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Conservatives should look to Robert Peel

As conservatives respond to the tectonic shifts going on in both the country and American society, they should consider adopting the wisdom of nineteenth-century British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel for their current predicament.

Today, Peel is probably best known for his work on police reform–British cops are known as “Bobbies” in his honor. (His principles for police work are still valid.) But his greater historical significance comes from his 12-year tenure as the leader of the British Conservative Party. Specifically, Peel offers some useful counsel in the face of a changing society, and his approach should be heeded by American conservatives.

Peel came to power within the Conservative Party in 1834 with what is now known as the Tamworth Manifesto, in which he declared his tacit and conditional support for the Reform Act of 1832. Conservatives had vigorously opposed previous proposed Reform Acts, and the Reform Act of 1832 was no exception. The act expanded the franchise substantially and reorganized the seats in the House of Commons. But Peel proposed a different tack, writing:

With respect to the Reform Bill itself, I will repeat now the declaration I made when I entered the House of Commons as a member of the Reformed Parliament – that I consider the Reform Bill a final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question – a settlement which no friend to the peace and welfare of this country would attempt to disturb, either by direct or by insidious means.

Then, as to the spirit of the Reform Bill, and the willingness to adopt and enforce it as a rule of government: if, by adopting the spirit of the Reform Bill, it be meant that we are to live in a perpetual vortex of agitation; that public men can only support themselves in public estimation by adopting every popular impression of the day, – by promising the instant redress of anything which anybody may call an abuse – by abandoning altogether that great aid of government – more powerful than either law or reason – the respect for ancient rights, and the deference to prescriptive authority; if this be the spirit of the Reform Bill, I will not undertake to adopt it. But if the spirit of the Reform Bill implies merely a careful review of institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, undertaken in a friendly temper combining, with the firm maintenance of established rights, the correction of proved abuses and the redress of real grievances, – in that case, I can for myself and colleagues undertake to act in such a spirit and with such intentions.

Even at the beginning of his tenure, Peel knew when a fight was not worth having; the Reform Bill had passed, and, provided that it did not lead to chaos or present a danger to established institutions, he would not oppose it. Indeed, he would support reforms that he thought were likely to bolster the long-term sustainability of the established order. He kept this same broad approach throughout his tenure. Two examples in particular stand out.

First was his handling of the funding shortfalls of a Catholic seminary in Maynooth, Ireland. Since the Act of Union of 1800, British Parliament had funded a Catholic seminary in Maynooth with an annual grant of 9,000 pounds. The money was inadequate, though, and, by 1844, Peel believed that the poor condition of the seminary served to dissuade potential students from the upper ranks of Irish society from attending. Peel wanted a portion of the students to be from well-to-do backgrounds because they would be less likely to sympathize with radical Irish nationalist movements. Essentially, Peel believed that increasing funding to the seminary would increase the number of applicants, thereby creating a larger pool of “respectable” Catholic priests that were less likely to be nationalist agitators than their lower-class counterparts.

This was not a particularly popular position among the Tories. For many years, the Conservative Party had been seen as the nation’s defender of traditional institutions, one of which was the Church of England. Funding a “competing” religious institution would be a challenge to this. Indeed, Peel himself had spent much of his early political career as an opponent of Catholic Emancipation. Here, however, he acted pragmatically. Peel urged the passage of the additional funds, which provided for an immediate grant of 30,000 pounds for repairs and an increase in the size of the total annual grant of 200%.

This divided the Conservative Party, but Peel felt that increasing the grant to Maynooth would help to show some of the more moderate Irish that the British government was not entirely opposed to their interests. He also thought that moderating the composition of the priesthood might prevent future revolutionaries from emerging. Peel sought to use government funding to undercut the support that Irish dissidents had gained by campaigning in favor of an independent Ireland.

More famous is Peel’s backing of the repeal of the Corn Laws, or Britain’s longstanding agricultural tariffs. Peel was probably never a dyed-in-the-wool free trader; he had alluded to potential changes to the tariff in the early 1840s, and he backed an income tax as an alternative source of revenue. But it took a famous crisis to make Peel move on the issue: the Irish potato famine.

By November 1845, the situation in Ireland was clear: the island faced a massive and virtually unprecedented food crisis—the society relied heavily on the potato, and a staggering percentage of the potato crop had been wiped out by the blight. Private English charity would not sustain the Irish population. And, in addition to the ongoing human disaster, Peel worried about both increased Irish dissent and British radicals using the famine as a way to attack the entire system of landholding. This wasn’t a far-fetched fear; at the time, the Anti-Corn Law League was generating votes through land purchases with the overall aim of challenging the present order of a landed aristocracy. (Even after the Reform Act of 1832, the franchise was limited to landholders and renters who paid a certain level of rent. Strategic purchases of land in critical districts could swing electorates.)

Repeal of the Corn Laws would decrease the price of food coming into Britain, and potentially help alleviate the famine in Ireland. Ideally, this would head off more aggressive efforts for transformation of British society. Peel pushed a budget that repealed the Corn Laws and reduced many other tariffs. He did this with the support of the opposition Whigs, and very few Conservatives, who were strong backers of the tariff. Peel’s actions cost him his Prime Ministership, but the proof of Peel’s wisdom was in the pudding: the British aristocracy was not displaced or discarded. On the contrary, Britain experienced economic prosperity and growth throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, the product, in part, of a remarkably stable political regime. Moreover, it avoided much of the tumult that enveloped the European continent in 1848.

If there is one lesson to take from Peel, it is that to preserve what is essential in society, it is often necessary to tinker with it and reform it. Peel supported increasing the funding at Maynooth to attempt to weaken potential Irish nationalism, and he sought a repeal of the Corn Laws to prevent a radical transformation of English landholding. In both cases, prudential reform reduced the likelihood of bad outcomes.

Fast forward to today. America’s “conservative” party, the Republicans, are at something of a high-water mark in terms of American politics. But their position is quite precarious at this time.

First, although the party is in power, there is enormous intraparty dissent brewing. Old-line Republican and former presidential candidate John McCain has flat-out accused libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul of working for Vladimir Putin. Senator Tom Cotton has been a vocal critic of Paul Ryan’s PPACA replacement. There is a core Republican Party that is torn between its traditional principles and nascent Trumpism, but there is also a loud #NeverTrump faction and an increasingly assertive white nationalist fringe. Currently, the GOP is broad, but almost too much so to put forward a coherent, unified agenda.

Second, parties in power are mostly judged by the effectiveness of the president. And President Trump has yet to demonstrate competence in the face of a crisis. To date, Trump has faced several crises of his own making and has muddled through. But what about an unexpected crisis, or an economic recession? If he handles it badly, Trump and the Republicans will be punished by voters.

Third, although they are out of power, progressives have mobilized an effective opposition and growing public support. Anecdotally, it appears that inexperienced or previous low-information voters have become activated by their opposition to Trump, participating in street protests and remaining engaged in American politics to a level far beyond what we’ve seen after previous elections. These might represent loyal future progressive voters. Most distressingly for conservatives, progressive policies and figures appear increasingly popular. Bernie Sanders has a 61 percent approval rating, which is substantially higher than his 44 percent rating from March 2016. (Sanders’ approval rating probably wouldn’t survive a tough campaign. But surely this should be a warning sign for conservatives that a substantial share of people are open to socialism.) The Affordable Care Act is up to 50 percent approval, likely because people fear losing health care security in the face of new policy changes.

Put this all together, and the future is dangerous for conservatives: Republicans have power but no real unity behind a governing agenda. The president is, at best, dangerously inexperienced, and Republicans will be graded in the 2018 and 2020 elections on how well he performs. And the Democrats are turning fairly hard to the Left.

Modern-day Britain has had a similar experience with an emerging Left, as Jeremy Corbyn has taken control of Labour. But their Conservative Party has been substantially more responsible under Prime Minister Theresa May. May has forged a different path, pushing for a new direction for the ruling Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party will always believe in free markets. And that’s precisely why it’s this party that should act to defend them.

From Edmund Burke onwards, Conservatives have always understood that if you want to preserve something important, you need to be prepared to reform it. We must apply that same approach today.

That’s why where markets are dysfunctional, we should be prepared to intervene.

This is vintage Robert Peel: support a reform to stave off the public interest in worse solutions. Instead of burying her head in the sand, May has opted to engage with the public demand for reform. Labour is marginalized, and the Conservatives are responsive.

But in a Britain where the Conservative Party were not responsive to public concerns, or ineffectual, or incompetent, a Corbyn-like figure would stand a better chance of coming to power. That’s the dangerous territory for the American Republican Party, where after four ineffectual years, Donald Trump could face a Left candidate like an Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Kamala Harris–none of whom are quite as out there as Corbyn–and lose, badly. Replacing the large, aimless Republican majority would be a disciplined Democratic coalition, more ideologically homogenous and more used to the transactional politics needed to hold together a ruling majority.

So, what is to be done? Unfortunately, any advice on this is now perhaps somewhat outdated–the die may well be cast, the future may be headed in a certain direction. And Republicans currently are divided between the profligate impulses of the president and their past rhetorical and philosophical commitments to shrinking the size and reducing the role of government.  What’s occurred to date is the blending of those two tendencies. But a third tendency would be welcome: conservatives need to abandon their now-quixotic quest for a massive rollback of the role of government, and work to use the federal government, in limited ways, to address public concerns.

The election of 2016 should prove it for good: neither Republican voters nor Democratic voters are particularly interested in small government. It’s easy to say that philosophically, government should not be in the business of spending money on health care or education. After a shock to the system, what emerged might be better. But this has two flaws. First, conservatives must be cognizant of path dependency and the dangers of massive dislocation; there are systems in place deeply intertwined with the federal government, and, as much as there might be better approaches in theory, blowing them up is risky policy that might not work as intended. Second, causing mass disruption that does not address the public desire for security in healthcare and education is likely unsustainable, as Republicans will be rebuked at the polls, and victorious Democrats will claim a mandate for aggressive government action.

Conservatives need not abandon their position in support of constitutionally-limited government. Quite the contrary: it should retain that as part of the American settlement worth conserving. But to do so, it is crucial for the GOP to develop an agenda that addresses the major concerns in ways that are both fiscally responsible and politically responsive. Two areas stand out with problems of cost and access: health care and education. For health care, conservatives should consider approaches like guaranteed federal reinsurance on catastrophic expenses, and increased out-of-pocket expenditures for predictable health care expenses, with a sliding scale of subsidies targeted at lower-income Americans. For education, conservatives should explore accreditation reform, better career-training incentives, and incentives for disaggregating educational programs (so that individuals can seek out high-quality higher education without necessarily needing to pay for four years). As it prefers, the GOP can move responsibilities for these areas to state governments, with the federal government setting standards.

In the absence of responsible Republican policymaking, Democrats will fill the void and create policies that are politically responsive. But their solutions likely will deprioritize the fiscal responsibility piece, and will almost assuredly emphasize centralization and additional federal responsibilities.

Robert Peel, arguably, would have understood the necessity for reform in the face of a greater danger, and Theresa May certainly does, today. But does the Republican Party?

**Much of the historical information in this article comes from two sources: Norman Gash’s biography of Robert Peel from 1972, and T.A. Jenkins’ more recent treatment. Jenkins saw Peel as a traditional conservative, writing, “Peel himself remained unrepentant about the course he had adopted. . . . [he viewed] his actions as those of a true Conservative who, through timely concession, had prevented circumstances from arising which might have posed a grave threat to the social and political authority of the ruling elite.” It is worth noting that some scholars view Peel as having grown more reformist throughout his life, being a sort of Conservative-in-Name-Only by the end of his political career. For this view, Boyd Hilton’s  “Peel: A Reappraisal” is a good example.

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Dan Scotto lives and works in Oregon. He is working on a masters' degree in history and a weekly podcast about Abraham Lincoln.

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53 thoughts on “Conservatives should look to Robert Peel

  1. A British conservative and an American conservative are very different things. They wanted to preserve an aristocracy and we want to lynch anything that looks like one. See Jeb! and Hillary for details.

    The hard left turn of the Democrats toward the progressives is great for the GOP. Pretty much everybody who isn’t a progressive hates progressives because they’re either ignorant Fascists, ignorant Marxists, or full bore Nazis. The don’t believe in free speech or property rights, nor in etiquette, manners, or personal hygiene. They are the greatest piece of evidence that the self-esteem theory of education was an abysmal and catastrophic failure.

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    • Its the second paragraph that always gets me confused. Anybody who hangs out on liberal and left blogs knows that nearly everybody that sees themselves as hard lefts hates the Democratic Party with a fiery passion. They see it as best as liberal incrementalist reform party but more likely as neoliberal sellouts utterly devoted to free trade globalism with some nods towards social liberalism and utter hatred of leftist economics. That somebody could look to the Democratic Party and think that its the reincarnation of the Bolsheviks is just strange.

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      • It looks confusing from the other side of the fence also. You said before there was a defining line between the far left and the liberal democrats. That line isn’t real clear for people outside those factions. What is clear is the desire of much of the left to reach for social control by any means necessary, and to continue to constrain the population to leftist ideology.

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      • The far left wants free college (paid for by poor people who aren’t spoiled rich kids going to college) to fund academic institutions where conservative students face death threats from their “liberal” peers and anti-conservative tirades from their professors. The cult of political correctness has even made many liberal fellow-travelers afraid that the mobs will turn on them for the slightest perceived indiscretion. A group that uses outrage and mob tactics against anyone perceived as slightly different will find its membership constantly dwindling as it turns more and more people into victims-of-the-day. People who are targeted by a mob never forget, they just apologize, delete their account, and think about switching parties.

        A victimhood and grievance culture, by its nature, is unstable and self-eliminating. All outsiders see is a bunch of angry people making ludicrous demands and being offended by anything and everything, at least when they’re not engaging in mob actions and riots.

        There was little reason for the left to create such a culture, but it did, and it is a fatal misstep that will be hard to undo. Once that culture has imploded, its antics will be remembered like the Salem Witch trials. Perhaps we’ll get a good play out of it, something set in a liberal dorm where one by one good liberals get accused of being secret white nationalist agents and closet free market thinkers because they tried to make a profit selling weed.

        One of the reasons Trump broke the blue wall is that the hard-working, blue-collar, union, salt of the Earth, traditional base of the Democrat party beheld the antics and demands of the coastal-elite, college-centered victimhood culture and were repelled by it, right at the same time that Trump was targeting self-centered business elites, big banks, out-of-control immigration, and globalization. He was attacking long-burning problems that were gutting American workers while the far left was out attacking imaginary American Fascists and non-existent Klan members in an orgy of virtue signalling. The problem is that many Americans aren’t seeing the left’s new fascism as a virtue.

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            • This is what I keep thinking- there are currently 20 million Americans enrolled in some form of higher ed. So, even if we assume that every single one of them is a college leftist (which makes no sense given that we also assume there are terrified conservative college students), that’s still 20 million in a population of 324 million, or 6.25% of the population. (Note: math is not my strong suit, but I think that’s right)

              So, it seems like they have a pretty disproportionate importance, a bit like the Tea Party- and actually the similarities don’t end there. It really shouldn’t be hard for the Democratic Party to marginalize them and not suffer greatly.

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              • So, it seems like they have a pretty disproportionate importance, a bit like the Tea Party- and actually the similarities don’t end there. It really shouldn’t be hard for the Democratic Party to marginalize them and not suffer greatly.

                They sure as hell marginalized Bernie.

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                • That’s the spirit!

                  I think what we need to do is try to quantify how many college students there are who spend their time shouting down guest speakers and whatnot and then quantify how many fans there are of the Insane Clown Posse in the country and then ask which one is a bigger concern.

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                  • Well, my original response was going to be a fairly dry comment that noodled about the idea of what percentage of Democratic Party leadership was composed of this 6.25% (I’m guessing: a ton) and how that dynamic would complicate the whole ability to marginalize the college lefties.

                    And then I remembered Bernie.

                    That said, I remember something that Matt Iggles said halfway through the primary (and I’m paraphrasing this):

                    “This must be how the Kerry supporters saw the Deaniacs back in 2004. Sorry about that, old people!”

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                    • I would guess a ton too.

                      I’m still thinking through why this has become so central to the cultural discussion. My mother, for instance, has very strong feelings about college student activists and safe spaces and trigger warnings- none of which will ever have any impact on her life in any way. But they’re still very important… well, triggers for her. It’s strange.

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                      • I’ll give my take based on how I think the take might go, given what I suspect might be overlap between my ancestors and yours. I think it has to do with the whole idea of what it meant to be an “adult” and how that definition keeps changing.

                        Way back when, the point of going to college was, for him, to get a good job and, for her, to find a guy who was going to get a good job.

                        Get married halfway through her sophomore year, get her pregnant shortly thereafter, she finishes two years of college, becomes a homemaker, he finishes school and graduates college as a young father, fresh prospect for any businesses out there, and a fully-fledged adult. Her too, for that matter.

                        Contribute to society, be a good cog in a good machine.

                        Somewhere around the 70’s, maybe, the whole “Animal House” thing seemed to indicate that the paradigm had shifted somewhat. For both him *AND* her, college became an opportunity to sow wild oats before becoming an adult and contributing to society, being a good cog in a good machine.

                        Now? Safe spaces are weird. I don’t mean the safe spaces that are, like, AA Meetings where people show up and are expected to show a certain amount of polite decorum and not attack each other (who has a problem with those?) but the safe spaces that provide play-doh and coloring books to students who are traumatized by a visiting speaker.

                        That feels like college is no longer vaguely related to adulthood.

                        Trigger warnings? There are two kinds of trigger warnings, seems to me. The first says “hey, brace yourself, this coming essay or lecture or whatever will touch on, among other things, the following really touchy subjects. You’ve been warned.” That’s the kind of TW that is really easy to defend. The other kind is some kind of amorphous idea that topics that might “trigger” a student are topics that shouldn’t be discussed at all. “That should have had a trigger warning!” becomes a way to censor a professor who has been teaching the same class the same way for decades.

                        College used to be a mechanism whereby an adolescent was transformed into an adult who was fit for the world, but a mechanism to prolong adolescence and give an adolescent tools to force the world to change.

                        That’s what I see when I try to put on my parents’/grandparents’ spectacles.

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        • Yesterday Reason TV posted an interesting interview with Jonathan Haidt about the recent rise in wacko campus PC culture (safe spaces, etc). He says the current new wave “moral revolution” started after 2013, really just 13 or 14 months ago, and that students who graduated prior to that won’t have encountered it.

          He traces it in part to a few years ago, when we started telling school kids to always find an adult and report bullying, and immersing them in a strong anti-bullying message, which was our response to a couple of high profile mass shootings. That intersected with a couple of other currents, and it turns out the cure is worse than the disease.

          ETA: Reason TV link

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          • Again, you are confusing liberals who believe that capitalism needs some regulations in order to make sure it does go off the rails and lead to major recessions/depressions and ensures civil rights vs. Communists who don’t exist in any real number in the United States.

            But LeeEsq is right, you aren’t making reasoned debate but sound like an unhinged loon with no basis in reality but that seems to be a hell of a drug for the right.

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    • [Liberals] don’t believe in free speech or property rights, nor in etiquette, manners, or personal hygiene.

      (…) A victimhood and grievance culture, by its nature, is unstable and self-eliminating.

      The persistent mystery is why anyone repelled by these things would be enamored of Donald Trump.

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  2. Unfortunately, only a minority of GOP Congresspeople are Burkean conservatives. The majority are divided into roughly three equal parts: free market radicals (eg Ryan, Paul), white nationalist reactionaries (eg King, Trump), and those that share elements of the former two tendencies (Cruz, the Freedom Caucus).
    Right now the radicals and the reactionaries both think they have a once in a lifetime opportunity, so they are mutually supporting each other’s agenda to the maximum.
    While this column is a good audition to be the next David Brooks, it reflects a sort of Totebagger thinking has no basis in reality.

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    • Seconded. There is a lot of trying to pretend the Republican Party is something that it is not in the blogosphere or that could quickly and easily become something else. It’s understandable. The Republican Party and their voters aren’t going to magically disappear or change but it prevents anything meaningful from getting done.

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  3. If you paid attention, you realized that the Republicans haven’t been small gov’t advocates for decades.

    “Anecdotally, it appears that inexperienced or previous low-information voters have become activated by their opposition to Trump, participating in street protests and remaining engaged in American politics to a level far beyond what we’ve seen after previous elections. These might represent loyal future progressive voters. ”

    I’ve not seen much in the news about this in weeks. Where’s the continual campaign? We’ll see in two years won’t we?

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  4. As is usual with these think pieces about conservatism, it has little to do with the actual Republican Party. At best it intersects with Republican rhetoric. The talk of fiscal conservatism is a good example. If you look at the actual history of the federal deficit over the past several decades, the unavoidable conclusion is that anyone who is concerned about this would vote for a Democrat for president. The Republicans hold the rhetorical position on this, but not the reality.

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  5. “Replacing the large, aimless Republican majority would be a disciplined Democratic coalition, more ideologically homogenous.”

    ‘Disciplined coalition’ and ‘ideologically homogenous’ are terms I don’t often use when describing the Big Tent of the Democratic party. Too many competing self-interests.

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    • Ordinarily I would agree with you. Like Will Rogers said, “I’m not a member of an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” But the Republicans under the august leadership of King Trump seem to be doing everything in their power to inflame and unify the opposition. It will be temporary to be sure, but enough to power a wave election.

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    • This. Pre-Trumpism, it was exactly the other way ’round. The Rs had the focus on local politics and the message discipline, the Ds were more popular, but had a gazebo rather than a tent, and were prone as always to circular firing squads.
      I doubt if 45’s ascendance has changed any of this, just thrown iin a complicating factor.

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  6. How do you square the 2016 election results with what the GOP is currently proposing in terms of replacing the ACA and their hypothetical budget? The 2016 budget looks like small government reactionary politics on hyper drive with the cuts proposed. The other issue is that a lot of the WWC voters who went for Trump to make their lives better look like they are getting conned and conned big. The proposed budget cuts a lot of job and support programs in coal country. While it is true that eases some of the environmental regulations that Obama placed on coal and other industries, these are not going to bring jobs back. If anything, you will see highly automated mountain-top coal mining which is automation heavy and requires few employees.

    I will say that it is true that the #NeverTrump faction of conservatives (of which you seem to be apart) have been left adrift. Jennifer Rubin left the GOP and has been recently writing if they will ever be cured of their sexism.

    On the left, Jeet Herr is skeptical that Trump’s back-stabbing of the WWC will ever hurt him for the reasons I’ve pointed out, it’s the white ethno-nationalism.

    https://newrepublic.com/article/141404/trumps-betrayal-voters-wont-stick

    Trump’s gamble, if indeed this is a witting strategy, is that he can hold his base together on a shared support for ethno-nationalism, with the bulk of economic benefits going to well-to-do Republicans. So far, to judge by the even keel of his poll numbers, his bet is working. This might change when Trump’s economic policies move from the realm of proposals to actual policies that affect everyday lives. But for now, the argument that Trump is betraying his base is just a rhetorical meme that has little bearing on how his voters feel about him.

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    • The other issue is that a lot of the WWC voters who went for Trump to make their lives better look like they are getting conned and conned big. The proposed budget cuts a lot of job and support programs in coal country. While it is true that eases some of the environmental regulations that Obama placed on coal and other industries, these are not going to bring jobs back. If anything, you will see highly automated mountain-top coal mining which is automation heavy and requires few employees.

      I’m from coal country, specifically Eastern Kentucky. It voted for:
      Mondale
      Dukakis
      Clinton
      Clinton
      Gore
      Kerry

      Then it tipped away from Obama, and then Hillary just killed the remaining Democrats. Most coal counties went 80 to 90% for Trump. Not only did the Democrats badly lose in Eastern Kentucky, they also lost in the Western Kentucky coal areas. For the first time since the 1921, the Republicans took control of the Kentucky House of Representatives, and now control it 64 to 36. The people of the region had been betrayed and belittled, stabbed in the back, insulted, and lied to. They aren’t going back. The same thing happened in West Virginia.

      You can keep your jobs programs and your insulting hand outs. All they’ve done is gut communities and foster dependency and heroin addiction. Democrats want us on welfare and drugs. Republicans want us working.

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      • You can keep your jobs programs and your insulting hand outs.

        Republicans want us working.

        Remember, folks, ‘jobs programs’ aren’t the same as ‘working’.

        The only real work is, uh, coal jobs. I guess? Let’s ignore the fact that the reason coal jobs are disappearing is due to technological progress, and the reason those people who worked all their lives don’t have any money is rich mine owners bribing their own, usually Republican, state government into breaking union contracts and not having to fix communities.

        I’m sure Republicans will magically bring them back.

        But at least George Turner is paying attention enough to know the Republicans hate jobs programs, even while promising jobs. Where, *exactly*, those jobs are supposed to come from, I don’t know, but that’s the difference between the parties…the Democrats promises to *do specific things*, whereas Republicans promise *things will happen*. Everyone gets jobs! Everyone gets healthcare! No need to present any actual information about this! (1)

        Here in the real world, where the government makes things happen by *laws*, not just wishing really hard, (Something the right doesn’t seem to follow.) a lot of people around me are shocked that Trump is destroying the Appalachian Regional Commission.

        You know, the thing that provides a bunch of *real* jobs, mostly private sector jobs, the thing that has rebuilt and remade *extremely* poor communities into real, functioning areas with actual industries and tax bases. With very little government spending.

        Trump just wants it completely gone.

        1) Well, as long as Democrats control pat of the government, so that Republicans can just blame Democrats on failing to implement things. But, luckily, Democrats will control part of the government forever and ever, so that Republicans will never be on the hook for doing stuff they’ve promised.

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        • Those mine owners weren’t bribing Republicans because Republicans haven’t controlled the Kentucky House since 1921. It would have been a waste of money.

          Second, union membership is irrelevant. A noted Marxist historian at the University Kentucky did extensive research and published a book on the history of mine labor in Kentucky, and he said his reluctant conclusion based on the data was that the unions hadn’t done anything to increase wages, they just got scads of working people killed.

          My dad’s boss and his eleven body guards got slaughtered in a union gauntlet on Cumberland Mountain. My uncle once saved his boss from getting shot by strikers. My dad’s golf partner killed a union man who’d knocked on his door at midnight. He didn’t even look first, just blew a hole through his front door and opened it to see a dead union guy with a pistol in his hand.

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          • Those mine owners weren’t bribing Republicans because Republicans haven’t controlled the Kentucky House since 1921. It would have been a waste of money.

            Kentucky, of course, being the rare state that only has a House, and not any other chamber of Legislature, like Nebraska, but takes it even farther by not having a governor at all.

            Oh, wait, no.

            But you’re somewhat right. Mine owners were *not* bribing the Republican state government of Kentucky to screw over miners.

            They were, instead, bribing *other* state governments, run by Republicans, to allow bankruptcy of their mines and other ways out of their obligations to pension funds, which then proceeded to screw over coal miners in Kentucky.

            And then their elected Federal representatives didn’t help the pension fund.

            In addition to scrapping the ARC, a program that would work to help communities transition to *other* industries if their original dried up.

            A noted Marxist historian at the University Kentucky did extensive research and published a book on the history of mine labor in Kentucky, and he said his reluctant conclusion based on the data was that the unions hadn’t done anything to increase wages, they just got scads of working people killed.

            And that’s how he demanded to be credited, too. ‘A noted Marxist historian’.

            Pssst….if you think *coal miner unions* haven’t done anything to increase wages for coal miners, you are not knowledgeable enough to be commenting on this issue at all. At the very very very least, the absolute minimum, coal miners are literally the reason people have to be paid in *money* instead of scrip.

            My dad’s boss and his eleven body guards got slaughtered in a union gauntlet on Cumberland Mountain.

            What the absolute fuck are you talking about?

            I can’t find any references to union violence on Cumberland Mountain anything except the Coal Creek War. Which, of course, having happened in 1892, is very unlikely to involve ‘your father’s boss’ unless your father was born 143 years ago…which, while *technically* possible, seems fairly unlikely. Also, what you described doesn’t fit the events of that.

            12 people getting killed during a labor dispute would actually be *pretty goddamn notable* in recent history. I won’t say it’s *impossible* for that to have happened, but it’s almost impossible for it not to be, you know, well documented on the Internet.

            There have literally been *two* murders, in two separate instances, by labor unions in labor disputes in the continental US in the last *four decades*, or even longer.

            My uncle once saved his boss from getting shot by strikers. My dad’s golf partner killed a union man who’d knocked on his door at midnight. He didn’t even look first, just blew a hole through his front door and opened it to see a dead union guy with a pistol in his hand.

            My cousin was once murdered and eaten by President Trump on live TV. My mother’s best friend stole the Mona Lisa and has it displayed in her house.

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        • You know who has been real good at jobs for the last 25 years? China. Monomaniacal about it, in fact. Foxconn has said that they plan to install a million robots in their Chinese assembly plants over the next decade or two, putting multiple millions of Chinese workers out of work. I’m looking forward to how much of that the government allows them to actually do.

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          • Not if it is a temporary govt job paid for by stimulus funds that runs out.

            That is not what ARC does. ARC runs around giving small loans so people can start businesses, and beautifying towns so they can make money of tourists, and building infrastructure to poor distant communities that businesses ignore (Which used to be ‘roads’, then ‘electricity’, then ‘highways’, then ‘phones’, and now is ‘internet’.), etc, etc.

            ARC does not create jobs by hiring people. ARC create jobs by slowly making distant, extremely-poor parts of Appalachia *economically productive*, with private industries that can sustain them. Small amounts of money in horrifically poor communities create community improvements to allow some sort of industry, and then the tax base grows and the community can actually stand on its own feet.

            It’s basically a conservative wet dream of job creation. It’s a hand-up, not a hand-out. And it *actually works*.

            So of course conservatives want to kill it. Because of the fundamental problem is that ARC was *spending (very small amounts of) tax money*, and rich people need that to create jobs or something.

            Oddly, very few super-rich people seem to wander deep into Appalachia and start hiring people. Or start businesses here. Weird. It’s almost as if the super-rich don’t like living without any cell service or telephones two hours down winding dirt roads from small towns without grocery stores. Why, it’s almost as if extreme poverty, especially in far distant rural areas, *doesn’t attract any rich people willing to create those hypothetical jobs*.

            Perhaps we should attempt to pitch the ARC to Republicans as a way to allow the super-rich to live here comfortably so they can trickle down on our heads.

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  7. “Why do we need to change? We’re winning!” is probably one of the themes you’ll hear from the hypothetical conservative who is a vague pro-Trumper (or, at least, not a #neverTrumper).

    The Republican party is currently at war with itself over the whole “principle” vs. “cult of personality” thing that they have going on. The cult of personality that Trump is leading has a pretty fundamentally different base than the whole “principle” one and there are a whole bunch of “principle” people who are slowly but surely discovering that winning at any cost feels better than losing with great principle. (Granted, in the same way that a Twinkie tastes better than brussels sprouts.)

    Who are the best (recent) examples of the best Republicans to lead a Peelian revolution? Romney? Jeb? Paul?

    I’m pretty sure that it’ll take Trump crashing and burning before we get a handful of people who say something to the effect of “where did we go wrong?”

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    • Like Jaybird said, the GOP is winning which is probably the only principle they care about.

      I also think the divide between the theory of small government versus what Republicans actually do while in power is nothing new. It seems bigger right now because of Trump’s… idiosyncrasies but think back to the Bush years. Partial privatization of social security failed and a giant new entitlement was created (Medicare pt. D). The administrative state ballooned after 9/11 and we embarked on 2 unfinanced expeditionary wars. As best as I can tell ‘limited government’ from the lips of a Republican just means they’ll get rid of or defuned parts of the state they don’t like and spend like wild on those pieces they do, without regard for any sort of fiscal implications or or exercise of discipline.

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      • To be fair to the GOP, the House and Senate leadership and plurality coalitions believe in: a) lower taxes, especially on the wealthy; b) a very robust military budget and a militaristic foreign policy; and c) a very minimal welfare state. Free flows of capital and restricted flows of labor both within and between countries are major points 4 & 5.

        The problem with those policy positions is that they are popular with the donors but not at all what the base is looking for.

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        • I think all of that is true but also beside the point. I’m not that interested in what Republicans (or Democrats for that matter) say they believe but rather in what they actually do when they have power. I see the fact that the electorate largely associates the GOP with fiscal restraint as one of the more baffling triumphs of rhetoric over substance in American political debate.

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