The Fall Of The Liberal Consensus

.. ca in reaction to the rise of fragmented civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers when he writes, as for white America, perhaps it can stop crying out against black supremacy,’ black nationalism,’ racism in reverse,’ and begin facing reality. While we now have an understanding of how the fragmentation of the liberal consensus occurred, we still need to look at how this fragmentation gave rise to the conservatism, culminating in the election of Reagan in 1980. In order to do this we must look at how the events of the 1970’s give shape and understanding to the turn from the liberal consensus to conservatism. To do this it is important to look at three specific issues that arose during the 1970’s: the downturn of the American economy, the Watergate scandal, and the rise of materialism. The downturn of the American economy is probably the most important issue in the rise of conservatism by the 1980 election.

From 1969 to 1980 the United States went through three major economic recessions. The effect of this on the rise of conservatism stems from two primary issues: unemployment and the failure of the government to provide economic growth. Unemployment had a large effect on the psyche of the American populace. Hodgson writes that in the 1970’s, Inflation had taken hold. Recession threatened. The balance-of-payments deficit was horrendous.

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The United States was becoming ominously dependent on foreign oil and raw materials and on foreign markets. And these objective problems bred new attitudes. For the first time since the thirties, people were no longer sure that corporate business was beneficent. For a generation, it had provided jobs. Now unemployment was beginning to rise Rates of actual unemployment remained fairly low until the energy crisis bit hard in 1973-74.

But the unemployment rate, which measures the number of people out of work on a given day seriously underestimates the number of workers with reason to fear for their jobs. The fact that unemployment was up and that individuals were in fear for their jobs created a backlash against the actions that the liberal consensus took to stem the problems of civil rights and the reaction that had in part caused the fragmentation of the liberal consensus. The backlash is explained by the combination of the Civil Rights Act and the revolutionary views and actions of splinter minority groups. Segments of the American population looked at the Civil Rights Act as giving minorities preference in the hiring process. Combine this with the belief that revolutionary minority groups were viewed as pushing for black supremacy and the field is set up for a conservative victory in 1980. This stems from the rhetoric of conservatives.

Reagan is pushing for the reduction of the role of government in the public sphere. This includes areas such as civil rights. Secondly, stemming from the recessions and inflation of the 1970’s there was a distrust of the government, because of the failure of the economy to grow. Conservatives capitalize on this in the 1980 elections. Reagan, in a speech as a presidential candidate, states, In my administration there should and will be a thorough and systematic review of the thousands of Federal regulations that affect the economy.

Along with spending control, tax reform and deregulation, a sound stable and predictable monetary policy is essential to restoring economic health. Each of these policies is intended to make the economy run smoother and to cause growth in the economy. The Watergate scandal of the Nixon presidency also plays a major role in rise of conservatism by the 1980 elections. Following the fragmentation of the liberal consensus, Nixon was faced with many opponents to his proposed policies toward Vietnam, civil rights, women’s rights, and the environment. With the break in of the Democratic National Headquarters, Nixon was trying to make sure that he was able to breakup any rebuilding of a consensus by the Democratic party of these currently splintered groups, in order to ensure his election.

The Watergate scandal had a major effect on the American populace. Namely it created a distrust of big government. This distrust of excessive government power was capitalized on by conservatives. Reagan states, We must first recognize that the problem with the U.S. economy is swollen, inefficient government, needless regulation, too much taxation, too much printing press money.

This statement shows an inherent distrust of the government’s misuse of power, power which is being abused through too much taxation, regulation, irresponsible monetary controls. Finally, we can see how the rise of materialism fed the rise of conservatism. President Carter states, In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. The fracturing of the liberal consensus helped to feed the fracturing of strong families and close-knit communities. The revolution of ideals and values that caused the fracturing of the liberal consensus necessitated the rejection of traditional values such as strong families and close-knit communities. Because the Carter administration was in power when the crisis of the American spirit became apparent and important in the minds of the American populace, the blame for the situation landed at their feet. This fed into the hands of the conservatives who traditionally valued the importance of the family, hard work, and community as answers to problems in American society.

In a writing that extols conservative values, this becomes evident when it states, The only dependable route from poverty is always work, family, and faith. When looking at how the fracturing of the liberal consensus allowed for conservative triumph in 1980, I think that a few major issues can be seen. First, there is little difference in what both the liberal consensus and conservatives see as key issues. Both the liberal consensus and conservatives see the economy as the most important issue in gaining power. However, each side had a different opinion on what was the best way to cause economic growth. While the liberal consensus focused on government control to make the economy run smoothly, conservatives saw deregulation and the removal of as much government control as possible from the economy as key in making it grow. The high costs of the Vietnam War coupled with the economic crises of the 1970’s caused the American populace to look for a new form of economic policy to create economic growth.

The conservatives provided this in the 1980 election. Of secondary importance the civil rights issue played an important role in bringing about the triumph of conservatism. The fractionalization of the Civil Rights Movement, caused a large portion of the American populace to fear continued expansion of civil rights in the direction of splinter groups such as the Black Panthers. Furthermore portions of the American populace saw the development of civil rights as a threat to their jobs, which in a time of recession created an opening for the conservatives to jump on. And finally, the issue of distrust of government due to the failures of the liberal consensus to stimulate economic growth and the Watergate scandal played into the hands of the conservatives who preached the reduction of government presence in almost all aspects of Americans’ lives.

This must have been a strong motivating factor in many Reagan Democrats who sided with conservatives in the 1980 election. History Essays.