Conservatives in an Age of Change: The Nixon and Ford Administrations

Conservatives in an Age of Change: The Nixon and Ford Administrations

Conservatives in an Age of Change: The Nixon and Ford Administrations

Conservatives in an Age of Change: The Nixon and Ford Administrations

Synopsis

From 1969 to 1977 the executive branch of the U.S. government was dominated by politicians and their advisers who called themselves "conservatives." In their speeches they professed belief in such values and institutions as social order, military strength, market capitalism, governmental decentralization, and traditional morality. But did these social ideas have much influence on their actual policy decisions? Or were their decisions, as some observers have argued, largely based on personalambition, partisan interest, and pragmatic response to the day-to-day problems of government? To answer these questions, A. James Reichley examines the effects of conservative ideology on the formation of specific administration policies under the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. The policies covered include the development of detente with the Soviet Union, welfare reform, revenue sharing, resistance to "busing," the imposition of wage and price controls in 1971, and governmentalreorganization under Nixon; and, under Ford, adjustment to the rise of the third world and problems with detente, the drive for decontrol of oil prices, and the fight against inflation. In the last chapter Reichley considers whether the Nixon and Ford administrations can be truly described as conservative, and suggests what the future role of conservatism in American politics is likely to be.

Excerpt

The late Arthur Okun once wrote: "Nobody comes out of graduate school with a Ph.D. in priority setting or applied ideology. and yet these are major tasks in the executive's policymaking." the effects of ideology on policymaking in American government have been little studied--partly because many scholars have either dismissed the importance of ideology in American politics, or have held that almost universal agreement on a common "liberal" ideology has muted ideological dispute.

In this book A. James Reichley, a Brookings senior fellow, argues that there is a distinguishable tradition of conservative ideology in American political history, and he examines its effects on policy formulation in the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Building on James L. Sundquist's critical analysis of policy formulation, Politics and Policy: the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson Years (Brookings 1968), Reichley's book studies the role of ideology in the deliberations and debates that led to positions taken by the Nixon and Ford administrations in foreign, economic, and social policy. Since the effect of ideology cannot be assessed in isolation, this book also deals with some of the personal rivalries and ambitions, partisan drives, economic interests, and national and international problems and challenges that influenced policymaking under Nixon and Ford.

The author is particularly grateful to his Brookings colleagues, Martha Derthick and James Sundquist, who provided advice and encouragement from the time the study began until it was finished and, for helpful comments and suggestions on the manuscript, to Joel D. Aberbach . . .

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