s book answered. “Political problems, at bottom are religious and moral problems,” stated Kirk. He gave this type of thinking a name, which would stick from then until now. Conservatism was the name suited to this form of political progression. Within a few short months, The Conservative Mind became an enormous success and filled a might void within Americans still recovering from World War II and the most recent Korean War.
Around this time, America was facing another challenge, the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was well into its communist phase and started a new form of thinking on the U.S. land. This form of thinking was called McCarthyism. McCarthyism was considered a very dangerous threat by the conservatives, afraid that communism might take hold here in America. In March 1946, British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill would deliver a speech that would start the Cold War with Russia. The conservatives believed that communism was an extremely poorly thought-out political union. Remember, the conservatives believed in a perfect union of common beliefs and accepted practices, none of which communism had to offer.
Conservatives believe tradition is the root of any successful form of government. Tradition is a network of commonly accepted attitudes, beliefs and practices that evolve through strengthening of things that work and rejection of things that lead to conflict and failure. This is the alma matter of the Conservative movement. It is this type of thinking that reached thousands of American and struck a common bond with the workingman and the Upper-class family also. The conservative movement was strongly opposed to allowing anything new into the process of running the Nation.
As 1964 drew to a close, the modern American conservative movement was at its peak. Lyndon B. Johnson, who was poised to resuscitate the New Deal, had routed “Mr. Conservative,” Sen. Barry Goldwater, in the Presidential campaign. Senator Goldwater was accompanied by several other conservatives in defeat. Senator Goldwater’s insistence that the American government prosecute the war in Vietnam more vigorously (or leave) became for his political and journalistic adversaries proof of his belligerence. This was the fault that could be trace to his failing of the election. This was also the unofficial beginning of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which acted very much like a labor union. By combining forces, the ACU had a much larger influence on the President and Congress. The ACU was probably the strongest of the opposers of communism.
After the election of 1964, during Nixon’s campaign and time spent in office, the conservative settled down. It wasn’t until the Whitewater scandal that they were put back into frenzy. Strong supporters of the Nixon administration, conservatives in the White House, Congress and in the public began to protect Nixon from the scandal that had erupted. It is believed that the opposition to Nixon was one of the primary reasons he was expelled form office. The conservatives had taken a hard blow with the impeaching of their leader and the leader of the Nation. Nixon practiced a type of conservatism called “cautious conservatism.” Nixon was a conservative at heart but had a poor, almost liberal, understanding of the communist scare. If there is anything hated amongst the conservative party, it is a liberalist. The conservatives’ hatred for the liberalists started with the beginning of the Great Depression, which the liberalist party is blamed.
The election of 1980 was a second big opportunity for the conservatives to make their name known once again. When Ronald Reagan, a strong supporter of conservative ideas, was elected as President, things were going to change. With strict tax cuts and the majority of his campaign ideas directed towards the working man, Ronald Reagan almost won with a landslide. Reagan promised to the American people that he would destroy the last of the communist party and end the Cold War with Russia. In 1991 the end of the Cold War was finally reached as well as the end of communism in Russia. Ronald Reagan was the primary supporter in the nuclear arms race, a race to build bigger and better bombs as a sign of power. Ronald Reagan’s last days in office came in 1988, when he was replaced by George Bush, another, but not as potent supporter of conservatism.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the conservatives took a new approach. Instead of trying to settle themselves in office, they flooded congress. Today, Congress is almost comprised completely of conservatives, both of the Democratic and Republican nature. In office, George W. Bush Jr. is now in command as he, yet another conservative gives new ideas to the progress of the union. Using traditional ideas, Bush is trying to build the Nation into another great era.
Today, as stated beforehand, Congress is mostly comprised of conservative members. The conservative movement has taken a new direction with the advancement in technology. On the Internet, the ACU has a homepage at www.conservative.org. On the Radio, Rush Limbaugh, “the conservative mouth,” has a program in which he discusses his opinion and takes on several issues. Books on conservatism are as popular today as ever and certain characters on TV such as Donald Richards on ABC’s “The West Wing,” are conservatives. With advancements such as these, one can only anticipate the future of conservatism.
The conservative movement (1953-2001) rages on today as its policies gain more interest and its ideas are spread throughout the Nation. What is the future of conservatism? Well as the Internet becomes more popular, the ideas and thoughts of conservatives will become more widely accepted. I predict the future for conservatives to be brighter and met with open arms. As America gets more concerned with budget spending and tax cuts, the Nation will soon find that traditional values are best kept alive.