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The Conservative Movement in American Politics

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 1 year, 1 month ago

Period 9:  1980-Present



Key Concept 9.1 — A newly ascendant conservative movement achieved several political and policy goals during the 1980s and continued to strongly influence public discourse in the following decades.


Topics on the Page



Boston College Professor Heather Cox Richardson's summary of the past 20 years of U.S. History (December 30, 2020)


The January 6, 2021 Insurrection at the Capitol




The Conservative Movement


  • Phyllis Schlafly 
  • Barry Goldwater
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Donald Trump


The Tea Party




Link to Special Topic Page:  The Presidency of Ronald Reagan


Link to Special Topic Page:  2000 Presidential Election


Link to Special Topic Page:  The Clinton Presidency, Federal Economic Policies and Conservative Policies


Link to Special Topic Page:  Electoral College and Election Reform






- promotes traditional social institutions

- tradition, human imperfection, organic society, hierarchy, authority, property rights

- preserve institutions and continuity within them

- based on traditions of the time and place, not agreed upon universally


  Click here for a video explaining conservatism and its meaning. 

               Click here for a six minute video on the conservative movement with a lesson plan in the description section of the video. 



Conservative Movement in American Politics


 Click here for the Crash Course video explaining its history. 


  • against Communism
  •  supports small government and the free market
    • cutting government spending, taxes, and social programs 
  • family values (in the context of women's rights)


Key Players

- Barry Goldwater

- Lyndon B. Johnson

- Richard Nixon

- Ronald Reagan

- George H.W. Bush

- George W. Bush 

- Bill Clinton

- Donald Trump



Phyllis Schlafly (1924-201


- conservative author and movement leader


- Pro-Life, Pro-Family


- Opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and spoke out about its downfalls

     - Explore primary source documents about the ERA. 


- Was a key player in defeating its ratification 


  Click here for a video on her role in defeating the amendment and her legacy  

    - Click here to learn more about the ERA. 


Barry Goldwater

Barry Goldwater was a conservative Republican who called for a harsher stance against the Soviet UnionLiberals now love Barry Goldwater, but his 1964 loss won the GOP's ... and argued that the democrats created a "quasi-socialist" state at home. Goldwater won the Republican Nominee for the Presidential Race of 1964


"He preached the cause of modern conservatism," wrote one biographer, which emphasized “individualism, the sanctity of private property… anticommunism, and the dangers of centralized power.” 


Click here for the primary source of Barry Goldwater's Republican Nomination Acceptance Speech.


Click here for a video on Barry Goldwater's opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


Click here for a video of ABC's interview with Barry Goldwater on 20/20.


Ronald Reagan


Ronald Reagan - Quotes, Death & Movies - Biography

Ronald Reagan presided over the end of the Cold War. Reagan worked as an actor in Hollywood and enjoyed the lifestyle. He became President of the Screen Actors Guild. He became President in 1980 and served for two terms. Ronald Reagan believed that "Government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy." 


Click here for a cartoon educational video on Ronald Reagan.


Click here for a video of Ronald Reagan explaining conservatism.


Reaganomics refers to the economic policies of Ronald Reagan. When Ronald Reagan was elected as president, the nation's economy had been in a state of inflation. Reaganomics was heavily based on the trickle down theory that lowering taxes will lead to higher investment, jobs, and wages. Trickle down is controversial because domestic social programs often suffer from it.



Click here for a video from the history channel on why reaganomics is controversial.


Donald Trump

Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Race in the electoral congress, but he LOST the popular vote.Approval of Trump's Coronavirus Response Increases, Poll Finds ... This has brought new concerns for the validity of the electoral congress.


Donald Trump became the third president to be impeached.


Click here for a PBS News Hour article on Trump's beliefs as of 2020.

Click here for a video analyzing if Trumpism is the new Conservatism


Trump has been criticized on his handling of his handling of the COVID-19 endemic due to the way he presented the pandemic to the American public. Many Americans have also brought attention to his changing attitudes by reposting his previous "tweets."


Click here for a video by NBC News sowing Trump's presentation of the pandemic as time has progressed. 


Trump has also supported those who have protested social distancing, which protests government control over individuals, despite social distancing being proved to be life-saving. He has used the term "liberate" to describe what the protestors want, despite the fact that he also released guidelines encouraging social distancing.


Click here for a video on the protests as well as Trump calling them "responsible people."

Click here for another video on the protests with once again Trump encouraging them.

Melania Trump and Donald Trump This is a picture of Trump looking directly at the sun during the solar eclipse.


For background, see Rick Perlstein's history of the Post World War II conservative movement in the US


  • Before the Storm:  Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, 2001
  • Nixonland:  The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America, 2008
  • The Invisible Bridge:  The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, 2014
  • Reaganland:  America's Right Turn, 1976 - 1980 



Tea Party Sign, Taxpayer March on Washington, September 2009


Tea Party Sign, Taxpayer March on Washington, September 2009


The Tea Party

Tea Party opposes taxation, immigration, and government intervention. Consists of mainly Republicans. Supports the free market. Widely known for their protests.


What is the House Freedom Caucus and Who's In It, Pew Research Center (October 20, 2015)


The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party, Frank Rich, New York Times (August 28, 2010)





Learning Plans


Click here for a lesson plan from the New York Times on the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" Policy.


Click here for a unit plan on the Reagan Revolution.


Click here for a PBS lesson plan and Barry Goldwater and "The New Conservatives."


Click here for a lesson plan on the impeachment trials of Donald Trump.


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