Foner (1998) maintains that there are often divisions among liberals and conservatives that help to facilitate a shift from one ideology to another. The liberalism of a Bill Clinton and the liberalism of a Ted Kennedy are very different things. As noted above, it was Bill Clinton who oversaw the "end of welfare as we know it," an act that puts him more in the ideological company of Ronald Reagan than Ted Kennedy. This indicates that applying the term "liberal" or "conservative" to an individual may be inappropriate in that few political leaders are consistently one or the other.
Johnson, P. (1997). A History of the American People. New
Bush, G. & Snowcroft, B. (1998). A World Transformed. New
Foner (1998) asserts that in the period before and immediately after World War II, liberalism was the dominant intellectual position in the United States. The New Deal welfare state was represented as the culmination of the liberal ideal and when conservative ideas began to circulate in the 1950s, liberals explained them as a transitory reaction of the alienated against modernity itself. Nevertheless, conservative libertarianism in the form of market choice economics began to emerge in the late 1950s and, under various subsequent Republican administrations, to play a significant role in shaping domestic and foreign policy (Foner, 1997).
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 û with voting the primary means of determining the ideological orientation of t