History and Religion
HIST 392 Take-Home Final
The Conservative Movement: For God and Country
While the 1960s may be the decade of long hair and free love, the late 1970s
and early 80s are the years of the conservative uprising. While decidedly less sexy,
conservatism was no less important and remains an integral part of the American
political landscape today. Ultimately, the movement was a backlash to the 1960s
counterculture, and a voice for a return to a moral America. It represented two
distinct patterns of American society: the political – embodied by the liberalization
policies and soothing tones of Ronald Reagan – and the religious, which was
represented by the rise of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and the fusion of church and
state. The strength of the conservative movement may have ebbed and flowed
during the last several election cycles, but its powerful impact on American politics
from the last thirty years to today is undeniable.
While the New Right largely faded as a movement into the 1970s, there
emerged a New Right. Many believe Barry Goldwater was the pioneering figure of
the conservative movement: the first real representation of the New Right at the
presidential level. However, his future as the movement’s leader was short lived,
and Lyndon Johnson handled him easily during the election.
1 Jimmy Carter, although
a Democrat, was also a significant part of the movement; he wore the passion of his
faith on his sleeve, which helped unite religious groups under politics.2 Politically,
1 Jundt Lecture, November 4, 2009
2 Jundt Lecture, November 4, 2009
however, we see economic issues sway the shift to conservatism. Republicans had
lacked a vision in the early 1970s and were traditionally associated with the
wealthy, struggling to appeal to poorer voter.
3 In the latter half of the decade,
however, they began to represent more clearly defined fiscal policies, especially
within their anti-tax legislature; inflation was hurting the country and rising
property taxes angered many. Reagan’s proposed deregulation of industry was seen
as an extension of personal freedom, which also appealed to people. There was also
a civil rights backlash, and sympathy for the increasing rights and status of minority
groups fell as whites’ own status fell. Reagan therefore drew much support from so
called “Reagan Democrats” were blue collar, lower-middle class, white voters who
were beginning to shift their vote to the Republican Party.4 His re-commitment to
anti-communism and free trade ideals resonated strongly across America; citizens
agreed with Reagan’s idea that the spread of communism must be stopped, and aid
should be provided to countries in order to garner support. In short, Reagan’s
economic policy represented a backlash of Democratic policy and the
counterculture movement, and resonated loudly across political lines.
Another important aspect to the rise of the conservative right was the rise of
the evangelicals. By 2008, this group represented 25% of the electorate, and
represents the key Republican base.5 The central issue for evangelicals is morality,
and their political impact can largely be based on the threat to their culture that they
perceive. During the late 1970s, evangelicals felt threatened due to increasing
4 Sugrue, “Detroit and Postindustrial America” 267
5 Jundt Lecture, December 2, 2009
North-South migration and permeation of Northern, secular culture into their own.
After Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, the movement began to seriously get political.
Jerry Falwell took action by creating Moral Majority.6 While activist students had
used campuses as springboards during the counterculture movement, Falwell
focused spreading his word through churches. Sunday Mass was no longer just a
time of worship; it became a political opportunity to rally millions of like-minded
Americans into politics. An evangelist now carries to the polls the same morality
that is inscribed in the churches teachings: the sin of abortion, homosexuality, and a
set of morals based on their shared history of feared federal oppression. A true
evangelist cannot morally vote for a politician who supports abortion. There is no
longer any middle ground. By intertwining religion with political activity,
evangelicals have intertwined the voice of God and the voices of American
During the 1980 Presidential election, Moral Majority threw its full weight
behind the campaigns of Ronald Reagan, and afterwards Falwell confidently
declared that the mobilization of the Christian right was responsible for his victory.
Evangelicals’ moral rhetoric was softened in the later years of Reagan’s rule, as
many now found confidence in their nation’s moral path. Moral Majority gradually
dissolved, but was replaced by the Christian Coalition, led by Pat Robertson and a
young, charismatic born-again named Ralph Reed.7 Reed quickly strengthened the
organization by relying on a strategy of “bottom-up” support of community-level
6 Jundt Lecture, November 4, 2009
7 Jundt Lecture, November 4, 2009
activism, much like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of the Civil Rights
movements, and focused on using emerging communication technology like email to
spread their message. Specifically, Reed focused on schoolchildren, fighting to keep
religious symbols in schools as part of the Republican’s Contract with America.
Robertson and Reed have since largely faded from the political scene, but their
community-based philosophies have allowed the evangelical movement to grow
even stronger. In 2004, after George W. Bush was elected to a second term, Falwell
once again boasted accurately that the evangelicals had won the election for him.
The rise of the conservative right in the last thirty years has had serious
consequences for America. In past years, many voters were able to distinguish
themselves as independent, and voted on issues that were important to them. The
conservative right, especially within its religious faction, have polarized the debate.
It is no longer acceptable for a “true” evangelical to vote for a Democrat, and most
left-leaning Democrats would not dream of voting for a self-professed conservative
like Sarah Palin. This polarization has been exacerbated by the media, and has
created an environment where personalities and idealism often transcend politics.
McConomy: The Effect of the Corporation on American Society
Perhaps nothing has defined the evolution of modern society like the growth
of the corporation. The dynamics and economic climate in America that enabled the
corporation has spread to the rest of the world with globalization. Changing
domestic industrial patterns within America expanded corporate influence, while
transportation and communications technology allowed it to expand the world over.
However, much like the New Right was a reaction to the counterculture movement,
corporate backlash is also now an integral part of American society, reflected
through environmental and development movements.
After World War II, business and industry were primarily concentrated in the
Manufacturing Belt in the Northeast. This concentration allowed for efficient
production, as Pittsburgh steel mills could supply the automotive hub in Detroit.
However, there were four key factors – two corporate, and two military – that led to
the breakup of the Manufacturing Belt and the diversification of industry into the
South. First, the cost of labor became too expensive in the Belt; in the South, labor
unions were viewed as an extension of Communism and lack of worker power
meant wages remained low. Technology had also advanced, especially in
transportation technology, which allowed for larger distances between factors of
production. Synthetics for shoes could now be manufactured in Texas, while the
final product was stitched in Ohio. Militarily, there were implications of the Cold
War; there was a fear of nuclear attack, and many felt diversifying industry across
the country could reduce American vulnerability. Fourth, the government chose to
spread out military contracts, in order to spread wealth among the states, which
further encouraged special geography. Therefore, the American government began
subsidizing housing loans, in order to encourage migration throughout the country.
Simply by the changing nature of the corporation, we observe a fundamental shift in
American migration, leading to the growth of the ‘Sun Belt’ of the South and the
general weakening of Northern industry.
Spatial expansion of corporate scope did not stop at American borders.
Globalization has created an entirely new world, and has dramatically altered the
makeup of the United States. Anthony Gibbins argued that globalization is the
compression of time and space: the way someone in Vancouver can talk to a cousin
in Johannesburg with the click of a mouse. Others argue that globalization is an
extension to the nation state and corporate influence. Regardless, it has redefined
the corporation and the global economy. Reaganomics was based on lower taxes
and spreading the idea of capitalism throughout the world; the decline of the Cold
War and the ultimate American victory symbolized his victory of capitalism and free
market enterprise, and this has been reflected through international reductions of
trade barriers like tariffs.8 The flow of goods also meant the flow of people; now
more than ever, America is a racially and culturally diverse melting pot, with
international businessmen from every corner of the world in its major cities and
Mexican immigrants in the South making up large percentages of the population.
America’s embrace of corporate culture has ultimately led to this global community.
The theory of trade, in principle, helps all parties, but in reality it also skews
imbalances and lead to economic disparity. Many argue that corporate culture
simply encourages a “race to the bottom,” where the environment that offers the
lowest red tape, environmental restrictions, wages, and taxes will attract the most
business. Nike is an example that detractors point to of all that is wrong with
globalization. The company began in Oregon and soon moved to Japan to find
cheaper labor, but as Japan developed economically its wages rose as well. Nike then
8 Jundt Lecture, November 4, 2009
moved to Taiwan, and closed the last of its American factories by the late 1970s.
Since then, it has shifted production between Thailand, Indonesia, China and
Vietnam, or wherever else it could pay its workers pennies per hour and increase its
profit margins. Advocates of globalization argue that Nike is providing jobs,
however low paying, to those in impoverished countries, and can also then offer its
consumers lower prices. However, their consumers in the developed world suffer
from reduced wages, thanks to the outsourcing of labor. International
conglomerates like Wal-Mart have single-handedly bankrupted small towns across
the nation. Thus, corporations have changed the economic makeup of the country
and the world; those who profit through globalization will defend it to their death,
while those left behind fiercely fight it.
This rise of corporate culture and globalization has produced a backlash,
most notably in the rise of the environmental movement. Many of the main
benefactors of corporate influence have been the political elite, and in reaction to
capitalist trends many – including a great deal from the middle class – have felt
compelled to action.9 Excerpts of speeches from Earth Day – which was created on
April 22, 1970 as a teach-in – reveal a great deal of the environmentalist rhetoric.
Denis Hayes in “The Beginning” complained about how “industry has turned the
environmental problem over to its public relations men.”10 Garrett Hardin lamented
about the “Tragedy of the Commons,” where private enterprise has an incentive to
create negative externalities because the consequences do not directly affect the
9 Jundt Lecture, October 21, 2009
10 Selection of Earth Day Speeches
company in the short term.11 Barbara Reed was afraid that “individuals ha[d] lost
control over their lives… manipulated by a system,” and that “corporations [could]
no longer reject the demands of the people.” Adam Walinsky in “The Blue-Collar
Movement” warned of the harmful chemicals that unprotected laborers were dying
from.12 Across the country, thousands demanded action against rising corporate
power, and similar concerns about globalization are evident today during protests
at World Trade Organization conferences and G8 summits. How much of an impact
did the movement really have? The national environmental policy act was signed
into law on January 1st, 1970, and has been followed by such acts as the Clean Air
Act of 1990 – which dramatically cut sulfur dioxide – and the recent American Clean
Energy and Security Act, which is the basis for a cap-and-trade system.
In short, the corporation has shaped its economic, social, environmental, and
foreign policy trends, and with the spread of globalization will continue to do so into
the future. As the world’s space and time has shrunk, so too has domestic America,
and as communication and transportation have expanded, so too has the extension
of the influence of the American nation state. Underlying all corporate culture is the
movements against it: the environmental movement that has expanded worldwide
and has created a new set of guidelines for the workings of the global economy, and
the development movement which has spawned hundreds of organizations
dedicated to making sure the castoffs of globalization still get a fair deal. Corporate
culture has indeed had a profound effect on the history of the United States.
Selection of Earth Day Speeches from Earth Day – The Beginning: A guide for Survival
(Arco:1970 –out of print)
Thomas Jundt, Lecture, October 19, 2009
Thomas Jundt, Lecture, October 21, 2009
Thomas Jundt, Lecture, November 4, 2009
Thomas Jundt, Lecture, November 6, 2009
Thomas Jundt, Lecture, December 2, 2009
Thomas J. Sugrue, “Introduction” and “Detroit and Postindustrial America