Monday, June 30, 2008

Winning the Working Class

From Heather Wilhelm’s [pictured] story on the the book Grand New Party by Atlantic writers Ross Douthat and Riehan Salam, here’s more on GOP problems with the working class:

America's working class is the ultimate swing vote, but it has yet to find a home. The GOP may have squandered opportunities in the past, but it can win working-class hearts with a politics that is oriented around the interests of the "Sam's Club" demographic, that aims to "make government work better, not pare it to the bone," and ultimately will "lead working-class America out its post-seventies struggles."

Grand New Party argues key GOP-supporting groups want more government involvement, not less, particularly regarding economic issues. The authors write, "this problem--that the working class wants, and needs, more from public policy than simply to be left alone--has prevented the Republican party from consolidating an enduring majority."

 "non-college-educated voters who make up roughly half of the American electorate” are currently wracked with a crisis: a crisis of growing inequality, social insecurity, and "anxiety over health care, pensions, and income volatility." Republicans are dreadfully out of touch with this insecurity, as well as its main political implication: "rising sympathy for the political left, with its promise of equality-through-redistribution."

 the authors express serious concern over growing social and economic stratification, in which "the country's mass upper class becomes increasingly segregated from the rest of the population" while the working class grows isolated from the culture of inherited success. The problem, which the authors admit, is that this sorting may be the natural, "logical endpoint" of a meritocracy.

 The authors say the main challenge facing the Sam's Club demographic isn’t globalization or the rise of the information economy, it’s the dramatic decline of the working class family. Working-class travails have "as much to do with culture as with economics." The sexual revolution wreaked havoc on the working class, leading to skyrocketing divorce, illegitimacy, and single-parent homes.

 "For the working-class American, who inhabits a more precarious world than the rich or the upper-middle class, family stability is a prerequisite for financial stability, and so [family instability], according to the Brookings Institution, "may be responsible for over 30 percent of the growth in income inequality between 1979 and 1996."

 How to address the issues facing America's working class? Douthat and Salam argue Republicans should promise "to fix the welfare state, rather than abolish it; to reform the Great Society, but leave more or less intact" those parts of the New Deal economically supporting social and familial reconstruction. Reward marriage and children with tax credits; recommend school choice, but in a slightly watered-down form; call for "an environmentalism that is both pro-growth and pro-jobs."

Wilhelm faults the book for missing “the over-the-top scare tactics frequently used by the ideological left. Whether it comes to school choice, Social Security reform (which Grand New Party gives up on, suggesting a payroll-tax-the-rich option instead), or other policies that could dramatically increase working class opportunities, left-wing politicians reliably unleash a firestorm of horror stories, leaving the GOP in the dust.”

No comments: