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Can the GOP Become the Party of the Working Class?

Feb 09, 2022

“GOP voters are working class Americans and they are changing the party.”

That’s the message that Marco Rubio emphasized when we spoke on the phone a few days ago. But the line could have just as easily come from a host of Republicans—Tom Cotton, Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley, J.D. Vance—who believe that their political future and that of their party is dependent on embracing the working class.

At the national level, union staffers—especially on the political and public policy sides of things—are very likely to be part of what one longtime union leader called “a subsidiary of the Left wing of the Democratic Party and the philanthropically-funded Left.” And they have often been guilty of subordinating core working-class interests to what he called “the permanent culture of progressive college educated coastal elites.”

The divide is sharp and growing sharper, with a workforce that is suspicious of government overreach and socially more conservative, and a leadership class that puts pronouns in their email signatures. (A YouGov/American Compass survey of 3,000 workers found that “excessive engagement in politics is the number one obstacle to a robust American labor movement.” Among those who said they would vote against a union, the top reason cited was union political activity.)

“You see the head of the AFL-CIO tweeting about Roe v. Wade and packing the Supreme Court and at the Amazon warehouse in Alabama, they were putting up Stacey Abrams signs,” Oren Cass, the executive director of American Compass and author of The Once and Future Worker told me. ”But when you survey workers, which is what we did, what you find is that this is the thing that they most hate about unions.”

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