Conservatism commonly emanates from the domestic policies of republican administrations (Maisel 84). This ideology finds reflection in fiscal policies that support the major role of state and local governments in domestic affairs with the federal government focusing on foreign relations, national defense, and federal legislative enactments. Conservatism also means economic policies espousing minimal government intervention in business and economic growth via supply side economics by boosting production through capital access and tax breaks. Strong nationalist and religious values dominate conservative policies (84).
However, there are also democratic administrations with conservative policies. Ronald Reagan was a republican when he became president and considered a conservative. His fiscal policies included the largest tax cuts to boost production, reduction in government spending on domestic areas, and concentration of expenditures on national defense (Light 243). The stress on federalism and the role of the state government became stronger through community level solutions and private sector initiatives on social issues such as the drug problem (252).
Economic policies included loose or minimal regulation of the business sector such as removing price controls on domestically sourced oil and limiting the entry of imported automobiles from Japan to protect the local car industry (251). His administration also sought to control monetary supply to reduce inflation (250). Religious beliefs came into play in his handling of the AIDS issue by excluding those with AIDS from mainstream society based on the premise that AIDS is a manifestation of immoral acts.
George H. W. Bush was also a republican president and a conservative. As the Cold War ended, his administration faced a huge budget deficit (Light 256). With limited funds and the burgeoning domestic issues, his fiscal policy focused on basic issues by increasing federal spending on education, health care for mothers and children, and technological research. Bush signed into law a number of bills that supported civil rights with the disabilities act and environmental protection via the clean air act (285).
His administration also supported federal expenditures on the country’s highway system and law enforcement initiatives (285). He campaigned against new taxes but failed to achieve this because of strong pressure from the democrat majority in the legislature (277, 283). Bush implemented laissez faire. His administration was a key player in creating the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement that removes tariffs for goods traded by America, Canada and Mexico (285).
This agreement controlled intellectual property and eased cross-country investments (285). Bill Clinton was a democrat but considered by some as a conservative because of some controversial policies. The conservative aspects of his fiscal policy included tax cuts through the earned income tax credit that operated as a way of reducing the tax exaction for workers with below a floor amount (Light 277). The signing of the budget reconciliation law decreased the taxes paid by those with low income and small businesses (285).
He also signed NAFTA, initially negotiated by Bush (288). The non-conservative aspects of his fiscal policy included increasing taxes for wealthy citizens, budget allocation for healthcare reform and health insurance program for children, and extension of copyright regulation (285). Clinton’s economic policies had a tinge of conservatism with deregulation of trade (288). However, he was able to achieve economic growth by focusing on controlling inflation, reducing unemployment, and securing social welfare and other services (285).
Conservatism emerged in his ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy that allowed entry of homosexuals into the military as long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation (279). This received lesser criticism from conservatives and strong criticism from the gay and civil rights movements. In contemporary administrations, the trend is towards renewed conservatism given emerging conditions. The divide between the conservative republicans and non-conservative democrats is slowly diminishing (Maisel 86), with flexible administrative policies considered on an issue-to-issue basis.