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Given the Republican party's many problems, the solution requires a mix of ingredients blended together in a manner that would do Julia Child proud. In Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam have concocted a recipe that they think can restore the GOP's legitimacy on domestic policy. Their approach combines some Republican chestnuts, like tax cuts and school vouchers, with some Democratic ideas, such as having the government subsidize health care above a certain level and detach health insurance from the workplace.


The authors, both editors at The Atlantic, make their case in a straightforward, if somewhat bland, manner that will limit the book's appeal to true political junkies. But what they lack in style, they make up for by the thoroughness and rigor of their work. They start out by giving a comprehensive historical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the domestic agendas of both parties since the New Deal. They also analyze the social trends in areas like crime and out-of-wedlock births. While they are clearly Republican sympathizers, this does not prevent them from being evenhanded in this section.

The authors use this history lesson to provide context for their policy proposals, which they view as the best way for the Republicans to win back the loyalty of the working class. These voters, most of whom have little or no college education, work in blue collar or lower-paying white collar jobs. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has called them "Sam's Club voters," a phrase the authors use frequently.

Douthat and Salam contend that these voters are up for grabs because "the GOP's emphasis on economic growth over economic security has made working-class life more unstable than it otherwise would have been."

Their remedies, some of which could just as easily emanate from the lips of centrist Democrats, range from spending more money to fund police to eliminating some of the tax cuts and incentives for the upper middle class and retargeting them more toward those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.

It is unclear how Republicans will react to these suggestions, especially since many in the party share the maxim of columnist Robert Novak that God put the GOP on earth for the main purpose of cutting everyone's taxes.

If the Republicans lose badly this November, however, a major overhaul of the party's approach to domestic policy will no doubt take place. The ideas outlined in Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win The Working Class And Save The American Dream should be important parts of the agenda.

Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream

By Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam Doubleday, $23.95, 244 pages

Claude R. Marx is the author of a chapter on media and politics in The Sixth-Year Itch, edited by Larry J. Sabato.
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Title Annotation:Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream
Author:Marx, Claude R.
Publication:Campaigns & Elections
Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 1, 2008
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