It may make more sense, going into the 2016 election, for Republicans to hold to the view that government can be “good and bad.” GOP guru Karl Rove is suggesting such a shift, noting that under Barack Obama, the country has become
more supportive of bigger government. The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll regularly asks whether government should “do more” or whether it is “doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.” In December 2009, almost a year after Mr. Obama was inaugurated, 44% said government should do more while 47% said government was doing too much. By November of last year, the first figure had risen to 52%, while the second held nearly flat at 46%.Rove added:
the GOP can no longer take for granted the plurality of economic conservative voters. New technologies are disrupting the economy, creating anxiety among working-class Americans. Republicans must offer an agenda that improves their lives. Making the moral case for limited government and greater freedom is important, but not enough. Middle-class voters want concrete answers to real-world concerns about their paychecks, job security, high taxes, education and health care—starting with a comprehensive replacement for ObamaCare.Rove concludes that the GOP’s 2016 campaign must pull in “millions who have not voted Republican” recently, something done by nominating a candidate who appeals beyond the base.
Former Bush 43 speechwriter Michael Gerson, writing in the Washington Post in April, added specifics while making Rove’s point:
globalization and the technological revolution have made it difficult for many Americans to find dignified work, sufficient to supporting a family, particularly when they have limited skills and education. Modern capitalism has left some communities in serious need of transitional help -- and the transition may last a long time. Some type of redistribution is necessary. But it should be, in the reform conservative view, redistribution that favors work, family and the accumulation of useful skills.Gerson is talking about government programs, necessary since
the current blue-collar and lower-middle-class economy -- because of global labor markets and automation -- cannot function in a way compatible with our conception of social justice. The main reform conservative policy responses are wage subsidies (through an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit), payroll tax cuts, apprenticeship programs, dramatic increases in the child tax credit and a welfare system that requires work in exchange for benefits.Gerson goes so far as to say that
there is a crisis in modern capitalism. It . . . comes from the introduction of tremendous competitive pressures into the labor market. Those who lack human capital, knowledge and skills are being left behind in large numbers. And government can't be a bystander. . . government needs to prepare as many people as possible for competitive labor markets and subsidize wages at the lower end so that unskilled labor can result in a decent life.Unsurprisingly, such government-action recommendations coming from so-called conservatives are bound to generate serious blowback. Here’s an example, from conservative “Federalist” senior editor David Harsanyi:
Gerson’s rationale for a reformicon agenda has a strong and disagreeable “abandoning free-market principles to save the free-market system” vibe to it. If it’s not only about how we tax people, but about ceding some of our deepest philosophical beliefs, it’s going to be a nonstarter.We do face something approaching Gerson’s economic “crisis,” while at the same time, Harsanyi rightly suggests the crisis has more to do with government’s failures than those of “modern capitalism.” Still, “government is the problem” is not going to win in 2016, as yet another conservative, Selena Zito in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, tells us from troubled Appalachia.
In a plea for unity over continued division, Zito writes:
in the past eight years[, t]he “us and them” gap has escalated general mistrust; it has isolated our society's doers and makers from those who hold wealth and power. This isn't just about politics anymore; it is about values. Our nation is at odds with the intellectual elite in wealthy, urban and academic enclaves, who now control the engines of industry. To the rest of us, those engines are not robust machines; they're like little red tricycles.
Main Street Americans do not want to face such uncertainty. . . Not one person currently running for president is addressing the majority of Americans who want to know just who is going to lead all of us forward, the haves as well as the have-nots. We don't want another president who divides us even further. We want someone who will take us — together — to a better place in order to tap into our country's greatest resource, which has always been our people.“Capitalism + good government.”