A Laboratory of Social Policy: California, The New Right and the Gubernatorial Administration of Ronald Reagan, 1967-1975
The traditional historiographical narrative locates the revival of grassroots conservatism in the postwar decades, the subsequent reemergence of conservatives in mainstream American politics by the mid 1970s and the completion of this ascent with the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980. This thesis argues that there is a crucial stage missing in the existing literature on the development of the New Right as a political force, their election to state government offices in the 1960s and early 1970s. This work will focus on Ronald Reagan’s time as Governor of California as an example of how New Right conservatives grappled with learning how to govern and honed their policy agendas before entering the national political arena. Crucially, this thesis shows that welfare and social policy were an essential part of New Right ideology and played an important role in their critiques of both the Democratic legacy of the New Deal and Great Society as well as President Nixon’s liberal domestic policies. Furthermore, welfare policy and rhetoric were an important wedge issue that was used to create a new, more avowedly conservative political coalition. It is argued that it is essential to look to the laboratories of state government to uncover how conservatives experimented with policy and prepared themselves for national politics if the full narrative of both American conservatism and welfare policy are to be properly understood.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/27888
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