Over the past five years, many on the right have called for the GOP to become a “workers’ party.” Almost all of these proposals have been tales told by demagogues, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
In 2016, Donald Trump often played the role of proletariat’s advocate. But once in the White House, the billionaire comported himself as a protector of plutocracy. The president has, among other things, showered shareholders in tax breaks, restored Wall Street’s God-given right to rip off its clients, and denied guaranteed overtime pay to 12.5 million workers, effectively transferring $1.2 billion from their paychecks to their bosses’ bank accounts.
Other purported proponents of working-class conservatism have proven similarly fraudulent. And while many socially conservative intellectuals will acknowledge the tension between Republican economic orthodoxy and their own communitarian ideals, the chasm between their stated ambition (to make it possible for working-class families to get by on a single breadwinner’s salary) and their proposed solutions (“Let them eat slightly more generous child tax credits”) casts doubt on their sincerity.
But Oren Cass is an exception. A former adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, Cass and his newly founded think tank American Compass have spent the Trump era trying to develop an agenda for a genuinely pro-worker conservative party. At the heart of Cass’s vision is a call for providing collective-bargaining rights to virtually all U.S. workers. On Labor Day, American Compass released a more modest proposal: a resolution calling on conservatives to adopt the general goal of reforming and reinvigorating “the laws that govern organizing and collective bargaining” because “strong worker representation can make America stronger.” Florida senator Marco Rubio and an array of conservative thinkers have signed on to this statement.