According to Kim Phillips-Fein, conservative thought was on the very fringe of mainstream American thought after the successes of the New Deal. It was only able to work itself back into the mainstream of American politics through a long and careful process of indoctrination of the American people by corporate America and rich businessmen.  As Phillips-Fein writes, “businessmen could not rely only on behind-the-scenes lobbying.  After all, politicians were constrained by their constituencies. More important was finding ways to influence ‘public attitude formation’–the ideas and beliefs of the general public.”(166) Business leaders then took it upon themselves to invest in “educational” programs to get Americans to change their attitudes to a more favorable concept of conservatism.

I disagree with Phillips-Fein on a couple of points. First, conservatism has never been on the fringe of American political thought. On the contrary. Conservatism has dominated American politics since the founding. Conservative principles like limited government, states rights, self-reliance, and a hesitancy for government to intercede in the economy have been expressed from Jefferson to conservatives today. The unprecedented disaster of the Great Depression allowed for the American people to be willing to accept a more powerful and active federal government. But, this was only a temporary state of mind. Conservatism was still firmly entrenched in the American psyche.

Second, I don’t believe that it took a long and expensive education program to bring people back to conservatism. After the problems of the Great Depression ended, people naturally went back to the political ideas that they were accustomed to. People did become more accepting of a more involved federal government after World War II because of programs like Social Security and Medicare. However, all in all, most Americans today, just like most Americans two hundred years ago, want the federal government to stay out of their lives. Americans are very independent and believe in taking care of themselves. It takes  a lot for most people to be willing to accept a handout from government. It didn’t take a massive corporate conspiracy to get Americans to feel this way. Americans have always felt this way.