Conservatism in the United States

Conservatism in the United States has played an important role in American politics since the 1950s.[1] Historian Gregory Schneider identifies several constants in American conservatism: respect for tradition, support of republicanism, preservation of “the rule of law and the Christian religion”, and a defense of “Western civilization from the challenges of modernist culture and totalitarian governments.”[2] The history of American conservatism has been marked by tensions and competing ideologies.  
Economic conservatives and libertarians favor small government, low taxes, limited regulation, and free enterprise.
Social conservatives see traditional social values as threatened by secularism and multiculturalism, so they oppose what they see as liberal government support for abortion and homosexuality and open borders. Neoconservatives want to expand American ideals throughout the world and show a strong support for Israel.[3] Most conservatives prefer Republicans over Democrats, and most factions favor a strong foreign policy, a strong military, and strong support for Israel. The conservative movement of the 1950s attempted to bring together these divergent strands, stressing the need for unity to prevent the spread of “Godless Communism”.[4]

William F. Buckley Jr., in the first issue of the prominent magazine National Review, defined the beliefs of American conservatives this way, in 1955:[5]

Among our convictions: It is the job of centralized government (in peacetime) to protect its citizens’ lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government (the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, without reservations, on the libertarian side. The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order. We believe that truth is neither arrived at nor illuminated by monitoring election results, binding though these are for other purposes, but by other means, including a study of human experience. On this point we are, without reservations, on the conservative side.

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