Grand New Party

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-06-02
  • Publisher: Anchor
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With a New Afterword by the Authors In a provocative challenge to Republican conventional wisdom, two of the Right's rising young thinkers call upon the GOP to focus on the interests and needs of working-class voters, no matter the outcome of the 2008 election. Blending history, analysis, and fresh, often controversial recommendations, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam argue that it is time to move beyond the Reagan legacy and the current Republican power structure. With specific proposals covering such hot-button topics as immigration, health care, and taxes,Grand New Partyshakes up the Right, challenges the Left, and forces both sides to confront the changing political landscape.

Author Biography

ROSS DOUTHAT is the author of Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class and a senior editor at the Atlantic. REIHAN SALAM is an associate editor at the Atlantic and a fellow at the New America Foundation. He blogs at the American Scene.


The Old Consensus

When Barry Goldwater lost the 1964 presidential election by 16 million votes, carrying only six states and faring worse than any major-party candidate since Alf Landon in 1936, nobody seriously entertained the possibility that conservatism would rise from his defeat, let alone that the race might mark the beginning of a decades-long realignment in American politics. The Goldwater debacle was greeted instead as a welcome affirmation of a political and cultural order that had endured since the New Deal thirty years before. There had been intimations, in the early 1960s, that this consensus might be headed for a precipice, and so its custodians greeted the election results with head-nodding, hosannas, and more than a little relief. Like a man whose tumor has proven benign, they insisted vehemently that they had never doubted the happy outcome for a moment. Everywhere in autumn 1964 there were panegyrics to the center, to consensus, to the conventional wisdom--all of which conservatives had dared to challenge, and all of which had risen, as every pundit had always known they would, to cast Goldwater down to a devastating defeat.

This old and fated consensus called itself "liberal," and indeed it was, in the sense that Americans of the 1950s looked to government as the source of wealth and progress more than in any era before or since. They had every reason to--thanks to World War II and the Cold War, the federal government almost doubled in size between 1940 and 1960, and American prosperity rose with it. The critics of Franklin Delano Roosevelt fell silent, the long Republican presidency of Dwight Eisenhower accepted the innovations of his Democratic predecessors, and New Deal liberalism gave way to Cold War liberalism without skipping a beat or forfeiting its claim on the nation's loyalties. The American Right still threw up the occasional demagogue--a Douglas MacArthur, a Joseph McCarthy--and put liberals on the defensive, but neither the liberal coalition in politics nor the liberal dominance of the world of ideas seemed to face any serious challenge.

Yet the consensus of the 1950s was deeply conservative as well. It had been built by liberals, using liberal means, but it employed government power to preserve, rather than renovate, the most distinctive habits and institutions of American life. It wasn't just that the New Deal, for all its socialist tendencies, ultimately preserved free-market capitalism at a moment when many intellectuals were ready to abandon it. It was that the Roosevelt majority helped save the ideal of a self-sufficient working class, which had been central to American life from the beginning. And it did so by mixing economic liberalism with social conservatism, a potent political combination that raised America's working class, our democracy's natural political majority, to heights of security and self-confidence unseen before and since.

The Ownership Society

The interests of the working class--the common man, the hardworking but unexceptional citizen--have been at the heart of every great American political movement. From Jefferson to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Reagan, our most successful leaders have sought the democratization of wealth, competence, and social standing--not so that every American might be rich or famous, but so that we might all be independent and self-reliant and secure. In this sense, the American dream is ultimately a dream of home, of a place to call your own, earned and not inherited, and free from the petty tyrannies of landlords, bureaucrats, and bankers. It's a dream of a country in which ownership is available to everyone, provided that they are willing to work for it, rather than being handed out on the basis of wealth or caste, brains or beauty.

Both our political choices and our cultural habits have made the dream a reality. In the early republic, when land was the vehicle for owner

Excerpted from Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream by Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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