The Republican Identity Crisis After Trump

Oct 23, 2020

The last weekend in August, 2001, two weeks before the attacks of 9/11, President George W. Bush travelled with his wife, Laura, and an entourage of government officials to a steel mill outside Pittsburgh. He worked the tables at a picnic for members of the United Steelworkers union and their families. I was there as a reporter, and I recall standing just a few feet away from the President on that hot day, listening to him make small talk with the factory workers and watching the sweat soak through his checkered shirt. After the picnic, he ascended a temporary stage and gave a speech promising a “level playing field” for American steel. A few months later, he instituted a tariff on steel imports.

The Reversal scenario, though perhaps the least plausible, is the most threatening to the Democratic Party. The parties would essentially switch the roles they have had for the past century: the Republicans would replace the Democrats as the party of the people, the one with a greater emphasis on progressive economic policies for ordinary families. …

Reversalists oppose the Republican donor class. Several have abandoned donor-funded libertarian and neoconservative think tanks like Cato and the American Enterprise Institute, disillusioned with the Party’s indifference to the concerns of middle-class and working-class voters. Oren Cass, one of the leading Reversalists, has founded an organization called American Compass, which is trying to formulate policies that would appeal to members of the base of both parties. “What we’re talking about is actual conservatism,” he told me. “What we have called ‘conservatism’ just outsourced economic policy thinking away from conservatives to a small niche group of libertarians.”

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