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Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream

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Prices for book: Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream

Book ISBN: 9780385519434

Author(s): Ross Douthat

Document type: Trade Cloth

Publisher: Unknown

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Reviews

Unveils the Curse of Ideology

Rating: 100%

The book that remains to be written is a discourse on why intellectuals cannot see past their (to them) invisible ideological prisms. Because the primary complaint of both right & left-wingers about this erudite work is that it dares to cross the lines--the very many lines--that separate political purity from operational effectiveness.

The authors point out that liberals got so angry with W that they were often reduced to blubbering in hysterical fits of anger. This made any policy discussions useless. As Ann Coulter wrote, we argue, they insult.

But right-wingers are cursed by ideology, too. The conservative contradiction between small business self-reliance and big business greed has never been satisfactorily resolved. The result is that both political stripes posture to their audience, while acting in the most selfish manner to feed off their individual government troughs.

Thus the many equivocal reviews which, if you read between the lines, have both sides complaining that the solutions that Douthat & Salam provide are neither fish nor fowl. What they really mean is that they are not used to prescriptions that deviate so far from party lines. They resent being made to wallow in the filth of the real world.

Yet powerful ideas take on a life of their own, long after catchy insults wither and die. What is so impressive about this work is its great erudition, and the wealth of clear-eyed thinking that lays out the great circle routes of the shortest distance between two points: where we are in our many divisive policies and how to get where we need to be.

T. Holzel (Amazon.com)

Democrat Lite

Rating: 40%

This book promises a lot and fails to deliver. The authors' central insight is a good one: the GOP can renew itself and its electoral appeal by focusing its policy prescriptions on "Sam's Club Republicans," a group that is really what used to be known as Reagan Democrats, soccer moms, or just the good old fashioned working class. However, the actual policy suggestions put forth by the authors take up little more than 70 pages of this 230 page book. Almost half is given over to the authors' version of political and economic history from 1929 to now, and how the GOP has struggled to define itself to working class voters. Sorry, boys, but any history of the GOP that fails to include Abraham Lincoln, and the limited gov't GOP that was the dominant political party from 1860 - 1929 during the period of America's industrial and international rise, will never be able to grapple with the ideas that give the GOP its saliency.

The authors include all of this history to show why the working class is in trouble, and why the GOP can help. Fine. The authors' social history is OK, but too often it falls into the conventional "working class voters felt hemmed in by the excesses of the Sixties" style analysis that you can hear on basic cable. Their history of American social conditions is actually a history of American social conditions as put forth by the distorting lens of the media. When they name check the "Spur Posse" to show the decline in values, I had to roll my eyes.

After wasting all this time on a history lesson, the authors' policy prescriptions are anodyne. Mostly, it's tax breaks, and marginal changes in health, education, and immigration law. The authors have nothing to say about two of the GOP's biggest groups of supporters: Evangelicals and Entrepreneurs. They also have nothing to say about national security issues, which is an especially glaring hole. National Security is one of the GOP's strengths, even after the Iraq War. It's also one of the legitimate functions of government, regardless of how expansive or limited you would like the government to be. They also skirt veterans issues, another missed opportunity. For heavens sake, veterans are obvious potential GOP supporters, and the present state of the VA is a scandal.

The biggest hole in the authors' analysis is their failure to grapple with the philosophy that has defined the GOP from its birth, and which has united the voting blocks that have been drawn to it: the philosophy of individual freedom combined with a limited national government. The authors are clearly very comfortable with using the tax code and the various arms of the government to appeal to voters. It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that a government that tries to do everything, will be unable to anything particularly well. This book is little more than Democrat Lite in this regard.

All told, I would say this book was very disappointing. Douthat is a thoughtful writer, but that rarely comes through in this book. if you are looking for a good book on renewing the GOP, "Comeback" by David Frum, or "How To Beat the Democrats" by David Horowitz are much more useful.

Howard Olsen (Amazon.com)

No Respect

Rating: 60%

This is 2 books in one. I like the first book--a fine review of how Goldwater's Conservatives revitalized the GOP at the very moment in history that major economic and demographic changes gave a unique opportunity to build a political majority. I knew this stuff, but it's great to see it in one place.

The 2nd book by these partners from The Atlantic, well, not so much. This is a pragmatist's wish list from a blue collar focus group, ungrounded in principal or purpose beyond the next election. Products of the blog-era, these twenty-somethings seem to have no respect for the intellectual legacy of the Reagan era. At least they can write well.

J. C. Shepard (Amazon.com)

Caring about the working class

Rating: 100%

When reading this book, it was so nice to see that there are conservatives who care about the needs of the working class. I like all books that offer solutions to problems and/or better alternatives to the status quo.

Jonathan Davies (Amazon.com)

Fundamentally unserious

Rating: 20%

This book has all the depth of a junior high civics paper. The authors are brimming with schoolboy enthusiasm, yet it's clear that they have no understanding of the most elementary economics. For instance, they propose that the federal government should give wage subsidies to those hard working people in low end jobs, therefore helping them out of poverty, yet they never consider what this effect would have on prices, which would only inflate, leaving the purchasing power of these workers the same. And they even justify the plan by saying that it "follows the wise libertarian maxim that the only the only thing government can be counted on is to write checks." Apparently they didn't realize that libertarians meant that as a criticism of government. Indeed, they keep repeating that their plans would appeal to progressives and free marketeers alike: progressives because they are helping the working class and free marketeers because their plans encourage competition and personal responsibility. But government enforced competition is not what Smith or Mises had in mind, and "personal responsibility" in this case means that you do what the government says because you know that you can be fined or jailed for non-compliance--which is the same as saying I am responsible because I give a mugger my wallet instead of letting him shoot me.

This book is just as flawed for the questions it fails to address as for those it addresses and butchers. The Constitution is never once mentioned--in the entire book. It would be interesting to see what constitutional grounds the authors could conjure up for such an expansion of federal power, but they don't even try. Perhaps they realize there aren't any.

Also, the only mentions of the Iraq War are a couple of side notes about how it has tarnished the Republican name. But this is an issue that directly impacts the so-called "Sam's Club" voters, who are paying for it with their lives. And that's not to mention the effect that the trillion dollar war is playing by bringing down the economy and ruining the financial prospects of these voters. It would be hard to justify how bringing elections to Umm Qasr is a good use of the Burger King cashier with five children's tax money.

Douthat and Salam have bought--hook, line, and sinker--the progressive myth that only the federal government knows what's best for the people. They say they only want government to work well and let the people do the rest, but who can believe that when the authors note with shocked approval, that even without a federally sponsored repopulation plan, people having been moving from expensive, congested cities like Boston to places like Reno, where the cost of living is lower? You mean people can naturally understand what is in their own self-interest? Preposterous!

This book attempts to take the New Deal and make it conservative, yet that is an impossible task. Family values can't be promoted by some distant bureaucracy; they are promoted by families, acting free of state compulsion.

Thus, the one thing this book does well is to succeed as an indication of just how unconservative and intellectually bankrupt the Republican Party has become. Reviewers have lauded Douthat and Salam as two of the brightest Republican intellectuals out there. Sadly, I have to agree.

K. Moen (Amazon.com)

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