Rescue the Republican Party by turning Republicans into New Deal Democrats?: Geoffrey Kabaservice: The dream of a Republican New Deal

This is an extremely strange piece: that if the “New Democrats” of the late-1980s and early 1990s tried to turn the Democrats into Eisenhower Republicans, Kabaservice wants to rescue the Republican Party by turning Republicans into New Deal Democrats: Geoffrey Kabaservice: The Dream of a Republican New Deal: “Kansas… Governor Sam Brownback’s ‘real live experiment’ in reckless tax cuts…

…[Paul] Ryan, who served as Mr. Brownback’s legislative director when Mr. Brownback was a senator, was the Republican Party’s most prominent cheerleader for the Ayn Rand-inspired idea that society’s “makers” should be lavished with tax cuts while “takers” should be deprived of a social safety net. The downfall of Ryanism, and the rise of Trumpism, indicates that the decades-long domination of the Republican Party by ideological conservatism is finally giving way to an outlook that, for good or ill, better reflects the party’s changed base. The white working class clearly wants to protect and build upon the public sector, not destroy it…. Republican voters are still inflamed by cultural issues but are nowhere near as hostile to government as most political analysts imagine…. It’s no secret that the interests of the party’s donor class have been sharply at odds with those of its base. But political parties ultimately have to deliver concrete benefits to their core constituents if they want to retain their support. And politicians have to respond to the needs and hopes of their voters, not just pander to their fears and hatreds.

Desperation focuses the mind. As the elections loom, Republicans must resist the impulse to become full-time campaigners instead of legislators. That would only reinforce the public perception of Congress as a dysfunctional mess and incumbents as swamp-dwellers more concerned with their political survival (and self-enrichment) than the national welfare. Instead, the party should approach the elections under the banner of an ambitious program to bring economic revival to the working class…. Rebuild our decaying national infrastructure… roads, schools, hospitals and other civic assets that have been squeezed by conservative cutbacks…. Vigorous support for universal entitlements like Social Security and Medicare (as opposed to means-tested programs that only benefit the poor), robust wage subsidies, a generous child care tax credit and high-skilled apprenticeship programs… a national version of a California proposal to make housing more affordable. A Republican campaigning on the back of a Trump New Deal could sell himself or herself as someone who shares the values of voters in the economically ravaged American heartland but also has a real program to address their problems. It would be a lot more persuasive than just touting the magic of tax cuts. The president would relish an initiative built around the most popular parts of his agenda; he might even find it in his self-interest to call Congress into a special session to pass it….

The idea of a New Deal advanced by Republicans, even as unorthodox a Republican as Mr. Trump, sounds like alternate-reality science fiction. But historically the Republican Party has not been an organization with a fixed identity. Its transformation into a conservative ideological force began to take root only in the 1960s and took half a century to complete. It’s hardly impossible for the party to move toward the economic center while continuing to embrace Trump-style cultural populism…. Before the New Deal, the Democrats were predominantly a rural, socially conservative agrarian party allied with a number of urban political machines, while Republicans were advocates of powerful government and the party of intellectuals, African-Americans and the native-born working class. A reborn Republican Party with economic policies oriented toward the working class isn’t beyond imagining…. The ongoing transformation of the party under Mr. Trump points toward a future when it’s more attuned to the economic needs of working-class Americans—and more popular than the conservative party that faces ruinous defeat in November.

April 17, 2018


Brad DeLong
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