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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Grand New Party? David Brooks on Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam

So what does the Republican party do now?  David Brooks has been calling this for months (years?)--the implosion of the (his?) party.  I heard him discussing this on the radio yesterday.  He compared what he sees now with Britain's Conservative Party post-Thatcher--an ongoing reconstruction that has taken 15 years.  

(I don't know the history well--looks like the Conservatives held on to power til 1997 (Thatcher was PM til 1990, John Major '90-'97), when they were defeated by Labor in a landslide.  Labor continues to rule, with Gordon Brown having succeeded Tony Blair.)

Brooks published a column in June titled "The Sam's Club Agenda" (, presciently focused on this topic, and specifically on two young conservative writers: Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam.  Since then, their names keep popping up--I suppose b/c I use the "blue" sort media outlets that feature Brooks--the NYT, the Atlantic, NPR.  

Here is what Brooks had to say about Douthat and Salam:

"This pair has just come out with a book called 'Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.'

There have been other outstanding books on how the G.O.P. can rediscover its soul (like 'Comeback' by David Frum), but if I could put one book on the desk of every Republican officeholder, 'Grand New Party' would be it. You can discount my praise because of my friendship with the authors, but this is the best single roadmap of where the party should and is likely to head.

Several years ago, Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor, said the Republicans should be the party of Sam's Club, not the country club. This line is the animating spirit of 'Grand New Party.' Douthat and Salam argue that the Republicans rode to the majority because of support from the Reagan Democrats, and if the party has a future, it will be because it understands the dreams and tribulations of working-class Americans."

My understanding is that they recommend a greater attention to the economic plight of America's working class, with much much less attention on the conservative cultural agenda.  E.g., I just heard Salam on NPR arguing for a federalist ("local democracy") approach to abortion.

A random thought: this tack could be interpreted as taking seriously Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter with Kansas?" and the thinking behind Barack's one gaffe of the the campaign (the "they cling" comment in SF).

Here is the Amazon page of their book:

These guys have been writing a lot lately:

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