Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Massachusetts Senate Race: A New Rise in Conservatism?

A little known Democratic Senator from IL, Barack Obama, shocked the nation by defeating long time Senator from AZ., John McCain, in the election of 2008. Everybody believed that conservatism was all but dead and it would take a generation to see the rise of conservatism again. Even Historian Sean Wilentz believed that conservatism, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, was over. Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009. One year later, conservatism once again may not be dead but on the rise just like it did during the late 1960s and
1970s that led to it's climax of propelling Ronald Reagan in the White House for two terms.

In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson,who succeeded the late President John F. Kennedy, won a decisive victory over Sen. Barry Goldwater (AZ-R) and "portrayed as a permanent liberal consensus in the United States" as Historian Rick Perlstein argued. Public sentiment began to fear that Johnson was moving too quickly to push his liberal agenda (particularly the Great Society Program) through Congress. The mid-term elections of 1966 proved that the electorate became dissatisfied with the rapid spread of liberalism that many liberal members of Congress were voted out of office.

Conservatism continued to rise while the liberals of the Democratic Party became divided, especially during the 1968 presidential election. With Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, the Democrats were in trouble since the two Democratic candidates were divided on the issue of the Vietnam War. The two candidates, Hubert Humphrey, Johnson's Vice President, was not exactly an anti-war candidate and many feared that he would continue the war whereas Eugene McCarthy was the Party's anti-war candidate. At the 1968 convention, the Democratic Party nominated Humphrey while the conservatives strongly united around Richard M. Nixon. Nixon played off the fractured Democratic Party and won a decisive victory in the 1968 Presidential Election over Humphrey. However, Nixon's presidency was tainted by the Watergate Scandal that propelled Jimmy Carter, the Democratic Georgia Governor, to win the presidency in 1976 over President Gerald Ford. Finally, Carter's presidency proved a disaster and with a strong national conservative grass-roots base that started in the late 1960s came to their climax in 1980 when California Governor Ronald Reagean ascended to the White House.

Within one year that Obama took office, it seems that Republican conservatism began to take hold in three important elections. In 2009, Robert F. McDonnell, the Republican candidate, ended eight years of Democratic control in the Virgina Gubernatorial Race while Christopher J. Christie, the Republican Gubernatorial candidate ended twelve years of Democratic control in New Jersey, seen by many as a large liberal State. Finally, within the last week, the unthinkable happened; the State of Massachusetts, for the first time in about thirty years elected Scott Brown, a Republican State Senator, in a special Senate Race to replace the late Edward M. Kennedy. If the trend continues the way it has been from the past year, then this can be considered the new rise of the conservative movement, organized by grass roots organizations such as the Tea Parties and peoples' fierce discontent with the current Government as evidence by the countless town hall meetings that took place within the year. It's still too early to asses if this new rise of conservatism is very similar as the one happened during the late 1960s and 1970s. Time will tell if the phrase "history tends to repeat itself" becomes true or not.

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