Book Review: Grand New Party

Grand New Party:  How Republicans Can Win The Working Class And Save The American Dream, by Ross Douthat & Reihan Salam

While I do not consider myself among the most fierce partisan warriors of my time, my general political views are pretty conservative and the political works I favor reflect those views [1].  That said, I do not spring from monied wealth but rather from a family of modest working-class background and of a notably broken family background.  In short, I am precisely the sort of person that the author is aiming this book to, at least in terms of my own personal experience, and as such I am intrigued by how the author seeks to portray how it is that the Republican party could answer the concerns of working class Americans and forge an enduring majority, and why that has not yet happened despite the general abandonment by Democrats of the sort of concerns of working class Americans in their own policies.  Humorously enough, at present we are facing a dramatic shaking out of political matters that suggests at least some of the reasons why many Republicans were wary of making the sort of populist appeals that the author supports.

This book of a bit more than 200 pages contains nine chapters in two parts, and the book has a clear political agenda in mind that is strikingly similar to that offered by Rick Santorum in 2012 as well as Trump in the general campaign in 2016.  The author begins with a look at political history in the first part, showing an unfinished realignment after the collapse of the FDR coalition in 1968 (I), beginning with a look at the old consensus in the 1950’s (1), the crack-up in the face of anti-war and racial demonstrations (2), the search of the new majority by Republicans and Democrats alike (3), the conservative 90’s in their combination of Republican congresses and Clinton’s turn to the right in the aftermath of 1994 (4), and the age of Bush (5).  By and large the author shows himself to be a moderate here, conservative in self-estimation only because he lives in areas that are far further to the left than he is.  The author then finishes the book with four chapters that provide a look at what the party of Sam’s Club would provide its working class voters (II) in looking what is going wrong with the working class (6), how to put families first (7), what comes when you go up from compassion (8), and what things look like in a contemporary frontier society (9).

Is the plan that the authors provide feasible for Republicans to follow?  In many ways, Trump has been the ironic recipient of the populist feeling among many of the people that the authors are writing about, and one can guess that this was not something the authors would have seen coming.  Nevertheless, even as far back as 2008 it was clear that there was at least a potentially strong populist conservative moment to take advantage of and the only question was whether there would be the right sort of people to capitalize on that moment.  The competition between Hilary Clinton and Trump in 2016 allowed a chance for the left to recognize that its desire for an emergent “new majority” of social liberalism and appeals to various subaltern groups could highly alienate potential voters and that a Republican party less beholden to plutocrats and more sensitive to bread and butter concerns could succeed.  How long that lasts, though, is anyone’s guess.  Suffice it to say that the authors do get a lot right, but that their advice is at least partly obvious and partly self-serving given their own political agendas.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/12/30/book-review-election-2014-why-the-republicans-swept-the-midterms/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/07/21/book-review-the-politically-incorrect-guide-to-the-presidents-part-1-from-washington-to-taft/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/07/21/book-review-the-politically-incorrect-guide-to-the-presidents-part-2-from-wilson-to-obama/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/04/29/book-review-unified/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/11/26/book-review-blue-collar-conservatives/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/18/book-review-the-triumph-of-william-mckinley/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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