Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sobel Wiki: And Close the Door

This month's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the Conservative Party, one of the two original major parties in the Confederation of North America.

In our own history, British politics in the 19th century was dominated by two parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, both the product of mergers of earlier parties. This has led to the use of "conservative" and "liberal" to describe the dominant political ideologies of modern developed nations. This also influenced the development of political parties in British Commonwealth nations. For instance, when Canada was confederated in 1867, the names and ideologies of the British parties were adopted by Canadian politicians.

Thus, when Sobel described the formation of political parties in the C.N.A. in the early 19th century, they were called the Conservatives and the Liberals. This is actually an anachronism: the name Conservative wasn't adopted in the U.K. until 1834, and Liberal wasn't adopted until 1859. It may be that the names came into use in the Sobel Timeline Britain around the same time as they did in the C.N.A. Sobel mentions a Liberal government in Britain falling in 1835 and being replaced by a Reform-Conservative coalition. It appears that the economic shock of the late 1830s disrupted British politics to the point where these names fell out of use, and the older names Whig and Tory were revived. British politics in the Sobel Timeline was still dominated by the Whig and Tory Parties in the 20th century.

As for the C.N.A.'s Conservative Party, it and its rival Liberal Party appear as separate confederation-level parties in the 1810s and 1820s, during the period of the First Britannic Design, when the C.N.A. is a loose collection of semi-autonomous British dominions. The same economic shock that disrupts the British party system in the late 1830s unleashes various forms of chaos on the confederations of North America. It is in response to this chaos that the North American parties lead the push for political centralization that results in the Second Britannic Design of 1842.

Under the first forty years of the Second Design, the Conservatives and Liberals take turns controlling the new national government, both becoming corrupt. The corrupt equilibrium is upset in the late 1860s when the Conservatives push through electoral reforms expanding the franchise and reapportioning Grand Council seats. The reforms are meant to solidify Conservative rule, but they end up allowing a populist third party, the People's Coalition, to appear and flourish. The Coalition's gains come, ironically, at the expense of the Conservatives -- by 1883 the Coalition has displaced the Conservative Party as the official opposition, and by 1893 the Conservatives have ceased to play a role in national politics. By 1903 the party has dwindled to the point where it can no longer nominate a candidate for governor-general, and it effectively shuts down.