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The rise and fall of conservative reform in the United States: George W. Bush and the transformation of the Reagan legacy

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Americans often remark that 9/11 changed their nation forever. Conservatives rarely note, however, that the attacks also changed the effort at conservative reform that began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Reagan preached strength in foreign policy but rarely used force to fight the Cold War. On the home front, Reagan pursued neo-liberalism within the limits of political prudence, under the influence of neo-conservative ideology among other factors. Reagan's Republican successor George W. Bush has used force in pursuit of democratic nation-building while expanding the American welfare state at a pace not seen since the 1960s. If elected, Bush's opponent, Senator John Kerry, might face a Republican Congress and thus gridlock on domestic policy. Kerry also favors a more realistic stance for the nation in foreign affairs. Ironically, the revival of the Reagan legacy of conservative reform may hinge on the defeat of the Republican incumbent, a defeat that could open the possibility of reclaiming Reagan's party for the cause of limited government and individual liberty.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-11-01

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