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

By James Reichley | Go to book overview

1
The Conservative Tradition

THE CLOSING YEARS of the decade of the 1960s were a time of deep trouble for the United States. The war in Vietnam, already among the longest in American history, ground on, dividing the national public more bitterly than any military involvement since the Civil War. Inflation began taking off at a threatening rate for the first time since the Truman administration. Much of the American populace appeared to regard the nation's future with a mixture of apprehension and bewilderment. 1*

On college and university campuses a "counterculture," associated with the recreational use of drugs and a bohemian life-style, persuaded many students that traditional American values and institutions were repressive, corrupt, and boring. Though immediately focused on opposition to the Vietnam War, the counterculture expressed broad hostility to such diverse social entities as industrialism, capitalism, governmental bureaucracy, scientific rationalism, and traditional morality, and, at a more fundamental level, to all forms of hierarchically structured authority.

The civil rights revolution, after securing substantial progress for black Americans through legislative victories in 1964 and 1965, turned violent during the second half of the decade, when spectacular riots took place in the black ghettos of Detroit, Newark, and other urban centers. Militance among blacks produced reactions of fear and resentment among many whites, some of whom in 1968 supported the

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*
Notes begin on p. 431.

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