Future of Conservatism

January 4, 1974

Report Outline
Watergate and Status of Conservatism
Conservative Tradition in American Life
Swings in Expectations for Conservatism
Special Focus

Watergate and Status of Conservatism

The new year 1974 brings into question whether the Watergate disclosures and the Agnew resignation have done great harm to the cause of conservatism, which only a year earlier was being viewed as the wave of the future. The Republican Party is generally considered the natural “home” of the conservative tradition in American politics and, according to the findings of public-opinion polls, it has suffered a loss of support in the Watergate aftermath.

While the problems of the Nixon administration during the past year have muted its talk of a “new majority” in American politics drawn from conservative constituencies, there is little evidence that the conservative tradition has lost its footing. About all that can be said for sure at this time is that the events of the past year have demonstrated, once again, that the play between conservatism and liberalism is a continuing factor in American polity regardless of the vicissitudes of political life. The balance may tilt from time to time due to changing circumstances or the influence of particular political personalities, but the shifts usually refer to specific issues of the moment rather than to guiding principles of government.

The future of conservatism in the United States can no more be foreseen than the future of liberalism. Both concepts are likely to be around for some time and continue to influence policy in different ways, sometimes merging their interests, at other times pulling sharply apart. Actually the lines of demarcation between the two traditions are not always too clear. Changing circumstances give different colorations to conservative or liberal positions. Individual politicians or political factions often combine elements of both traditions. Those who do not are likely to be described as extremists of right or left. And those closer to the mainstream of political thought may be called liberal-conservative or conservative-liberal. Such combination terms are by no means strange in political discourse.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Political Parties
May 26, 2023  Congressional Investigations
Jan. 06, 2023  Dark Money
Mar. 25, 2022  The Democrats' Future
Apr. 30, 2021  The GOP's Future
Oct. 13, 2017  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 09, 2016  Populism and Party Politics
Nov. 14, 2014  Nonprofit Groups and Partisan Politics
Oct. 24, 2014  Future of the GOP
Feb. 28, 2014  Polarization in America
Mar. 19, 2010  Tea Party Movement Updated
Mar. 20, 2009  Future of the GOP
Jun. 08, 2007  Democrats in Congress
Apr. 30, 2004  The Partisan Divide
Dec. 22, 1995  Third-Party Prospects
Jan. 11, 1985  Post-1984 Political Landscape
Nov. 09, 1984  Democratic Revival in South America
Sep. 14, 1984  Election 1984
Dec. 19, 1980  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 29, 1978  New Right in American Politics
Jan. 04, 1974  Future of Conservatism
May 03, 1972  The New Populism
Feb. 02, 1956  Foreign Policy in Political Campaigns
Dec. 22, 1954  Divided Government
Aug. 04, 1952  Two-Party System
Jun. 06, 1952  Party Platforms
Sep. 05, 1951  Southern Democrats and the 1952 Election
Oct. 06, 1948  Voting in 1948
Aug. 27, 1948  Republicans and Foreign Policy
Jul. 16, 1947  Third Party Movements
Aug. 22, 1940  Political Realignments
Jan. 13, 1938  The G. O. P. and the Solid South
Jul. 22, 1936  Third Party Movements in American Politics
Jul. 07, 1936  The Monopoly Issue in Party Politics
Nov. 12, 1935  Party Platforms and the 1936 Campaign
May 18, 1934  Political Trends and New Party Movements
Jan. 13, 1932  National Party Platforms, 1832–1932
May 16, 1928  Third Party Movements
Jan. 21, 1928  Major Party Platforms 1924–1928
Nov. 14, 1924  The Election and the Third Party
Sep. 05, 1924  Party Claims and Past Political Complexion of the States
Jun. 25, 1924  Third Party Platforms
Jun. 18, 1924  Thrid Parties: Past and Prospective
Conservatism and Liberalism