Last night on Colbert Report, there was Reihan Salam explaining how the Republicans are going to win the hearts of the working class. And he had the book he wrote with Ross Douthat, Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream. Ah yes, the Grand New Party. The book is described as, “Two of the Right’s rising young thinkers call upon the GOP to focus on the interests and needs of working-class voters.” The basic idea is simple: the Republican Party should reinvent itself as the party of the working class and focus on making the base of the party the married heterosexual couple.
There is a fundamental problem here: this is already what the party claims to stand for. All Salam and Douthat are calling for is a continuation of the same except that Republicans should stop getting us into wars all the time. While I admit that this would be an improvement, I doubt that it would do much to make the Republican Party more appealing to working class Americans. This comes back to the issue I talk about over and over again: it’s the poor, stupid. The problem with the Republicans is not cosmetic nor is it focus. The American people didn’t vote for Obama while thinking, “You know, if it weren’t for Romney’s hateful rhetoric and terrible foreign policy, I’d vote for him!” The Republican economic policies are toxic.
But this doesn’t stop the mainstream media from going all gaga over young Republicans offering up a vision of a Republican Party that doesn’t seem quite so horrible. At The Daily Beast, Michael Moynihan writes about, The New Populism of the Right. In it, he offers up tired observations as though they were cutting edge:
That new generation has for the most part moved beyond battles over whether the top marginal tax rate should be 28 percent or 35 percent; rather, they want to reboot the way Republicans talk to—and think about—the 47 percent.
Notice: the new generation doesn’t want to fight over whether they should lower the top tax rate. But somehow they do not want to consider whether they should raise it, even though the Republicans will be forced to do exactly that. But most of all, they want to learn how to talk to the lowlife moochers who can’t be convinced to take responsibility for their own lives. And what would this talking entail?
Republican populist must explain to middle- and working-class voters that the system is stacked in favor of big corporations and the wealthy.
As cynical as I am, I have a hard time believing that these young Republicans don’t know that working class voters aren’t already well aware that the system is stacked against them. The Republicans don’t need to explain this. If they really want to get votes, they need to do something about it. As bad as the Democrats are, they are infinitely better than the Republicans. And this gets to the core interests of the Republican Party: if they want to win the working class vote, they need to change their allegiance to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else. And if they did that, how exactly would they be any different from the modern Democratic Party?
What I find most interesting is that there is all this buzz about these young Republicans. Salam and Douthat did not just write Grand New Party. It was published in 2009, in response to Obama’s first win. And what effect did it have on the party generally? That was the year that the Grand Old Party because the Grand Older Party with the mobilization of the Tea Party: those social conservatives masquerading as economic conservatives. I’m sure over the coming years, we will see a similar trend in the GOP—regardless of what journalist at The Daily Beast think is cutting edge.