Present American conservatism embodies the beliefs of Kirk in one way or another. However, American Conservatism has also come to embody several uniquely American ideas. Perhaps most unique to American conservatism is the idea that the individual and individual achievement are the most important aspects of society. In other words government programs designed to better society as a whole, and assist the lives of individuals are not necessarily effective measures to advance the growth of people in a society. Americans reflect this in the widespread opposition to such things as welfare and socialized medicine in the United States.
The present state of American Conservatism has applied a similar concept of individuality to the states. Unlike the Federalist that favored a strong central government, today’s conservatives favor states rights. The Reagan administration went even further enacting a policy of devolution.
In addition, but not wholly unique to American conservatism is the extent to which Judeo-Christian religion and morality play a role in the adoption of beliefs. These Beliefs have come to represent a major part of American conservatism. Issues of abortion, gay rights, sexual education, the death penalty, and an array of others have come to have positions that are embraced by American conservatism. For instance, conservatives have readily accepted the pro-life movement as well as the protection of marriage on religious grounds.
Although they share many of the fundamental aspects of conservative ideology, American conservatism and British conservatism have some very striking contrast. Important to American conservatism is the idea that the individual and individual achievements are the most important aspects of society. While British conservatism due to their roots in nobility, tend to embody the values of noblesse oblige, or the responsibility of the elite to the less fortunate. They also do not oppose state intervention in the economy (Hauss 75). This conflict could be a major factor in the downfall of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher practiced a much more American form of Conservatism drastically decreasing government involvement in business, to the dismay of traditional British conservatives.
Although Republicans control the entire National Government, conservatism is on the decline. While they are a more conservative party, Republicans have moved more to the center and have accepted the existence of several social programs that defy the most basic conservative tenets. This is a draw back of the two party system in which compromise must be made in order to form a viable political party. In that case, one may say the Republicans have been successful, yet they have only been so at the cost of their conservative ideology. Although it is also viable to say that since the Republican Party is the only major outlet for conservatism, conservatism has been relatively successful. The Republican Party will continue to evolve but will likely be the major source of conservatism in America for years to come. Hence as the Republican Party evolves American Conservatism will evolve.
Hauss, Charles. Comparative Politics: Domestic Responses to Global Challenges.
Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2003.
Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot. Washington, D.C: Regnery
Publishing Inc, 2001.