Conservatism in North America

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Conservatism in North America is a political philosophy that varies in form, depending on the country and the region, but that has similar themes and goals. Academic study into the differences and similarities between conservatism in North American countries has been undertaken on numerous occasions. Reginald Bibby has asserted that the primary reason that conservatism has been so strong and enduring throughout North America is because of the propagation of religious values from generation to generation. This connection is strongest in mainstream Protestantism in the United States, and both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in Canada. [1]


According to Louis Hartz, nations that developed from settler colonies were European "fragments" that froze the class structure and underlying ideology prevalent in the mother country at the time of their foundation. He considered Latin America and French Canada to be fragments of feudal Europe, and the United States and English Canada as liberal fragments. [2] However Gad Horowitz, writing that Hartz had acknowledged a Tory influence in English Canada, claimed a conservative tradition had developed there as well. [3] American conservatism is different from European conservatism, with its combination of traditionalism and libertarianism, and has its roots in American traditions and classical liberalism of the 18th and 19th centuries, [4] although Canada also developed an American-style conservatism that competed with the older Tory conservatism. [5] A right-wing conservatism, or "Latin conservatism", developed in Latin America and Quebec. Today, conservative and conservative liberal parties in North America cooperate through the International Democrat Union. [6]


Conservatism in Canada is generally considered to be primarily represented by the modern-day Conservative Party of Canada in federal party politics, and by various centre-right and right-wing parties at the provincial level. The first party calling itself "Conservative" in what would become Canada was elected in the Province of Canada election of 1854.

Far-right politics have never been a prominent force in Canadian society. [7] Canadian conservative ideology is rooted in British "Tory-ism", rather than American liberalism. [8] [9] Stemming from the resettlement of United Empire Loyalist after the American Revolutionary War with traditionalist conservatism views alongside pro-market liberalism ideals, [10] [8] is the reason that unlike the conservatives in the United States, Canadian conservatives generally prefer the Westminster system of government. [11] [8] The United States of America is a federal republic with a presidential democracy, while Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy.

United States

Conservatism is a major political ideology in the United States. American conservatism is different from European conservatism, and it has its roots in American Republicanism and classical liberalism. [12] In contemporary American politics, it is usually associated with the Republican Party. Characteristics of conservative principles include limited government, respect for American traditions, support for Judeo-Christian values, [13] moral universalism, [14] individualism and defense against perceived threats posed by communism and socialism. Economically, U.S. conservatives support fiscal conservatism, economic liberalism, laissez faire capitalism, and opposition to government intervention in economy. In foreign policy, American conservatives usually advocate a strong national defense. They support the doctrine of "American exceptionalism", a belief that the U.S. is unique among nations and that its standing and actions do and should guide the course of world history.

Although there has always been a conservative tradition in America, the modern American conservative movement began during the 1950s. Russell Kirk popularized conservatism after publishing The Conservative Mind (1953). Two years later, in 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. founded National Review , a conservative magazine that included traditionalists, such as Kirk, along with libertarians and anti-communists. This bringing together of separate ideologies under a conservative umbrella was known as fusionism. The term was invented by Frank Meyer. Politically, the conservative movement in the U.S. has often been a coalition of various groups, which has sometimes contributed to its electoral success and other times been a source of internal conflict.

Modern conservatism saw its first national political success with the 1964 nomination of Barry Goldwater, a U.S. Senator from Arizona and author of The Conscience of a Conservative (1960), as the Republican candidate for president. In 1980, the conservative movement was able to attract disaffected Southern Whites (who were formerly Democrats), neoconservatives (former Cold War liberal Democrats), and evangelical Christians, to nominate and elect the Republican candidate Ronald Reagan, a conservative, as president. The 1980s and beyond is known as the Reagan Era, a conservative decade. Today's conservatives regard Reagan as the iconic conservative hero. Subsequent electoral victories included gaining a Republican congressional majority in 1994 and the election of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

The conservative movement has been advanced by influential think tanks such as The Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Hoover Institution, Hudson Institute and Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Major media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal , New York Post and Fox News are often described as conservative.

Since the 1970s, the two major American political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, have become increasingly polarized, with the Democrats described as "liberal" and "left wing" and the Republicans as "conservative" and "right wing". The alt-right has pushed the Overton window to the right, [15] making conservative positions seem more centrist. [16] [17] [18]


In Mexico, political conservatism originally arose in reaction to the Mexican War of Independence. Because of his prominence in the Mexican Conservative Party, Lucas Alamán has been called "the most organized intelligence behind Conservatism in Mexico." [19] Throughout the presidency of Miguel Alemán Valdés between 1946 and 1952, the politics of the country experienced a significant shift towards conservatism. [20] Gastón García Cantú has performed the most extensive study of Mexican conservatism to date. [21]

Central America

Before the 1930s, Central American countries generally had dichotomous politics divided along conservative-liberal lines, but the effects of the Great Depression in the area caused most of these opposing parties to merge in order to maintain authority. [22] Traditionally, political conservatism in the area has been ideologically linked with Protestantism, but this connection has been questioned in recent years. [23] One of the most prominent historical representatives of conservatism in Central America was Rafael Carrera, the first President of Guatemala. Not only did he effectively suppress liberal reforms in his own country, but he contributed greatly to the unity and influence of conservatism in each of the countries throughout Central America. [24]


Belize is generally a conservative country as demonstrated by their laws which make abortion and male homosexuality illegal. [25] The primary conservative party in Belize since the country's first parliamentary election as an independent state in 1984 has been the United Democratic Party. [26] Nonetheless, the other major political party, the People's United Party, has a very similar political ideology. Historically, both parties have tended to be more conservative while in power than when in opposition. [27]


Conservatism in Guatemala has always been closely linked with the country's Roman Catholic clergy. [28] Between the declaration of Guatemala's independence in 1821 and the Liberal Revolution of 1871, the country's politics were dominated by conservatism. [29] In the mid-twentieth century, Francisco Javier Arana served as a unifying force for conservatives in Guatemala after his own presidency. [30]


When Panama was separated from Colombia in 1903, the newly independent country of Panama was initially controlled by a military junta led by José Agustín Arango and Manuel Amador Guerrero. Although the junta included a few token liberal members, the administration was heavily conservative. [31] Politics in the country were strongly divided along conservative-liberal lines in the following years. [32] Conservatives were in power until a military coup in 1968. [33]


The main conservative political body in the Caribbean is the Caribbean Democrat Union (CDU) which was formed in 1986 by Anglo-Caribbean leaders to unify conservative political parties in the region. [34] The CDP is a suborganization of the International Democrat Union (IDU). [35] In Beyond a Boundary , C. L. R. James argues that the influence of cricket and English literature have been instrumental in strengthening conservativism in the Caribbean. [36]


In the early 20th century, the concept of conservatism was not well-defined in Cuban politics. [37] In 1913, Mario García Menocal became the third President of Cuba and the first Cuban president representing the Conservative Party of Cuba when the Liberal Party of Cuba split between supporters of Alfredo Zayas y Alfonso and supporters of José Miguel Gómez. [38] Still, the conservative-liberal distinction fails to address many of the major political issues in Cuban governmental history. [39]

Although Cuba's government remains ideologically communist, evangelical churches have allowed the growth of conservative ideas and groups within religious institutions. Many of these churches influence debates on civil liberties such as abortion and LGBT rights. [40] [41] [42]

Study of concept

A 2002 conference at the University of Augsburg which was dedicated to this very topic. [43] There were two main concepts discussed at the conference. The first concept was the connection between the brand of conservatism arising in the 1980s and the 1990s and social democracy. The second concept was simply an exploration of the differences and similarities between conservatism in Canada and the United States. Some feminist scholars have suggested that the prevalence of conservatism throughout North America has resulted in the continent's general post-feminist stance. [44]

See also

Related Research Articles

Conservatism is a cultural, social, and political philosophy and ideology, which seeks to promote and preserve traditional institutions, customs, and values. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in relation to the culture and civilization in which it appears. In Western culture, depending on the particular nation, conservatives seek to promote a range of institutions, such as the nuclear family, organized religion, the military, the nation-state, property rights, rule of law, aristocracy, and monarchy. Conservatives tend to favour institutions and practices that enhance social order and historical continuity.

Classical liberalism is a political tradition and a branch of liberalism that advocates free market and laissez-faire economics and civil liberties under the rule of law, with special emphasis on individual autonomy, limited government, economic freedom, political freedom and freedom of speech. Classical liberalism, contrary to liberal branches like social liberalism, looks more negatively on social policies, taxation and the state involvement in the lives of individuals, and it advocates deregulation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Central America</span>

Central America is commonly said to include Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. This definition matches modern political borders. Central America begins geographically in Mexico, at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico's narrowest point, and the former country of Yucatán (1841–1848) was part of Central America. At the other end, before its independence in 1903 Panama was part of South America, as it was a Department of Colombia. At times Belize, a British colony until 1981, where English instead of Spanish is spoken, and where the population is primarily of African origin, has been considered not part of (Spanish-speaking) Central America.

Right-wing politics is the range of political ideologies that view certain social orders and hierarchies as inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically supporting this position based on natural law, economics, authority, property, religion, biology or tradition. Hierarchy and inequality may be seen as natural results of traditional social differences or competition in market economies.

Social conservatism is a political philosophy and a variety of conservatism which places emphasis on traditional power structures over social pluralism. Social conservatives organize in favor of duty, traditional values and social institutions, such as traditional family structures, gender roles, sexual relations, national patriotism, and religious traditions. Social conservatism is usually skeptical of social change, instead tending to support the status quo concerning social issues.

The left–right political spectrum is a system of classifying political positions, ideologies and parties, with emphasis placed upon issues of social equality and social hierarchy. In addition to positions on the left and on the right, there are centrist and moderate positions, which are not strongly aligned with either end of the spectrum. It originated during the French Revolution based on the seating in the French National Assembly.

Liberal conservatism is a political ideology combining conservative policies with liberal stances, especially on economic issues but also on social and ethical matters, representing a brand of political conservatism strongly influenced by liberalism.

In general, liberalism in Europe is a political movement that supports a broad tradition of individual liberties and constitutionally-limited and democratically accountable government. These European derivatives of classical liberalism are found in centrist movements and parties as well as some parties on the centre-left and the centre-right.

This article gives information on liberalism worldwide. It is an overview of parties that adhere to some form of liberalism and is therefore a list of liberal parties around the world.

Centre-right politics lean to the right of the political spectrum, but are closer to the centre. Parties of the centre-right generally support liberal democracy, capitalism, the market economy, private property rights, and a modest welfare state. They support conservatism and economic liberalism and oppose socialism and communism.

Conservatism in the United States is based on a belief in limited government, individualism, traditionalism, republicanism, and limited federal governmental power in relation to U.S. states. Conservative and Christian media organizations and American conservative figures are influential, and American conservatism is a large and mainstream ideology in the Republican Party and nation. As of 2021, 36 percent of Americans consider themselves conservative, according to polling by Gallup, Inc.

Conservative liberalism, also referred to as right-liberalism, is a variant of liberalism, combining liberal values and policies with conservative stances, or simply representing the right-wing of the liberal movement. In the case of modern conservative liberalism, scholars sometimes see it as a more positive and less radical variant of classical liberalism; it is also referred to as an individual tradition that distinguishes it from classical liberalism and social liberalism. Conservative liberal parties tend to combine economically liberal policies with more traditional stances and personal beliefs on social and ethical issues. Ordoliberalism is an influential component of conservative-liberal thought, particularly in its German, British, French, Italian, and American manifestations.

National conservatism is a nationalist variant of conservatism that concentrates on upholding national, cultural identity, communitarianism, and the public role of religion. It shares aspects of traditionalist conservatism and social conservatism, while departing from economic liberalism and libertarianism, as well as taking a more agnostic approach to regulatory economics and protectionism. National conservatives usually combine conservatism with nationalist stances, emphasizing cultural conservatism, family values and opposition to illegal immigration or opposition to immigration per se. National conservative parties often have roots in environments with a rural, traditionalist or peripheral basis, contrasting with the more urban support base of liberal conservative parties.

Fiscal conservatism or economic conservatism is a political and economic philosophy regarding fiscal policy and fiscal responsibility with an ideological basis in capitalism, individualism, limited government, and laissez-faire economics. Fiscal conservatives advocate tax cuts, reduced government spending, free markets, deregulation, privatization, free trade, and minimal government debt. Fiscal conservatism follows the same philosophical outlook as classical liberalism. This concept is derived from economic liberalism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Political ideologies in the United States</span> Ideologies and ideological demographics in the United States

American political ideologies conventionally align with the left–right political spectrum, with most Americans identifying as conservative, liberal, or moderate. Contemporary American conservatism includes social conservatism, classical liberalism and economic liberalism. The former ideology developed as a response to communism and the civil rights movement, while the latter two ideologies developed as a response to the New Deal. Contemporary American liberalism includes progressivism, welfare capitalism and social liberalism, developing during the Progressive Era and the Great Depression. Besides modern conservatism and liberalism, the United States has a notable libertarian movement, developing during the mid-20th century as a revival of classical liberalism. Historical political movements in the United States have been shaped by ideologies as varied as republicanism, populism, separatism, fascism, socialism, monarchism, and nationalism.

Conservatism in Australia refers to the political philosophy of conservatism as it has developed in Australia. Politics in Australia has, since at least the 1910s, been most predominantly a contest between the Australian labour movement and the combined forces of anti-Labour groups. The anti-Labour groups have at times identified themselves as "free trade", "nationalist", "anti-communist", "liberal", and "right of centre", among other labels; until the 1990s, the label "conservative" had rarely been used in Australia, and when used it tended to be used by pro-Labour forces as a term of disparagement against their opponents. Electorally, conservatism has been the most successful political brand in Australian history.

National liberalism is a variant of liberalism, combining liberal policies and issues with elements of nationalism. Historically, national liberalism has also been used in the same meaning as conservative liberalism (right-liberalism).

Paternalistic conservatism is a strand of conservatism which reflects the belief that societies exist and develop organically and that members within them have obligations towards each other. There is particular emphasis on the paternalistic obligation, referencing the feudal concept of noblesse oblige, of those who are privileged and wealthy to the poorer parts of society. Consistent with principles such as duty, hierarchy, and organicism, it can be seen as an outgrowth of traditionalist conservatism. Paternalistic conservatives do not support the individual or the state in principle but are instead prepared to support either or recommend a balance between the two depending on what is most practical.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timeline of modern American conservatism</span>

This timeline of modern American conservatism lists important events, developments and occurrences which have significantly affected conservatism in the United States. With the decline of the conservative wing of the Democratic Party after 1960, the movement is most closely associated with the Republican Party (GOP). Economic conservatives favor less government regulation, lower taxes and weaker labor unions while social conservatives focus on moral issues and neoconservatives focus on democracy worldwide. Conservatives generally distrust the United Nations and Europe and apart from the libertarian wing favor a strong military and give enthusiastic support to Israel.


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  44. Rhoda Reddock (1999). Feminism and Feminist Thought: A Historical Overview. Canoe Press. p. 72. ISBN   978-976-8125-55-2.{{cite book}}: |journal= ignored (help) "The rise of conservatism in North America and Western Europe has been a severe challenge to the movement there and many argue that these countries are in a phase of post-feminism."