If you tuned in to the first Republican Party presidential debate of the 2024 cycle, you may have suffered ideological whiplash. The eight candidates onstage in Milwaukee—minus the far-and-away front-runner, Donald Trump—argued every which way over legal, economic, social, and foreign-policy questions. The party’s ideological and policy incoherence was on full display. Did Mike Pence do the right thing on January 6, 2021? Where should Republicans draw the line on abortion? Does military aid to Ukraine and Israel make America stronger? Is an indicted, and possibly convicted, Trump an electoral asset or a liability? There was no consensus.

This culture-war faction of the New Right is interested in restraining America abroad, restricting immigration, criticizing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and casting out the last vestiges of the Republican “establishment.” It’s eager to crack down on publicly funded universities, woke corporations, and Big Tech platforms.

But the culture-war faction has company. There is another group of New Right thinkers affiliated with the journal American Affairs and the think tank American Compass. These institutions are part of an effort to move the GOP toward greater state intervention in the economy. Readers of American Affairs will find paeans to the Chinese authoritarian model, discussions of industrial policy, and jeremiads against Wall Street. Socialists and postmodernists such as the German Marxist Wolfgang Streeck and the Slovenian charlatan Slavoj Zizek mingle with up-and-coming Trumpist thinkers. The publication has the feel of left-wing theoretical journals from the 20th century—dreary, turgid, and gray. It might be more influential if it weren’t so recondite.

American Compass is livelier. Its leader, the feisty Oren Cass, went from Bain & Company, Harvard Law, and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign to become the tribune of the working man. In his 2018 book, The Once and Future Worker, and more recently in the glossy publication Rebuilding American Capitalism: A Handbook for Conservative Policymakers, Cass urges conservatives to privilege politics over economics and pursue policies that, if all goes according to plan, will materially benefit the non-college-educated voters who have come to be the base of the GOP.

The emphasis that Cass puts on the value of work is laudable. Some of his proposals, such as opening non-college pathways to career development and lessening America’s dependence on China, are attractive. Others deserve close scrutiny. Put simply, why would voters worried about inflation react favorably to an economic nationalism that raises prices by increasing tariffs? Rebuilding American Capitalism calls for the elimination of the trade deficit but has little to say about the budget deficit. It would be a tragedy, for the working class most of all, if the GOP decides that the only stuff it wants to import are bad ideas from Europe and Asia.

Of the New Right groups, American Compass probably has the most pull inside the Beltway. It is not hard to see why. Cass offers a ready-made diagnosis of troubled communities, as well as a helpful menu of policy options, for ambitious Republicans eager to placate and someday inherit Donald Trump’s non-college-educated constituency. Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio is champing at the bit to claim Trump’s throne by harking back to the 1980s—combining Dick Gephardt’s industrial labor policy with Tom Harkin’s dovish foreign policy.

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