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Governing AmericaThe Revival of Political History$
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Julian E. Zelizer

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691150734

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691150734.001.0001

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Conservatives, Carter, and the Politics of National Security

Conservatives, Carter, and the Politics of National Security

(p.335) Seventeen Conservatives, Carter, and the Politics of National Security
Governing America

Julian E. Zelizer

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how the conservative movement redefined and championed centrism by capitalizing on President Jimmy Carter's political struggles caused by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. The Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan seemed to confirm everything that conservatives had been saying about Carter, his national security policies, and the weakness of the Democratic Party. It ended a decade-long quest among Democrats and moderate Republicans for a centrist national security agency. The chapter considers Carter's human rights initiatives and his contentious relationship with conservatives on issues such as the Panama Canal. It argues that Soviet aggression in Somalia and Afghanistan undermined Carter's ability to deliver on the promise of détente and that the defeat of the center in national security politics during the 1970s was a watershed moment in the history of modern American conservatism.

Keywords:   conservative movement, centrism, Jimmy Carter, Soviet Union, Afghanistan, national security, Democratic Party, human rights, détente, American conservatism

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