New York Magazine on Oren Cass’s quest to make Republicans heed the interests of their working-class base.


In late June, dozens of conservatives gathered on Capitol Hill for a forum on the failings of American capitalism. The event’s aesthetics were stereotypically Republican. There were the buttoned-up, apple-cheeked postgrads who’ve been staffing GOP Senate offices from time immemorial — the kind of young people whose bow ties tell you they have strong feelings about tax policy, birth rates, and Robert Bork. There were gray-haired Republican donors in dark blazers and prim dresses and a wide assortment of predominantly white middle-aged wonks, all mingling beneath the marble columns and chandeliers of the Russell Senate Office Building’s Kennedy Caucus Room.

While the forum’s crowd wouldn’t have looked out of place at a 1980s country club, its speakers’ words would have sounded alien to Republicans of that era. This was not an accident. American Compass, the think tank that had organized the gathering, aims to rip the GOP from Reaganism’s cold, dead hands.

“Capitalism is not working the way that it should,” declared the organization’s founder, Oren Cass, a policy nerd out of central casting, bespectacled and short with salt-and-pepper hair and a slightly nasal voice. “We don’t have the correct alignment between things that generate a lot of profit and things that are good for people,” he continued, explaining that only the government could bring the corporate sector and common good into harmony by channeling investment toward national priorities and income toward the working-class.

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