Conservatism in North America

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Conservatism in North America is a political philosophy that varies in form, depending on the country and the region, but that has similar themes and goals. Academic study into the differences and similarities between conservatism in North American countries has been undertaken on numerous occasions. For three days in May 2002, a conference was held at the University of Augsburg which was dedicated to this very topic.[1] There were two main concepts discussed at the conference. The first concept was the connection between the brand of conservatism arising in the 1980s and the 1990s and social democracy. The second concept was simply an exploration of the differences and similarities between conservatism in Canada and the United States. Some feminist scholars have suggested that the prevalence of conservatism throughout North America has resulted in the continent's general post-feminist stance.[2] Reginald Bibby has asserted that the primary reason that conservatism has been so strong and enduring throughout North America is because of the propagation of religious values from generation to generation. This connection is strongest in mainstream Protestantism in the United States and both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in Canada.[3]

According to Louis Hartz, nations that developed from settler colonies were European "fragments" that froze the class structure and underlying ideology prevalent in the mother country at the time of their foundation. He considered Latin America and French Canada to be fragments of feudal Europe, and the United States and English Canada as liberal fragments.[4] However Gad Horowitz, writing that Hartz had acknowledged a Tory influence in English Canada, claimed a conservative tradition had developed there as well.[5] American conservatism is generally considered to be a variety of liberalism, rather than true conservatism,[6] although Canada also developed an American style conservatism that competed with the older Tory conservatism.[7] A right-wing conservatism, or "Latin conservatism", developed in Latin America and Quebec. Today, conservative and conservative liberal parties in North America cooperate through the International Democrat Union.[8]

Northern America


In Canada, political conservatism is generally considered to be primarily represented by the Conservative Party of Canada at the federal level, and by various right-leaning parties at the provincial level. The first party calling itself "Conservative" in what would become Canada was elected in the Province of Canada election of 1854.

Canadian conservatism has always been rooted in a preference for the traditional and established ways of doing things, even as it has shifted in economic, foreign and social policy. Like Edmund Burke, they rejected the sense of both ideology and revolution, preferring pragmatism and evolution. It is for that reason that unlike in the conservatives in the United States, Canadian conservatives are generally not republicans, preferring the monarchy and Westminster system of government. (Note: The United States of America is a federal republic, while Canada is a constitutional monarchy, a distinction resulting from the American Revolution and its aftermath.)

United States

Conservatism is a major political ideology in the United States. In contemporary American politics, it is often associated with the Republican Party. Core conservative principles include a belief in God and country, and many U.S. conservatives support a fiscal policy rooted in small government, laissez faire capitalism, and supply-side economics. In foreign policy, American conservatives usually advocate some moderate aspects of "American exceptionalism", a belief that the U.S. is unique among nations and that its standing and actions do and should guide the course of world history.

Although there has always been a conservative tradition in America, the modern American conservative movement was popularized by Russell Kirk who, in 1953, published The Conservative Mind. Two years later, in 1955, William F. Buckley, Jr. founded National Review, a conservative magazine that included traditionalists, such as Kirk, along with libertarians and anti-communists. This bringing together of separate ideologies under a conservative umbrella was known as "fusionism". Politically, the conservative movement in the U.S. has often been a coalition of various groups, which has sometimes contributed to its electoral success and other times been a source of internal conflict.

Modern conservatism saw its first national political success with the 1964 nomination of Barry Goldwater, a U.S. Senator from Arizona and author of The Conscience of a Conservative (1960), as the Republican candidate for president. In 1980, the conservative movement was able to attract disaffected Southern Democrats, Cold War liberal Democrats, and evangelical Christians, to nominate and elect the Republican candidate Ronald Reagan, a self-identified American conservative, as president. Subsequent electoral victories included gaining a Republican congressional majority in 1994 and the election of George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

The conservative movement has been advanced by influential think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, Hudson Institute and Manhattan Institute. Major media outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, The Washington Times, and, are often described as conservative.

The two major American political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, have become increasingly polarized, with the Democrats described as "liberal" and "left wing" and the Republicans as "conservative" and "right wing".


See also: Reform War

In Mexico, political conservatism originally arose in reaction to the Mexican War of Independence. Because of his prominence in the Mexican Conservative Party, Lucas Alamán has been called "the most organized intelligence behind Conservatism in Mexico."[9] Throughout the presidency of Miguel Alemán Valdés between 1946 and 1983, the politics of the country experienced a significant shift towards conservatism.[10] Gastón García Cantú has performed the most extensive study of Mexican conservatism to date.[11]

Central America

Before the 1930s, Central American countries generally had dichotomous politics divided along conservative-liberal lines, but the effects of the Great Depression in the area caused most of these opposing parties to merge in order to maintain authority.[12] Traditionally, political conservatism in the area has been ideologically linked with Protestantism, but this connection has been questioned in recent years.[13] One of the most prominent historical representatives of conservatism in Central America was Rafael Carrera, the first President of Guatemala. Not only did he effectively suppress liberal reforms in his own country, but he contributed greatly to the unity and influence of conservatism in each of the countries throughout Central America.[14]


Belize is generally a conservative country as demonstrated by their laws which make abortion and male homosexuality illegal.[15] The primary conservative party in Belize since the country's first parliamentary election as an independent state in 1984 has been the United Democratic Party.[16] Nonetheless, the other major political party, the People's United Party, has a very similar political ideology. Historically, both parties have tended to be more conservative while in power than when in opposition.[17]


Conservatism in Guatemala has always been closely linked with the country's Roman Catholic clergy.[18] Between the declaration of Guatemala's independence in 1821 and the Liberal Revolution of 1871, the country's politics were dominated by conservatism.[19] In the mid-twentieth century, Francisco Javier Arana served as a unifying force for conservatives in Guatemala after his own presidency.[20]


When Panama was separated from Colombia in 1903, the newly independent country of Panama was initially controlled by a military junta led by José Agustín Arango and Manuel Amador Guerrero. Although the junta included a few token liberal members, the administration was heavily conservative.[21] Politics in the country were strongly divided along conservative-liberal lines in the following years. As early as 1905, the liberals accused the conservatives of electoral fraud.[22] Conservatives maintained power through fraudulent elections until a military coup in 1968.[23]


The main conservative political body in the Caribbean is the Caribbean Democrat Union (CDU) which was formed in 1986 by Anglo-Caribbean leaders to unify conservative political parties in the region.[24] The CDP is a suborganization of the International Democrat Union (IDU).[25] In Beyond a Boundary, C. L. R. James argues that the influence of cricket and English literature have been instrumental in strengthening conservativism in the Caribbean.[26]


In the early 20th century, the concept of conservatism was not well-defined in Cuban politics.[27] In 1913, Mario García Menocal became the third President of Cuba and the first Cuban president representing the Conservative Party of Cuba when the Liberal Party of Cuba split between supporters of Alfredo Zayas y Alfonso and supporters of José Miguel Gómez.[28] Still, the conservative-liberal distinction fails to address many of the major political issues in Cuban governmental history.[29]

See also


  1. Rainer-Olaf Schultze; Roland Sturm; Dagmar Eberle (2003). Conservative Parties and Right-Wing Politics in North America: Reaping the Benefits of an Ideological Victory?. VS Verlag. p. 5. ISBN 3-8100-3812-1. 
  2. Rhoda Reddock (1999). "Feminism and Feminist Thought: A Historical Overview". Gender in Caribbean Development: Papers Presented at the Inaugural Seminar of the University of the West Indies, Women and Development Studies Project. Canoe Press: 72. ISBN 978-976-8125-55-2.  "The rise of conservatism in North America and Western Europe has been a severe challenge to the movement there and many argue that these countries are in a phase of post-feminism."
  3. Lori G. Beaman (2006). Religion and Canadian Society: Traditions, Transitions, and Innovations. Canadian Scholars' Press. p. 230. ISBN 1-55130-306-X.  "Reginald Bibby identifies a pervasive religious conservatism in North America demonstrated by the intergenerational transmission of religious traditions, which, in the United States, are more likely to be mainstream Protestantism, or, in Canada, mainstream Protestantism and Roman Catholicism."
  4. The Founding of New Societies: Studies in the History of the United States, Latin America, South Africa, Canada, and Australia (1964), Louis Hartz
  5. "Conservatism, Liberalism, and Socialism in Canada: An Interpretation" (1966), Gad Horowitz
  6. Political ideology today (2001), Ian Adams, p. 32
  7. "Ernest Manning and George Grant: Who is the Real Conservative" (2004), Ron Dart.
  8. International Democrat Union
  9. Michael S. Werner (2001). Concise Encyclopedia of Mexico. Taylor & Francis. p. 131. ISBN 1-57958-337-7. 
  10. Ernesto R. Acevedo-Muñoz (2003). Buñuel and Mexico: The Crisis of National Cinema. University of California Press. p. 59. ISBN 0-520-23952-0. 
  11. Brian Francis Connaughton Hanley (2003). Clerical Ideology in a Revolutionary Age: The Guadalajara Church and the Idea of the Mexican Nation, 1788-1853. University of Calgary Press. p. 10. ISBN 1-55238-083-1. 
  12. James M. Malloy; Mitchell A. Seligson (1987). Authoritarians and Democrats: Regime Transition in Latin America. University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 202. ISBN 0-8229-5387-0. 
  13. Timothy J. Steigenga (2003). The Politics of the Spirit: The Political Implications of Pentecostalized Religion in Costa Rica and Guatemala. Lexington Books. p. 142. ISBN 0-7391-0446-2. 
  14. Howard J. Wiarda; Harvey F. Kline (2007). Latin American Politics and Development. Westview Press. p. 507. ISBN 0-8133-4327-5. 
  15. Carol O'Donnell; Vivien Lougheed (2003). Adventure Guide to Belize. Hunter Publishing, Inc. p. 75. ISBN 1-58843-289-0. 
  16. Eliot Greenspan (2006). Frommer's Belize. Frommer's. p. 274. ISBN 0-471-92261-7. 
  17. Dick Lutz (2005). Belize: Reefs, Rain Forests, and Mayan Ruins. Dimi Press. p. 141. ISBN 0-931625-42-4. 
  18. Bret Harte (1875). "Glimpse at a Central American Republic". Overland Monthly and the Out West magazine. 14: 217. 
  19. Mitchell A. Seligson (2005). "Democracy on Ice: The Multiple Challenges of Guatemala's Peace Process". The Third Wave of Democratization in Latin America: Advances and Setbacks. Cambridge University Press: 203. ISBN 978-0-521-82461-3. 
  20. Richard H. Immerman (1983). The CIA in Guatemala: The Foreign Policy of Intervention. University of Texas Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-292-71083-6. 
  21. Matthew Parker (2007). Panama Fever: The Epic Story of One of the Greatest Human Achievements of All Time--The Building of the Panama Canal. Random House of Canada. p. 270. ISBN 0-385-51534-0. 
  22. William David McCain (1970). The United States and the Republic of Panama: American Imperialism. Ayer Publishing. p. 64. ISBN 0-405-02036-8. 
  23. Orlando J. Pérez (2000). Post-Invasion Panama: The Challenges of Democratization in the New World Order. Lexington Books. p. 125. ISBN 0-7391-0120-X. 
  24. Phil Gunson; Greg Chamberlain; Andrew Thompson (1991). The Dictionary of Contemporary Politics of Central America and the Caribbean. Routledge. p. 63. ISBN 0-415-02445-5. 
  25. Ivelaw L. Griffith (1993). The Quest for Security in the Caribbean: Problems and Promises in Subordinate States. M.E. Sharpe. p. 235. ISBN 1-56324-089-0. 
  26. Brian Stoddart (1995). "C.L.R. James: A Remembrance". Liberation Cricket: West Indies Cricket Culture. Manchester University Press: 384. ISBN 978-0-7190-4315-4. 
  27. K. Lynn Stoner (1991). From the House to the Streets: The Cuban Woman's Movement for Legal Reform, 1898-1940. Duke University Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-8223-1149-6. 
  28. Clifford L. Staten (2003). The History of Cuba. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 50. ISBN 0-313-31690-2. 
  29. Georges A. Fauriol; Eva Loser (1990). Cuba: The International Dimension. Transaction Publishers. p. 192. ISBN 0-88738-324-6.