[Marxism] They Want Trump to Make the G.O.P. a Workers’ Party
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Sat Aug 6 06:28:59 MDT 2016
NY Times, August 6 2016
They Want Trump to Make the G.O.P. a Workers’ Party
By JACKIE CALMES
WASHINGTON — By riding his appeal among working-class whites to the top
of the Republican Party, Donald J. Trump has emboldened conservative
thinkers to press their party of business and the privileged to reshape
its economic canon to more directly benefit poorer workers it has often
taken for granted.
The policy prescriptions of these so-called reform conservatives, or
“reformocons,” would not only break with some longtime Republican
orthodoxy — disavowing tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the
rich, for example — they would also counter more recent stances by Mr.
Trump on trade and immigration.
And because of a lack of policy specifics in Mr. Trump’s
personality-centered campaign, reform conservatives see an opening
through which to push their prescriptions.
“What it means to be a conservative is up for grabs,” said Reihan Salam,
the executive editor of the conservative National Review.
Whether Mr. Trump prevails or the party is left to rebuild from defeat,
these conservatives in think tanks, advocacy groups and the news media —
and a few in political office — will be pressing for a new agenda: to
update the Reagan-era playbook with an eye to working-class voters
without a college education who form the Republican base. Ronald
Reagan’s notions that policies that benefit the rich and big business
lift all incomes now appear outmoded in an era of rising wealth
inequality and stagnant wages.
The challenge to the party could be every bit as contentious as Mr.
Trump’s ascent has been. Beyond conservative think tanks and activist
circles, the new breed of conservatives has not made significant inroads
among House Republicans, for instance. And even these Republicans do not
agree on everything.
But some common ideas suggest their proposed road map for the party:
• Reject additional tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year,
but expand breaks for low- and middle-income workers through tax credits
for children, the earned-income tax credit or a new wage subsidy using
tax dollars to bring low wages toward the local median level.
• Promote the benefits of global trade agreements, but help displaced
• Rule out fully privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and reassure
workers they will be exempt from cost-cutting.
• Acknowledge that universal health care is here to stay, but push for
• Disavow mass deportations and promote the economic benefits of
legalizing longtime workers who are in the country illegally, but reduce
the legal entry of less-skilled immigrants.
“What we have going on right now, and Trump’s position in the Republican
Party, makes this recalibration that much more important, that much more
urgent,” said Senator Mike Lee, Republican of Utah.
“Some within the party,” he added, “have been all too willing to wear
the label of the Republican Party as being the party of Wall Street, or
the party of the top 1 percent.”
Although most of them oppose Mr. Trump’s candidacy — Mr. Salam called
him “an overwhelmingly noxious and negative force” — these conservatives
do credit him with engaging working-class voters and dealing them into
the economic conversation.
“The biggest thing that Trump offers these voters is finally somebody
paying attention,” said Henry Olsen, a scholar at the conservative
Ethics and Public Policy Center.
“Imagine that they’re the wallflowers at the high school dance and
they’re sitting off, ignored by everybody. Suddenly, the football hero
comes up and says, ‘Come dance with me.’ That’s intoxicating.”
Led by younger conservatives, the push for new approaches began in the
past decade, as big spending and military interventions by the Bush
administration and a Republican-controlled Congress vexed many in the
party. Capturing the ferment was a 2008 book, “Grand New Party: How
Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream,” by
Mr. Salam and Ross Douthat, who is now a columnist for The New York Times.
“The Trump phenomenon has really opened things up — people are more
inclined to listen, elites within the party are more inclined to
listen,” said Mr. Salam, who, with Mr. Douthat, recently updated their
book’s theme in an opinion article in The Times.
The authors wrote in their Op-Ed that Mr. Trump’s white working-class
supporters were “clearly voting against a party leadership that pays
them lip service while ignoring their concerns” — a revulsion that will
not disappear even if Mr. Trump does.
Proponents of a new conservative agenda have critics in both parties.
Democrats dismiss their ideas as repackaging a familiar right-wing
agenda. Some Republicans and conservative media figures like Rush
Limbaugh condemn their cause as a return of moderate Republicanism or a
capitulation to liberalism.
Michael A. Needham, the chief executive of Heritage Action for America,
the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, said reform conservatives
and Tea Party-oriented organizations like his are allies in their desire
to rewrite a “stale” economic agenda tilted to Republican donors. But he
acknowledged differences in tactics and substance. His group and its
allies favor conflict, like government shutdowns, for instance. And they
still want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut taxes for everyone.
Yet conservative agitators were mostly talking among themselves until
Mr. Trump toppled the party establishment, along the way flouting
longstanding party dogma on taxes, trade and immigration.
Democrats have long charged that lower-income white Americans who vote
heavily Republican do so against their economic interests. A new poll
for The Wall Street Journal and NBC News had Hillary Clinton ahead over
all but trailing Mr. Trump by 13 percentage points among whites without
a college education and by 21 points among men in that group. Past polls
had her even further behind with those working-class voters, however.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in an interview on MSNBC’s
“Morning Joe” last week that the Democratic Party bore some
responsibility. While its policies may be geared toward workers, he
said, “The Democratic Party over all hasn’t spoken enough to those
voters” — the “ordinary people busting their necks.”
It was an echo of the Republican self-criticism now playing out.
For all of Mr. Trump’s outreach to working-class whites, Robert
VerBruggen, the managing editor of The American Conservative, said the
party platform that emerged from the Republican convention was further
evidence of the gap between the party’s support from white blue-collar
workers and its agenda that all but ignores them.
“The breakdown of the working class was neglected,” he wrote in his
magazine. “There seems to have been little discussion of the economic
anxieties of working families, the safety net or the drug epidemic
sweeping rural America.”
“Instead,” Mr. VerBruggen wrote, “their focus on the bottom half of the
economic spectrum seems to have been limited to a debate about the
purchase of unhealthy snacks with food stamps.”
Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the former
domestic policy director for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, even suggested
that Republicans look for ways to harness labor unions for constructive
worker-management relationships. He also predicted more openness among
conservatives to raising taxes when justified.
“It’s hard to imagine the Grover Norquist tax pledge having the salience
it once did,” Mr. Cass said, referring to the longstanding anti-tax vow
that most Republican candidates take. “That model of ‘no tax increases,
ever, under any circumstances’ I think is probably on its way out or gone.”
Mr. Norquist scoffed at the suggestion. “The pledge came out in ’86,” he
said. “Every six months from then somebody has said, ‘Oh, the pledge
won’t hold.’ ” It is, he added, “nonnegotiable.”
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