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Ideological Shifts in American History

Specifically, while there are few historians who would deny that the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt was essentially a liberal initiative designed to ameliorate the ill effects of the Great Depression (Martin & Roberts, 1990), categorizing Bill Clinton as solely a liberal overlooks his actions vis-a-vis welfare reform, which position him in the moderate camp (Hyland, 1999). Calling Lyndon B. Johnson a liberal represents what Whitney (1993) describes as an assessment of Johnson's Great Society and War on poverty program initiatives and not necessarily Johnson's fundamental political beliefs. Similarly, examining the conservatism of a Ronald Reagan and comparing it to that of both of the Bushes suggests some important differences may be at work, with the two bushes less definitively "conservative" than Reagan on some issues such as foreign policy and multilateralism (Bush & Snowcroft, 1998).

Differentiating between liberalism and conservatism can be difficult. Generally, the terms refer to positions held on major issues or social processes (Foner, 1998). For the most part, liberals are perceived as being against tax cuts, for government spending on social welfare, in favor of government regulation and oversight of business and industry, and generally supportive of programs that adv


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