You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Will The Republicans Go Sam's Club?

I whole-heartedly second David Brooks's suggestion that you buy and read Grand New Party, the new book by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam. They're not just two of the smartest young conservatives I know, but two of the smartest conservatives period, and I think they're dead on (dead right?) about the GOP's problems and what should be done about them. (The idea, in a nutshell, is to appeal to working class voters by promoting a socially conservative, family-centric ethos while alleviating their economic insecurity.)

But the emphasis is on the word "should." I part company with Brooks (and Ross and Reihan) over his optimism that the GOP will eventually embrace the Sam's Club agenda--or that it even can. There may some day be a political party oriented toward working class voters whose ideological stance resembles Sam's Club-ism. But I don't think that party's going to be the GOP. (Nor will it be the Democratic Party--I think one or both of the major parties would have to die off and be replaced by this future party.)

The people who fund and run the GOP are simply too committed to the idea of cutting taxes for affluent people and reducing government spending--basically the opposite of what Ross and Reihan propose. In fact, even saying the GOP estabilshment is "committed" to these things understates the grip of economic libertarianism over the party. It suggests a worldview that's the product of some reflection, when in fact the economic libertarianism of big GOP donors is mostly an expression of their self-interest--i.e., they want to keep their own taxes low. The idea that a party structured this way would embrace policies directly at odds with this mission is really tough to imagine. Which is why, for example, Mike Huckabee's candidacy was doomed the second he started attacking the "Wall Street-Washington axis."

Having said all that, these guys are right: The GOP is absolutely screwed. Even though the money comes from the same place it has for decades, the votes increasingly come from socially-conservative working-class people. At some point something's got to give. I just think it's going to be the GOP--which will basically cease to exist--rather than the moneymen and powerbrokers.

--Noam Scheiber