The Moose comments on the working man's blues.
The Moose suggests that the working class may soon be interested in breaking its chains. No, there will be no incipient proletarian revolution. And class war is not on the immediate horizon.
But, there is increasing focus on the stagnant wages of the working stiff and income inequality. The great domestic accomplishment of the Bush Administration is not making the government smaller or de-regulating the state. Rather, the Bushies have achieved a great redistribution of wealth to the wealthy. And they did this during wartime while the elites have largely paid no price for the defense of freedom.
Republicans have been reliant on the support of socially conservative middle and lower income voters. But, economically, what has conservative rule produced for them? That is the question that smart conservatives such as Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam have examined in the pages of the Weekly Standard and Ramesh Ponnuru has addressed in the National Review.
These authors suggest that the GOP must address the economic anxiety of Main Street as well as Wall Street if they are going to maintain the allegiance of these voters who have little in common with the plutocratic elites of the party. And there is a tremendous opportunity for a party that can appeal to the middle and down income socially conservative voters.
Ezra Klein notes this opportunity in a piece in the American Prospect,
"The dilemma for conservatism is obvious: How can a pro-business, pro-tax cut, and anti-entitlement creed such as today's conservatism cater to this constituency without abandoning everything it has believed for 40 years? For much of the old guard, such a radical re-imagining of conservatism may prove impossible. But some younger, less tradition-bound conservative thinkers are sketching out a pro-government philosophy that supports conventionally progressive proposals like wage subsidies and child-tax credits but places them in a new context -- as rear-guard protective actions in defense of the nuclear family. That is, whereas progressives argue for economic justice for a class or classes, these conservatives are arguing for economic favoritism for families, buttressed by government policies that encourage and advantage them as the central structure of American life. It isn't hard to see the potential appeal of that approach, and it could corner Democrats and liberals into being the party of the poor, while the GOP becomes the party of parents."
The question is whether the "leave us alone" libertarian crowd in the party will allow the party to move in the direction of addressing the economic concerns of these voters? At the moment, the GOP is only defined by a big government corporatism that neither satisfies the small government folks nor those who want to solidify the alliance with the social conservatives.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are in the grip of secular liberals who have more in common with the old northeastern wealthy Republicans than George Meany Democrats. And it does no good for Democrats to dismiss the social concerns of lower income voters as a case of "false consciousness."
A word of caution on the anti-Wal-Mart crusade. This attack on a popular provider of low price products to middle and low income Americans may be interpreted by those consumers as a culturally condescending reproach. Surely,unions should receive our support when they attempt to organize the retail giant. The DLC has rightly joined with labor in breaking down barriers to union membership. But, Wal-Mart as a symbol of lefty rage is problematic.
Economically progressive and socially conservative Americans - progressive traditionalists - used to comprise the rank and file of the Democratic Party - no more. They are up for grabs as the GOP is seen as plutocratic and the Democrats must fight the perception of elite secularism.
Which party will win their allegiance? --