Wednesday, November 23, 2016

On The Future of Conservatism

Some blogs have posed an interesting question: What will happen to Conservatism under Donald Trump?

American Conservatism is based on a coalition formed by Sir Winston Churchill between the English Conservative Party and Liberals in the fight against Hitler.

The Conservative coalition encourages its members to use free market rhetoric when the party is in the minority. But it never actually does anything to advance the cause of liberty when it is in the majority.

Trump appears to me to be a right of center populist who likes to make deals and has very little interest in advancing the ideals of liberty.

My guess is that, over the next couple of years, we will see the people who voice the ideals of liberty marginalized. The country will move leftward and Trump seeks to make deals.

As for Conservatism, I suspect that "conservatism" will return closer to its historic roots.

The problem with this scenario is that the roots of conservatism do not lay in the American Revolution, but lay with the English reaction to the revolution.

I am sorry, but I have to repeat the history of Conservatism.

Roots of Conservatism

Conservatism is a strange beast. It is a partisan ideology that was created back in the 1830s with the creation of the Conservative Party under King William IV.

Prior to the 1830s, the King selected the Prime Minister. Many of the electoral districts in England (boroughs) had sparse population and were control by powerful Tory families.

Electoral reforms included redistricting and a radical idea that the Parliament would choose the Prime Minister.

Electoral reforms meant that the ruling coalition of the Tories would fail.

King William IV appointed Sir Robert Peel as Prime Minister and charged Peel with creating a ruling coalition around the dwindling remains of the Tories.

This ruling coalition called itself the "Conservative Party." The party drew its name from efforts to restore the French Monarchy after the Napoleonic Wars. Members of the Conservative Party still affectionately call themselves "Tories."

The Tories as you may recall from American History were the people who fought against the US Founders.

BTW, when you climb on a fence and proudly declare yourself a "conservative," you are part of a great intellectual tradition that reaches back to the people who fought against the US Founders.

The hated opposition of the Conservatives was a liberal group called Whigs. The Whigs included people like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, etc..

King William blamed the Whigs for the loss of the colonies and the break up of the empire.

A fundamental aspect of Conservatism from its inception is that liberals are dangerous thinkers whose naive belief in liberty lead to the break up of nations.

Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel was stuck with the difficult task of creating a party that would appeal to the people while "conserving" the social structure of the monarchy.

So, he created an ideology designed to conserve the social order and the supremacy of the Anglican Church (the state run church of Great Britain). Robert Peel emphasized law and order. Robert Peel created the "bobbies." His coalition used free market rhetoric but supported centralized financial institutions and passed regulations that gave the insiders an advantage.

The prime example of "Conservatism in Action" is a set of regulations and taxes called "The Corn Laws."

The Corn Laws were designed to give rich English Lords a monopoly on growing traditional cash crops. The Irish Peasants were forced to subsist on an imported exotic called "The Potato."

The potato crop failed. Despite the fact that Ireland had bumper harvests of traditional crops, the failure of the potato crop created a famine that took one million lives.

I need to emphasize. Potatoes came from the new world. They were not the primary Irish Crop. Conservatives past laws that prevented the Irish from growing traditional crops.

The Conservative Party saw the mass famine as an opportunity. Conservatives passed relief laws. To get relief, however, the Irish peasants were forced to give up their remaining land and homes.

The very first Conservative Party led to the death of 1 million British Citizens and the displacement of 1 million more.

Even some Conservatives were ashamed at the role of their party in the Potato Famine. Led by Sir William Gladstone, these people stomped out of the Conservative Party and created a thing called "The Liberal Party."

The Liberal Party supported free markets and the emancipation of Catholics in Ireland under the guise of religious liberty.

It quickly became clear that, if the Irish were given the vote, they would vote for home rule and would expel their rich English Lords.

The Liberal Party quickly fell apart. Conservatives derided the dangerous talk of liberty as the dangerous idealism that breaks apart nations. The Conservatives created a new coalition that emphasized national unity. This new party created a model for new right wing parties throughout Europe.

Ironically, in the same decade that the Liberal Party was formed from the Whigs in Britain, a group of people who were upset that the Whig Party of the United States approved the Kansas/Nebraska act that threatened to expand slavery in the Western US.

A group of American Whigs that included John Fremont and Abraham Lincoln created a new party opposed to the expansion of slavery.

The Liberal Party was formed in England seeking the emancipation of Catholics at the same time that the GOP was formed with its long term goal of the emancipation of slaves.

The Republican Party and the Liberal Party had the same roots (the Whigs). Both the GOP and Liberal Party had the goal of freeing the disenfranchised.

Don't you get it? The Republican Party was the liberal party!!!!! The Democrats were populists who wanted big government and slavery. The GOP wanted small government and small business.

In the late 19th and 20th century things got weird.

The Liberal Party fell apart over the issue of home rule. A new party aroused called "The Labour Party" which promoted a new ideology called socialism.

In Parliament, the members of the opposition form an opposition coalition. Conservatives began calling socialism "liberal." Socialists and progressives loved being called "liberal" as well. By assuming the label "liberal," socialists were able to frame big government and limited opportunity as liberating.

In the twentieth century, a Liberal politician named Winston Churchill had it up to the eyeballs with the idiocies of the social progressives. Churchill encouraged liberals to join the Conservative Coalition.

The Conservative coalition led by Neville Chamberlain ended up being problematic. Conservatives saw the young Adolph Hitler in Germany and the dashing Franco in Spain and the inspiring Mussolini in Italy as people they could work with.

The Conservatives pursued a policy called "appeasement."

Churchill saw appeasement as nuts. The once Liberal Churchill took charge of the Conservative coalition and led Britain in the fight against fascism.

The strange beast called "American Conservatism" was based largely on the coalition created by Churchill.

Conservatism took hold in the GOP as people reacted to the Civil Rights Movement.

Conservatives in the Republican Party simply surrendered the Republican history as the Liberal Party that fought to free the slaves to attract the Dixiecrats in the GOP (The term Dixiecrat applies to people who left the Democratic Party when the Democrats switched their support of the Jim Crow Laws.)

The Conservative movement encourages people to use free market rhetoric when the party is in the minority. Conservatives slam the door and kick down dangerous talk of liberty as liberal claptrap when the GOP gains a majority.

With the election of Trump, the GOP is now in the majority.

The people who threw themselves on the line to defend the ideals of liberty during the Tea Party are sitting on the margins. I suspect that the Trump Administration will do much to advance liberty.

Trump will promote law and order. He will reduce those regulations that annoy his powerful friends, but is unlikely to create a climate conducive to small business.

I suspect that the Trump Administration will create a Conservatism that is more like the stodgy Conservatism of King William IV and Sir Robert Peel and that we will move further from the robust ideals of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.

I fear that this stage of history can simply be summed up with the phrase:

The Republican Party threw the American ideals of liberty on the altar of Conservatism and our nation lost its way.

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