One of the leading figures in the post-Trump realignment of the GOP has been Oren Cass, whose book The Once and Future Worker was an attempt to rethink America’s labor structure for the 21st century, and cast a skeptical eye toward free-trade liberalism that has hurt the middle class. This week, his new organization launches, American Compass, which will put institutional structure behind some of these discussions. We caught up with Cass and asked him a few questions about how to think about right-of-center economic policy and some of his goals. These remarks have been slightly edited for clarity and succinctness. …
AB: Of course, there are also a lot of bets against you. When Donald Trump leaves office, either in 2021 or 2025, a lot of people in Washington expect, and perhaps even hope, that conservative politics will return to its previous melange of casino capitalism and permanent war. It isn’t obvious to me that this “national conservative” moment or whatever you want to call it is more than a flash in the pan yet. Tell us why that’s wrong.
OC: Well, what you’ve described is exactly the impetus for American Compass. If you look out across the right-of-center at individuals, you see this incredible intellectual energy and creativity and eagerness to return to first principles and formulate a conservatism that is responsive to the challenges of a modern economy. And then you adjust the setting on your binoculars so that you’re looking at institutions, and it all disappears. Within just about every institution, from Heritage and AEI to the Wall Street Journal and National Review to name your Senate office or agency, you find people excited by the idea that conservatism means more than just tax cuts, and in fact doesn’t really have anything to do with tax cuts. But the institutions themselves are, by and large, creatures of inertia.