Conservative Movements Of The 1960s


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The 1960s and 1970s helped shape the conservative movement to grow in popularity and allowed conservatives to enjoy modern benefits such as economic prosperity and consumerism without conforming to liberal ideologies. The period of strong conservative support, the 1960s, usually refers to the time frame between 1964 through 1974. The grass roots mobilization started strong with the help of Orange County's middle-class men and women volunteers. The effort and hard work of these people along with economic support from businesses such as the National Review helped to spread conservative philosophy. Other contributions to the effort include community meetings, film showing, handing out pamphlets, and Fred Schwarz's school of anti-communism to inform Southern Californians of communist threat. Among anti-communism, conservatives also believe in the importance of religion, a restrictive government role, upholding traditional American values, and private business prosperity. The ethos upheld by long-time residents along with a heavy migration of people who would later join right-wing conservatism made Orange County the ideal location to enrich and expand the movement.
The characteristics of the cities, the migration of people, and the churches were some of the factors contributing to the spread of conservatism. Orange County was a perfect setting for the Right because suburbs such as Anaheim, Garden Grove, Buena Park, and Santa Ana provided economic and racial homogeneity, which were cities predominantly middle class and all white. Migrants of the 1960s were not like those during the Gold Rush because they arrive in California as a family unit to start a new life instead of single men mining for gold. Some of these newcomers brought with them morals and values from their hometown that fits well with ethos of conservatism. Churches became an important part of the community for the people of Orange County for old residents as well as the new. It was a place where people with common beliefs congregated, offering a sense of bond and familiarity. The number of Protestant churches, Methodists churches, Episcopal churches, and Baptist churches all grew in large numbers while preaching strict morals and anti-liberal beliefs. The location, the kind of people living in these locations, and their beliefs are but some of the contributions to conservative mobilization.
The middle-class and upper-middle men and women of Orange County made tremendous efforts to mobilize conservatism. They are small business owners, sales men, housewives, pharmacists, city officials, and even doctors, dentists, and engineers.

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The conservative philosophy seems promising to a bright future for those who migrated to California in search of job opportunities and to raise a family. They volunteer their time and effort to get the word out about a movement they thought to be of utmost importance in a communist-infested, morally-corrupted society. They used their home, schools, and churches to hold study groups, organize meetings, organize petitions, and as polling stations. They welcomed anti-communist lectures, encouraged readings that focus on preserving conservatism, and provide resources to activists by starting a library containing books, tapes, and films. This is the grass roots of the conservative movement that felt the strong need to mobilize to spread their social, economic, and political beliefs.
Conservatism was so deeply rooted in people that they went as far as making Ronald Reagan governor of California from 1967-1975. Conservatives do not agree with Democratic politics and Republican politics but realized they needed national representation for their cause to be effective. According to Lisa McGirr's Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right, conservatives affiliate themselves with the Republican Party in order to use "electoral politics as a vehicle to influence the national government" (McGirr, 113). They also wanted control of the California Republican Assembly (CRA) in order to steer the Republican Party to the Right and be able to elect a conservative Republican to state office. Conservative activists and organizations such as the John Birch Society, under the leadership of Robert Welch, did extremely well to support the movement that Barry Goldwater won the California primary and the Republican Party presidential nomination. Conservatives were elated at the thought that one of their own would hold office to represent them and their concerns. Supporters for the Goldwater campaign were on top of the game plan, going door-to-door collecting signatures. However, despite the conservative's exceptional work and their earnest desire to have a representative of their own in office, Goldwater did not win the national electorate because his extreme Right position frightened the general public, including some conservatives. Californians questioned the effectiveness of his leader ship when he makes such announcements as the use of "conventional nuclear weapons" (McGirr, 142).
Unlike Goldwater, Ronald Reagan steered clear from Goldwater's extremist mistakes and united the conservative Republican Party while gaining support from most Californians, both Democratic and Republicans. Goldwater did not succeed in his political campaign because "his militant and shrill rhetoric, and the hostile media attention he received" divided the conservative Republican Party, yet he did nothing to unite his fellow Right-wing supporters (McGirr, 143). Reagan united conservatives by changing the title of conservative Republicans to republican Republicans to symbolize unity, and urges his supporters that this does not change his conservative standing in any way. Reagan realized he also needed Democratic votes to have a fighting chance, and he addresses the concerns of Californians without using "alarmist, conspiratorial tones associated with the Right" (McGirr, 203). The combination of conservatives' unquenched thirst for one of their own to take office and Reagan's smart political campaigning helped him to attain an important political gain for the Right by the late 1960s. According to Competing Visions: A History of California, by Robert Cherny et al, Reagan went as far as winning this first and second terms because of his "personal appeal, pragmatism, and ideological conservatism" (Cherny et al, 370). Reagan wanted to ensure that he sets a good tone for conservatives, and that conservative candidates after himself would have a good fighting chance running for political positions. The conservative movement that first mobilized against communism with heavy support from middle-class men and women eventually turned away from that primary agenda, and ever more so after Reagan's election to governorship. Since Reagan's time, conservative Republicans have gained respect as a political entity and became the new Right.
A shift in late 1960s and early 1970s link conservatives with modern consumerism and wealth. The church is an important institution that played one of the central roles in conservatism, but it also gives religious entrepreneurs the chance to make their fortunes. The church upholds traditional values and morals, it is a place of worship, and it offers a sense of community for friends and church-goers alike. However, the church business was such a huge success in Orange County that it seemed "Christianity ranked as the city's second leading industry after real estate and motion pictures" (McGirr, 31). During the counter-cultural era between the late 1960s and early 1970s, church leaders such as preacher Chuck Smith made millions capitalizing off hippies. He offered a religious community for young people who are lost because they have abandoned their parents' principles and liberal ethos. As church-goers, conservatives became modern consumers by participating in church-sponsored events and businesses such as shopping at the Maranatha Village shopping center built by the Calvary Chapel. Another church leader, Robert Schuller, embraced materialism and consumerism by telling his congregation that God wants people to be successful and achieve great things (McGirr, 253).
The 1960s and 1970s helped shape the conservative movement to grow in popularity and allowed conservatives to enjoy modern benefits such as economic prosperity and consumerism without conforming to liberal ideologies. In the early 1960s, it was the grass roots mobilization to eradicate communism on a local level. At the national level a few years later, with regards to Ronald Reagan, conservatives have pushed the envelope to successfully elect a conservative representative as governor of California. The 1960s and 1970s also influence conservatives' modern lifestyle. Time changes people's preconceived ideologies in life, and religious entrepreneurs were more than willing to accommodate those changes as long as there is money in the bag. Church-goers like to hear that God encourages individual wealth and consumerism. Conveniently, the Calvary Chapel built the Maranatha Village shopping center allowing people to do their shopping. They are conservatives, yet they enjoy the wealth and consumerism of a modern society.


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