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Garret Rueckert POLS 2300 2/24/14 Political Ideology in the United States Ideology is often the basis for

how people choose to affiliate with a political party. It also determines how much of the population votes. Though these are generally good parameters to judge a populations ideological persuasion, they do not tell the whole story. In order to determine the dominant ideology in the United States, we must look to statistics, history, and our current political situation. In doing so, conservatism emerges as the most popular, most socially accepted, and the most plausible ideology to explain our current policy changes or, more appropriately, lack thereof. To begin, conservatism must be generally outlined. As James Antle points out in Conservative Crackup, conservatism isnt a monolith. In other words, people identify as conservative for different reasons. Nonetheless, five general characteristics consistently emerge from the varieties of conservatism. Preservation of tradition, skepticism of radical policy change, separation of economic (classical liberals) and social (the religious right) conservatives, uniting around specific issues, and generally opposing more policy than it promotes are values most conservatives would agree on. To evaluate conservatism as the dominant ideology in the United States, these five characteristics need to be examined in terms of popularity, social acceptance, and translation to policy. Popularity of an ideology is a good measure for its dominance. According to a recent Gallup poll, 45% of Americans identify as Independent, 23% Republican, and 30% Democrat which certainly does not paint a clear picture of Americans preferred ideology because Independents could hold any ideology they choose. A Pew Research Center poll on political

ideology asked the question, do you think of yourself as conservative, moderate, or liberal? The results were as follows: 39% conservative, 37% moderate, and 23% liberal. Though there are more Democrats than Republicans, liberalism is far less popular than conservatism. Those that identified as Moderates more than likely lean at least slightly left or right, and would likely boost both ideologies numbers roughly equally if sorted as such. Another argument for conservatisms popularity is the nations most popular news network Fox news. Fox has an obvious conservative leaning, and people tend to watch TV news that reinforces their beliefs rather than challenges them. Conservatism is not only more popular than liberalism in the United States, it is also far more socially accepted. The Red Scare in both the 1920s and the 1950s demonstrates a clear fear of communism and the left side of the political spectrum. Never even after defeating the far-right Nazis a decade prior to Joseph McCarthys infamous hunt for communists has there been an obvious anti-rightwing movement in the United States. The conservative culture of the United States would not allow for leftwing proponents to even hold office at one time. It is also no secret that religion is heavily associated with identifying Conservative. Some conservative issue positions are even overtly religious, such as the conservative position on abortion and gay marriage. In highly religious states such as Utah and Alabama, we see conservative domination of politics and a desire to preserve that religious tradition by law. The United States generally pursues policy that is much more center-right than what is accepted in Europe. This is because the mainstream culture of the United States cannot swallow a liberal policy change; however, as social and economic conservatives dont always see eye-to-eye, in certain issues, such as legalization of marijuana and gay marriage, it has been demonstrated that a majority of

Americans now favor the liberal position. Although culturally the United States may be beginning to accept or even favor liberal positions, the process has been slow and deliberate. This slow change is one of conservatisms cornerstone arguments. Historically speaking, the United States does not favor radical overthrow to peaceful transition. Had the Revolutionary War ended in similar results to the French Revolution, the case against conservatisms domination of American politics would be weakened. Seeing as that was not the case, and fact that the Framers of the Constitution gave essentially no power to the common people in favor of a de facto ruling class, suggests that conservatism has had a clear impact on the founding of the United States. Furthermore, (and perhaps conservatisms biggest fault) bad policy persists. Slavery/Jim Crow laws, the War on Drugs, and failed foreign wars stand out as Americas biggest historical blunders that went (or are continuing today) on for far too long. The most modern of these examples is the War on Drugs. The policy of drug prohibition has cost an estimated $51 billion annually, resulted in the US having the highest incarceration rate in the world, costs states $46.7 billion annually in potential revenue from taxing drugs like alcohol and tobacco, disregard for the law by millions of citizens, and the recent developments of Colorado and Washington bypassing federal law by legalizing marijuana for recreational use. This explicitly failed policy has been in place since at least 1937 with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act. Clearly Americas preference for slow change outweighs its tolerance for bad policy. Conservatisms popularity, accepted status in American culture, and its effects on policy demonstrate that it is the dominant ideology in the United States. Whether or not it will remain so, is uncertain. Though conservatism is not a one-size fits all ideology, the shared principles of the different specific conservative ideologies come together to ensure non-radical change and work to preserve American traditions.

Sources
Byers, Dylan. "2013: Fox News tops ratings race, CNN slides to 20-year low in prime time." Politico 01 02 2014, n. pag. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/01/fox-news-topsratings-race-cnn-slides-in-primetime-180451.html>.

Drug Policy Alliance, . "Drug War Statistics." N.p., n. d. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://www.drugpolicy.org/drug-war-statistics>.

Pew Research Center, . "Political Ideology." Data Trend. (2012): n. page. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://www.pewresearch.org/data-trend/political-attitudes/political-ideology/>.