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A conservative adheres to principles of limited government, personal responsibility and moral values, agreeing with George Washington's Farewell Address that "religion and morality are indispensable supports" to political prosperity.
Former President Ronald Reagan said:
- The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom . . . 
The sine qua non of a conservative is someone who rises above his personal self-interest and promotes moral and economic values beneficial to all, rather than to themselves as liberals promote. Alternatively, a conservative is willing to learn and advocate the insights of economics and the morality of the Bible for the benefit of all. Specifically, conservatives seek or support:
- Classroom prayer
- Prohibition of abortion
- Abstinence education
- Traditional marriage, not same-sex marriage
- Respect for differences between men and women, boys and girls
- Laws against pornography
- The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms
- Economic allocative efficiency (as opposed to popular equity)
- The death penalty
- Parental control of education
- Private medical care and retirement plans
- Canceling failed social support programs
- No world government
- Enforcement of current laws regarding immigration
- Respect for our military ... past and present
- Rejection of junk science such as evolutionism and global warming
- Low taxes, especially for families
- Federalism (less power for the federal government and more for local and state governments)
- A strong national defense
- 1 Leaders
- 2 US Voters
- 3 Conservative news organizations
- 4 Conservative magazines and blogs
- 5 Neoconservatives
- 6 Paleoconservatives
- 7 Personal conservatism
- 8 History of American conservatism
- 9 Conservatives in Australia
- 10 Conservatives in Britain
- 11 Conservatism and the French Revolution
- 12 Benefits of Conservatism
- 13 See also
- 14 Further reading
- 15 References
- 16 External Links
Conservative scholar Clinton Rossiter, The Giants of American Conservatism. American Heritage; 1955 6(6): 56-59, 94-96, names Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, John Marshall, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Elihu Root, and Theodore Roosevelt for the conservative's hall of fame, with John Adams, in Rossiter’s judgment, as the greatest of American conservatives.
Periodically a conservative has been elected president of the United States. The most prominent conservative presidents include:
- George Washington (1789-97)
- John Adams (1797-1801)
- Thomas Jefferson (1801-09)
- John Quincy Adams (1825-29)
- Abraham Lincoln (1861-65)
- Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897)
- William McKinley (1897-1901)
- William Howard Taft (1909-1913)
- Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
- Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
- Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
- George W. Bush (2001-2009) (with respect to taxes, Supreme Court nominations, and national security)
The most prominent conservative Congresses have been:
- The 80th Congress (elected in 1946)
- The 104th Congress (elected in 1994)
Movement conservatives are those who accept the logic of conservatism across-the-board, and stand up for its powerful principles despite liberal ridicule. Movement conservative activists include:
- Phyllis Schlafly, opposed ERA
- Jesse Helms, Senator, specialist in foreign policy
- Pat Buchanan, TV commentator
- Jerry Falwell, religion
- Michele Bachmann, columnist
- Ann Coulter, columnist
- Rush Limbaugh, radio
- Michelle Malkin, commentator
- Glenn Beck, TV commentator
- Barry Goldwater - 1964 Republican candidate, lost to liberal Democrat Lyndon Johnson but revived the conservative movement inside the GOP
- Russell Kirk - Theorist & intellectual
- Irving and William Kristol - Notable neoconservatives
- Margaret Thatcher - British prime minister between 1979 and 1990, held similar views as Reagan
- Milton Friedman - Chicago-school libertarian economist, influential during Reagan administration; leader of the Chicago School of Economics
In America, most conservatives support the Republican Party, but not exclusively so. In the 2008 election, 35% of the voters identified themselves as conservatives. Of them, 78% voted for McCain and 20% for Obama, with the 20% accounting for Obama's margin of victory. Only 22% of the voters were liberal; they favored Obama 89%-10%. In the middle were 44% who called themselves moderates. They split for Obama by 60%-39%. (Minor candidates won 2% of the vote.)
Religious differences between political conservatives and political liberals
The Barna poll conducted in November 2008 shows significant differences between the 32% of Americans who called themselves as “mostly conservative” on social and political matters; and the 17% who called themselves “mostly liberal” on social and political matters. The others --50%--were moderates with positions somewhere in-between.
Some findings: Political liberals are less than half as likely as political conservatives to firmly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches (27% versus 63%, respectively); to strongly believe that Satan is real (17% versus 36%); and to firmly contend that they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with others (23% versus 48%).
[Note: "Liberal" and "conservative" in this survey are based on politics]
Liberals are also far less likely than conservatives to strongly believe each of the following:
- their religious faith is very important in their life (54% of liberals vs. 82% of conservatives);
- a person cannot earn their way into Heaven by doing good deeds or being a good person (23% vs. 37%);
- their faith is becoming an increasingly important moral guide in their life (38% vs. 70%);
- the church they currently attend is very important in helping them find direction and fulfillment in life (37% vs. 62%);
- their primary purpose in life is to love God with all their heart, mind, strength and soul (43% vs. 76%);
political conservatives were more likely than liberals to:
- read the Bible, other than at church events, during the past week (57% vs. 33%, respectively)
- attend a religious service during the past week (62% vs. 35%)
- pray to God, other than at a religious service, during the past week (91% vs. 76%)
- share their religious beliefs with others, during the past year (56% vs. 39%, among the born again Christians interviewed from each segment)
- have ever participated in a short-term missions trip, either within the U.S. or in another country (12% vs. 6%)
- 2% of conservatives and 11% of liberals were atheist or agnostic
- 15% of conservatives and 2% of liberals were Christian evangelicals
- conservatives were twice as likely as liberals to be categorized as born again, based on their theological views about salvation (63% vs. 32%)
- 21% of conservatives were associated with the Catholic church, compared to 30% among the liberals.
Conservative news organizations
Some of the more notable news organizations which tend to be more conservative are WorldNetDaily and NewsMax. Fox News, though often called conservative, tends to be more neoconservative than conservative.
Conservative magazines and blogs
In the United States, conservatives are generally characterized by the following beliefs:
- Support of limited government.
- A preference for freedom of opportunity over equality of result.
- Patriotism, nationalism, and support of a strong defense.
- Support of the institution of marriage.
- Emphasis on social values, like prayer and pro-life principles.
In contrast, neoconservatives generally support bigger government and globalism, and tend to downplay the significance of social values.
Paleoconservatives are conservatives who are more focused on opposing multiculturalism, and suspicious of both big government and big business. They also lean more towards isolating America from the problems of other continents. Neoconservatives might criticize this as "isolationism", as they believe we can promote democracy worldwide.
Among paleoconservatives was Democratic Congressman from Georgia, Larry McDonald. He was also second Chairman of the John Birch Society, and President of Western Goals. McDonald was aboard Korean Airlines Flight 007 when it was shot down by the Soviets in 1983.
Because Conservatives often have strong political views, there can be a tendency to see conservatism as a purely political ideology. However, there is also a strong personal side to conservatism - being a conservative is as much about applying conservative values to one's everyday life as it is about campaigning and voting for conservative candidates. In general, conservatives can be characterized by a strong sense of personal morality, a willingness to observe their culture's traditions and customs, and a desire to be respectable and to show due respect to other members of the community.
History of American conservatism
College-level teaching about conservatism has been distorted by a "liberal state paradigm"--that is, textbooks usually interpret recent American history in terms of the origins and successes of political liberalism--especially the New Deal, the welfare state, labor unions, and Civil Rights for blacks and equality for women. Conservative politics is usually defined as a reaction: as a free market reply to the growth of big government; as an expression of outrage against declining support for tradition and Christian morality. Where the violent Wobblies (IWW) and illegal sit down strikes of the 1930s are seen as heroic, exposing Communist subversion by Joe McCarthy is denounced as the nadir of political morality.
The Loyalists of the American Revolution were mostly political conservatives, some of whom produced political discourse of a high order, including lawyer Joseph Galloway and governor-historian Thomas Hutchinson. Howeever when the crisis came, they stood with the Crown as it tried to destroy American political liberties. After the war, the great majority remained in the U.S. and became citizens, but some leaders emigrated to other places in the British Empire. Samuel Seabury was a Loyalist who stayed and as the first American bishop played a major role in shaping the Episcopal religion, a stronghold of conservative social values. While the Loyalist political tradition died out totally it the U.S., it survives in Canadian conservatism.
The Founding Fathers created the single most important set of political ideas in American history, known as Republicanism, which all groups, liberal and conservative alike, have drawn from. Two parties were named "Republican"-- the one founded in 1794 by Jefferson and Madison (it disappeared in the 1820s), and the modern GOP founded in 1854.
During the First Party System (1790s-1820s) the Federalist Party, led by Alexander Hamilton, developed an important variation of republicanism that can be considered conservative. Rejecting monarchy and aristocracy, they emphasized civic virtue as the core American value. The Federalists spoke for the propertied interests and the upper classes of the cities. They envisioned a modernizing land of banks and factories, with a strong army and navy. George Washington was their great hero.
On many issues American conservatism also derives from the republicanism of Thomas Jefferson and his followers, especially John Randolph of Roanoke and his "Old Republicans" or "Quids." They idealized the yeoman farmer as the epitome of civic virtue, warned that banking and industry led to corruption, that is to the illegitimate use of government power for private ends. Jefferson himself was a vehement opponent of what today is called "judicial activism".  The Jeffersonians stressed small government.
Ante-Bellum: Calhoun and Webster
During the Second Party System (1830-54) the Whig Party attracted most conservatives, such as Daniel Webster of New England. Daniel Webster and other leaders of the Whig Party, called it the conservative party in the late 1830s. John C. Calhoun, a Democrat, articulated a sophisticated conservatism in his writings. Richard Hofstadter (1948) called him "The Marx of the Master Class." Calhoun argued that a conservative minority should be able to limit the power of a "majority dictatorship" because tradition represents the wisdom of past generations. (This argument echoes one made by Edmund Burke, the founder of British conservatism, in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)). Calhoun is considered the father of the idea of minority rights, a position adopted by liberals in the 1960s in dealing with Civil Rights.
The conservatism of the antebellum period is contested territory; conservatives of the 21st century disagree over what comprises their heritage. Thus William J. Bennett (2006) a prominent conservative leader, warns conservatives to NOT honor Calhoun, Know-Nothings, Copperheads and 20th century isolationists.
Lincoln to Cleveland
Since 1865 the Republican party has identified itself with President Abraham Lincoln, who was the ideological heir of the Whigs and of both Jefferson and Hamilton. As the Gettysburg Address shows, Lincoln cast himself as a second Jefferson bringing a second birth of freedom to the nation that had been born 86 years before in Jefferson's Declaration. The Copperheads of the Civil War reflected a reactionary opposition to modernity of the sort repudiated by modern conservatives. A few libertarians have adopted a neo-Copperhead position, arguing Lincoln was a dictator who created an all-powerful government.
In the late 19th century the Bourbon Democrats, led by President Grover Cleveland, preached against corruption, high taxes (protective tariffs), and imperialism, and supported the gold standard and business interests. They were overthrown by William Jennings Bryan in 1896, who moved the mainstream of the Democratic Party permanently to the left.
The 1896 presidential election was the first with a conservative versus liberal theme in the way in which these terms are now understood. Republican William McKinley won using the pro-business slogan "sound money and protection," while Bryan's anti-bank populism had a lasting effect on economic policies of the Democratic Party.
William Graham Sumner, Yale professor (1872-1910) and polymath, vigorously promoted a libertarian conservative ethic. After dallying with Social Darwinism under the influence of Herbert Spencer, he rejected evolution in his later works, and strongly opposed imperialism. He opposed monopoly and paternalism in theory as a threat to equality, democracy and middle class values, but was vague on what to do about it.
Early 20th century
In the Progressive Era (1890s-1932), regulation of industry expanded as conservatives led by Senator Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island were put on the defensive. However, Aldrich's proposal for a strong national banking system was enacted as the Federal Reserve System in 1913. Theodore Roosevelt, the dominant personality of the era, was both liberal and conservative by turns. As a conservative he led the fight to make the country a major naval power, and demanded entry into World War I to stop what he saw as the German attacks on civilization. William Howard Taft promoted a strong federal judiciary that would overrule excessive legislation. Taft defeated Roosevelt on that issue in 1912, forcing Roosevelt out of the GOP and turning it to the right for decades. As president, Taft remade the Supreme Court with five appointments; he himself presided as chief justice in 1921-30, the only former president ever to do so.
Pro-business Republicans returned to dominance in 1920 with the election of President Warren G. Harding. The presidency of Calvin Coolidge (1923-29) was a high water mark for conservatism, both politically and intellectually. Classic writing of the period includes Democracy and Leadership (1924) by Irving Babbitt and H.L. Mencken's magazine American Mercury (1924-33). The Efficiency Movement attracted many conservatives such as Herbert Hoover with its pro-business, pro-engineer approach to solving social and economic problems. In the 1920s many American conservatives generally maintained anti-foreign attitudes and, as usual, were disinclined toward changes to the healthy economic climate of the age.
During the Great Depression, other conservatives participated in the taxpayers' revolt at the local level. From 1930 to 1933, Americans formed as many as 3,000 taxpayers' leagues to protest high property taxes. These groups endorsed measures to limit and rollback taxes, lowered penalties on tax delinquents, and cuts in government spending. A few also called for illegal resistance (or tax strikes). The best known of these was led by the Association of Real Estate Taxpayers in Chicago which, at its height, had 30,000 dues-paying members.
An important intellectual movement, calling itself Southern Agrarians and based in Nashville, brought together like-minded novelists, poets and historians who argued that modern values undermined the traditions of American Republicanism and civic virtue.
The Depression brought liberals to power under President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933). Indeed the term "liberal" now came to mean a supporter of the New Deal and Roosevelt's powerful New Deal Coalition. In 1934 Al Smith and pro-business Democrats formed the American Liberty League to fight the new liberalism, but failed to stop Roosevelt's shifting the Democratic party to the left. In 1936 the Republicans rejected Hoover and tried the more liberal Alf Landon, who carried only Maine and Vermont. When Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court in 1937 the conservatives finally cooperated across party lines and defeated it with help from Vice President John Nance Garner. Roosevelt unsuccessfully tried to purge the conservative Democrats in the 1938 election. The conservatives in Congress then formed a bipartisan informal Conservative Coalition of Republicans and southern Democrats. It largely controlled Congress from 1937 to 1964. Its most prominent leaders were Senator Robert Taft, a Republican of Ohio, and Senator Richard Russell, Democrat of Georgia.
In the United States, the Old Right, also called the Old Guard, was a group of libertarian, free-market anti-interventionists, originally associated with Midwestern Republicans and Southern Democrats. The Republicans (but not the southern Democrats) were isolationists in 1939-41, (see America First), and later opposed NATO and U.S. military intervention in the Korean War.
Later 20th century: Goldwater, Buckley, the Dixiecrats
By 1950, American liberalism was so dominant intellectually that liberal critic Lionel Trilling could dismiss contemporary conservatism as "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas."  But just as Trilling was writing a revival was underway. In the 1950s, principles for a conservative political movement were hashed out in books like Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind (1953) and in the highly influential new magazine National Review, founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955.
Whereas Taft's Old Right had been isolationist the new conservatism favored American intervention overseas to oppose communism. It looked to the Founding Fathers for historical inspiration as opposed to Calhoun and the antebellum South.
The success of the Civil Rights movement came in the Civil Rights Act of 1864 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Most conservatives supported both, but Barry Goldwater opposed them. Until then southern whites (both liberal and conservative) had been locked into the Democratic party. That lock was now broken and southern conservatives started voting for Republican candidates for president in 1964-68, and by the 1990s they were also voting for GOP candidates for state and local office. The southern blacks now began to vote in large numbers, and they became Democrats, moving that party in the south to the left. By 2000, for the first time, all southern states had a conservative GOP and a liberal Democratic party. The region favored the GOP heavily in presidential elections, but split in state contests. In 2008, however, the Obama campaign broke into the solid Republican South, carrying Florida, Virginia and North Carolina.
Goldwater, a charismatic figure whose intense opposition to all New Deal programs angered liberals, was defeated in a landslide in 1964. Goldwater faded and his supporters regrouped under new leadership, especially that of Ronald Reagan in California, and regained strength nationally in the 1966 elections. Conservatives voted for Richard Nixon in 1968, who narrowly defeated the New Deal champion Hubert Humphrey, and southern demagogue George Wallace. Nixon had come to terms with both the Goldwater wing of the party and the still-influential Rockefeller Republicans (Republicans from the Northeast who supported many New Deal programs).
Nixon, Reagan, and Bush
The Republican administrations of President Richard Nixon in the 1970s were characterized more by their emphasis on realpolitik, détente, and economic policies such as wage and price controls, than by their adherence to conservative rhetoric and more liberal actions.
In the eight years of Ronald Reagan's presidency 1981-89 the American conservative movement achieved ascendancy. In 1980 the GOP took control of the Senate for the first time since 1954, and conservative principles dominated Reagan's economic and foreign policies, with supply side economics as well as a strict opposition to Soviet Communism. Reagan promised to cut welfare spending but failed to do so. He did cut taxes, but raised military spending and created large federal deficits of the sort conservatives had complained about for decades. They stopped complaining, as the deficit issue switched to favor the Democrats (who did balance the budget in the late 1990s).
An icon of the American conservative movement, Reagan is credited by his supporters with transforming American politics, galvanizing the Republican Party, uniting a coalition of economic conservatives who supported his supply side economic policies, known as "Reaganomics," foreign policy conservatives who favored his success in stopping and rolling back Communism, and social conservatives who identified with Reagan's conservative religious and social ideals.
Conservatives in Australia
Conservatives in Britain
Up until the mid-19th century, the forerunners of the Conservatives were known as Tories, and the name has persisted as a common nickname both for the political party and those believed to be in agreement with it. Since the mid-to-late 1970s, British conservatives have been defined by an advocacy of laissez-faire economics, privatization and lower taxation. In recent years the Conservative Party has moved away from the social conservatism which once characterized it, and the current party policy includes, for example, support for abortion on demand and gay civil partnership and the Kyoto Treaty and to oppose capital punishment (although it should be noted that such policies have little support among the party's grassroots membership) 
Levels of prayer and worship are much lower in England and Wales than in the U.S., and religious issues thereby play less of a role in public discourse. However, religious issues remain a significant factor in Northern Ireland and in 2008 religious issues were significant during a special election in Scotland.
In common with conservatives in many other countries, British Conservatives tend towards a patriotic rather than internationalist outlook, and are traditionally skeptical of the European Union.
The broadcast media (dominated by the BBC) is almost exclusively liberal in tone. The print media is different with pro-Conservative newspapers like the Daily Mail , Daily Express and Daily Telegraph selling more copies than their rivals.
Conservatism and the French Revolution
Conservatism in France and the continent generally arose in the after 1790 as a response to the radicalism of the French Revolution.
Benefits of Conservatism
Several facets of conservatism function in unison to make it an effective and powerful philosophy. Conservatism emphasizes personal freedom, independence, and initiative; this allows the best of the public to rise to their natural level of achievement. Conservatives recognize that big government fosters dependency and stifles individual achievement--and thus, weakens society as a whole.
At the same time, conservatives also recognize that with individual freedom comes individual responsibility. In the absence of a hand-holding nanny state, it is imperative that each individual take responsibility for his own actions, and exercise his rights and freedoms wisely and with discretion. Thus, social conservatism is also critical to a successful society, as it emphasizes the importance of morality, duty, and responsibility to one's self and fellow men.
- Articles about Conservatives from previous "Breaking News"
- Articles about Conservatives from "More News"
- Conservative Links
- Essay:Fair and balanced is not part of the Conservative platform
- Critchlow, Donald T. The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History (2007)
- Filler, Louis. Dictionary of American Conservatism The First Complete Guide to Issues, People, Organizations and Events (1987), useful older encyclopedia
- Frank, Thomas. What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2005), a liberal perspective excerpt and text search
- Frohnen, Bruce et al eds. American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia (2006), the most detailed reference
- Judis, John B. William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives (1988) excerpt and text search
- Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind. (7th ed. 2001). highly influential conservative history of ideas online at ACLS e-books
- Link, William A. Righteous warrior: Jesse Helms and the rise of modern conservatism (2008) 643 pages
- Micklethwait, John, and Adrian Wooldridge. The Right Nation, (2004) influential survey excerpt and text search
- Micklethwait, John, and Adrian Wooldridge. God Is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith Is Changing the World (2009)
- Nash, George. The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 (2006), excellent scholarly history. excerpt and text search
- Pemberton, William E. Exit with Honor: The Life and Presidency of Ronald Reagan (1998) online edition
- Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2004) on 1964 excerpt and text search
- Perlstein, Rick. Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008) excerpt and text search
- Schneider, Gregory L. ed. Conservatism in America Since 1930: A Reader (2003)
- Schoenwald; Jonathan . A Time for Choosing: The Rise of Modern American Conservatism (2002) online edition also online at ACLS e-books
- Schweizer, Peter, and Wynton C. Hall, eds. Landmark Speeches of the American Conservative Movement (2007) excerpt and text search
- United States Department of State George Washington, farewell address, 1796
- Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary has the following definition of conservative: "tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions : TRADITIONAL" Therefore, a conservative Christian would be one that tends to adhere to the morally sound doctrines of the early Christianity and Judeo-Christian values.
- See Presidential 2008 Exit Poll
- See on line results
- Jonah Goldberg, "What Is a 'Conservative'?", National Review Online, 11 May 2005
- See Leonard Moore, "Approaching Conservatism," OAH Magazine of History, 17 (January 2003) online edition
- The word was originally used in the French Revolution. The British used it after 1839 to describe a major party. The first American usage is by Whigs who called themselves "Conservatives" in the late 1830s. Hans Sperber and Travis Trittschuh, American Political terms: An Historical Dictionary (1962) 94-97.
- Curtis, Bruce. "William Graham Sumner 'On the Concentration of Wealth.'" Journal of American History 1969 55(4): 823-832.
- Lapham 2004
- Conservative party UK
- John Charmley, A History of Conservative Politics Since 1830, (2nd ed. 2008)
- Media UK; Introduction to newspapers in the UK