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Memo 04.07.2021 10 minutes

A GOP That Works

Kentucky Coal Miners Continue Blockade Protest In Harlan County

Republicans should champion the working Americans counting on them for change.

Last week I handed House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy a memo on how the GOP can win back the House in 2022. I argued that the Republican Party should explicitly appeal to working-class voters, and effectively “own” our identity as the party of working people. Most working-class voters currently vote Republican; our share of that electorate has risen significantly over the past decade, especially since 2016. And this momentum will accelerate if we cement ourselves as the Party of the Working Class.

My memo received a fair bit of media attention, in part I think, because it angered many politicians and members of the media. It’s no mystery why many politicians and members of the media were mad about the memo—they don’t want the GOP to be a working-class party. They like the legacy identification of the GOP as the party of multinational corporations, and they aren’t interested in changing that profile.

But the memo also got attention because it was unexpected. It said that Republicans should recognize that the Democrats are now the party of Wall Street, while we represent people who work with their hands. As explained, mechanics and custodians donated to Trump, while bankers, college professors, and marketing executives favored Biden. A major, generational shift has taken place—and the Democrats don’t want anyone to notice it.

Imagine if Hakeem Jeffries wrote a memo to Speaker Pelosi saying, “the Democrat Party’s share of upper class, college-educated women skyrocketed since 2016. If we want to retain our majority, we need to directly appeal to them by promoting policies they care about.” That’s the sort of thing that’s talked about behind closed doors in Napa Valley or at the DNC, but you won’t read about it in New York Magazine.

Republicans must change the impression of the two parties to match the electoral reality. If the Republican Party cements itself as the party of working-to-middle-class voters, we will expose the bread-and-butter of Democratic politics—massive spending, this time on “infrastructure”—as what it really is: kickbacks to elitist interests. 

In the past, Democrat pork funded projects like the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was intended to modernize a rural, underdeveloped region of the United States (which mostly voted Democrat) and create American jobs. 

The Democrat Party still engages in a politics of payoffs. But now, the people they’re paying off aren’t underserved, hardscrabble Americans. They include the least needy people in the country. We shouldn’t be afraid to point that out. 

Student loan forgiveness is probably the best recent example of a Democrat kickback. 

Student loan forgiveness is a direct and individualized payment only to the more privileged half of society. It is, to use a phrase Democrats love to deploy, an extremely regressive policy. Why forgive student loan debt, but not credit card debt, or medical debt, or any form of debt that isn’t exclusive to the upper half of American society? The short answer is that student loan forgiveness disproportionately benefits Democrat voters and donors—college graduates and universities. 

Republican failure to push back effectively against student loan forgiveness is, at least partially, a result of our failure to enthusiastically claim the mantle of the working class. 

We need to communicate clearly and strongly defend the interests of our own voters. As a start, that means putting the interests of working Americans ahead of college administrators. 

It also means putting the interests of small businesses ahead of major corporations, protecting Americans free speech rights by standing up to Big Tech, and recognizing that American workers must always come before foreign workers. 

The new Republican coalition includes working people, small business owners, and Americans dedicated to the American ideals they learned about in school. The Democrats, on the other hand, now represent corporate oligarchs, the elite intelligentsia, and rent-seeking public sector unions. If the GOP can clarify this new reality in the minds of the electorate, then our future looks bright.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Scott Olson

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