Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Key Person: From Grand Old Party to Grand New Party?

Sam’s Club Republican

Title: Various
Education: Various
United States

(Photo: “Sam’s Club Politics”; In These Times; May 30, 2008)


In this post, the person of focus is not a single individual. However, they are suitable to what is mentioned in the first post of this category, “This corner talks about specific person who advocates important agendas in international affairs, regardless of fame, power, popularity, and social status.” In a previous post, I have quoted a comment by Mara Liasson, saying that Senator John McCain’s presidential candidacy is due to the shift of Republican political base from Country Club Republicans to Sam’s Club Republicans. In other words, Republicans have begun to drawing attention from young and working class voters, through emphasizing social conservative values and active governmental involvement in social welfare.

Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota, is the first Republican to expand political power base beyond traditional sphere. Matthew Continetti, Associate Editor at the Weekly Standard, explores changes toward increasingly grassroots-oriented Republican Party (“Tooting the Horn of Pawlenty: Meet the first Sam's Club Republican”, Weekly Standard; May 7, 2007).

Continetti points out that younger generation between 18 to 29 years old are disillusioned with Bush Republicanism. In addition, he says that successful Republican governors these days――such as Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts――adopt conservatism à la carte policies. While emphasizing some conservative ideals like lower taxes, they are flexible to mix some “liberal” measures. Their policies combine social conservatism with active governmental assistance to working class.

In 2006 election, Democrats won the majority because younger voters were annoyed with Country Club Republicans and chose Democrat candidates. The Republican Party regards this serious blow for the future, because the youth can continue to support the Democrat. In such a political climate, did Pawlenty’s slogan of “The Party of Sam’s Club” emerge.

Continetti concludes his article as the following.

Few people would deny that Tim Pawlenty is a man of the right. The problem is that it's becoming harder and harder to determine who or what is a "man of the right." The top three Republican presidential candidates--Giuliani, McCain, and Romney--all disagree with aspects of the movement-conservative agenda. Outside the South, successful Republican politicians have felt the need to move left in order to remain competitive. For all but diehard activists, the borders of conservatism are in flux. It's reasonable to assume that someday soon, after a haphazard and acrimonious process, those borders will be worked out. The question is just how much of what we think of as "conservatism" will be left.

Prior to this article, Ross Douthat, Associate Editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and Reihan Salem, freelance writer, present dedicated analyses of Sam’s Club voters (“The party of Sam’s Club”; Weekly Standard; November 14, 2005). They point out that the Bush administration’s enterprise-oriented socio-economic policies such as Social Security privatization. However, both authors argue that the majority of Republican supporters, consisted of social conservatives and pro-government conservatives are critical to big business, and they advocate governmental intervention to help families from the global economy.

In view of socio-economic changes, the Republican is transforming from a male corporate party to a female family party. In conclusion, Douthat and Salem make the following recommendation.

So today's Republican party should be in favor of helping recent immigrants get ahead and slowing the flow of illegal labor--in favor of providing a helping hand to the hard working poor and cutting subsidies to the idle and shiftless--in favor of a tax policy that favors the working class and the productive rich. Above all, it should be in favor of limited government, and in favor of using government's considerable power to shore up the institution that makes a limited government possible--the beleaguered but resilient American family.

Since then, Ross Douthat has contributed a post-scrip of this article (“The party of Sam’s Club”; Atlantic Monthly; May 8, 2008). He says that Senator John McCain and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee drew more votes than Congressman Ron Paul at the primary, because the GOP is changing from a country club party to a working class party. Many of them are skilled workers, and more affluent than the middle class such as teachers, journalists, and academics. They do not believe in a high tax welfare state, but advocate governmental assistance to maintain a family value society. They criticize corporate libertarianism like free trade.

In order to defeat Democrats relying on mass upper class and the poor, Douthat suggests that Republicans need to win some mass upper class votes along with working class. Therefore, the GOP must retain pro-Bush voters while drawing Sam’s Club supporters. This will be a key to McCain’s nomination of his running mate.

Adam Doster, Senior Editor at In These Times, applauds Douthat and Salem because their working class conservatism hits Democrat’s lack of moral value. However, Doster points out that Douthat and Salem fail to present insightful analyses on socio-economic inequality under the Bush administration. Adam Doster says that John McCain needs to address real working class conservatism (“Sam’s Club Politics”; In These Times; May 30, 2008).

Sam’s Club Republicans will play a critical role in the presidential election this year. The media focus on Iraq, the War on Terror, and the Subprime mortgage. But grassroots movements are no less important in this election. Will the Grand New Party stimulate political dynamism of America?