However, as both Foner (1998) and Johnson (1997) have noted, few political leaders are exclusively liberal or exclusively conservative. While no one would deny that Richard M. Nixon was generally conservative in his political views, he also established the Environmental Protection Agency, which introduced a host of new regulations impacting upon big business (Whitney, 1993).
What accounts for these ideological shifts? Eric Foner (1998) suggests that a number of factors are at work in shaping the national political ethos at any given time. The economic situation, the degree of uncertainty regarding America's prospects (both economically and politically), the presence or absence of conflicts impacting upon the country, and emergent socio-cultural attitudes all shape this orientation. Foner (1998) as well as Johnson (1996) suggests that variables such as these are important determinants of how Americans will vote - with voting the primary means of determining the ideological orientation of the country at any point in time.
Over the course of years from 1932 - when America was in the grips of a debilitating and far-reaching economic depression - to the present, the shift from a liberal engagement with the world to a conservative withdrawal from the world (expressed as isolationist foreign policy) has also been observed (Judis, 2002; Korb & Tiersky, 2001). Foreign policy that actively engages the U.S. with the world can be variously interpreted as either liberal or conservative. For example, American involvement in many Central and South American countries that has supported right-wing dictators or administrations is interpreted as "conservative," whereas involvement of a similar type with a left-wing government is "liberal." The Vietnam War, though it shares little with the current U.S. engagement in Iraq, was a "conservative" political effort that was rejected by "liberal" protestors at home (Johnson, 1997). While the Viet...
Ideological Shifts in American History. (2000, January 01). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 19:23, November 25, 2015, from http://www.collegetermpapers.com/viewpaper/1303518969.html