The post A Modest Proposal For Republicans: Use The Word “Class”, by Scott Alexander, about how the GOP can reclaim its identity by focusing on class, went viral.
This is an excellent post that raises a lot of of good points, although I think , like most political proposals aimed at the right, it puts too much faith in issues and policy. With the exception of foreign policy, deregulation, gun rights, and low taxes, the GOP has never really been about issues, but rather more about sentiment. The GOP stands not for change, but in its unified opposition to the left, whatever that is. This means for the GOP to reform itself or ‘reclaim its identify’ as Scott puts it, requires not a change in policy, but rather something more superficial such as a new slogan.
I hear you’re having a post-Trump identity crisis. Your old platform of capitalism and liberty and whatever no longer excites people. Trump managed to excite people, but you don’t know how to turn his personal appeal into a new platform. Most of what he said was offensive, blatantly false, or alienated more people than it won; absent his personal magic it seems like a losing combination. You seem to have picked up a few minority voters here and there, but you’re not sure why, and you don’t know how to build on this success.
I think this is wrong on two counts: there is little evidence to suggest that ‘capitalism and liberty’ no longer excites anyone. Popular, mainstream conservative personalities such as Ben Shapiro and Charlie Kirk continue to attract large audiences espousing tired GOP talking points praising ‘free market capitalism’ and opposing pollical correctness and ‘cancel culture’. Nothing has really changed between now and 10 years ago, except cancel culture and SJWs becoming a ‘thing’. Second, how could Trump’s positions have ‘alienated more people than it won’ if his turnout was over 10 million more voters in 2020 than in 2016? Evidently he did something right or found a more receptive audience to his message, to get such a huge boost in turnout compared to 2016.
I hate you and you hate me. But maybe I would hate you less if you didn’t suck. Also, the more confused you are, the more you flail around sabotaging everything. All else being equal, I’d rather you have a coherent interesting message, and make Democrats shape up to compete with you.
Scott has gotten way more hate from NYTs-types from the far-left, than from Trump supporters. It has generally been moderates, centrist-liberals, the center-left, free-speech liberals, and conservatives who sided with Scott during the NYTs attempted doxing incident.
Yeah, yeah, “class” sounds Marxist, class warfare and all that, you’re supposed to be against that kind of thing, right? Wrong. Economic class warfare is Marxist, but here in the US class isn’t a purely economic concept. Class is also about culture. You’re already doing class warfare, you’re just doing it blindly and confusedly. Instead, do it openly, while using the words “class” and “classism”.
To nitpick a bit, not that it detracts from the overall message, but I believe Marxists seek a classless society. Class is more than money, but about values and social status, as many have noted. Someone who writes for the NYTs is of a higher social class than someone who is a contractor, even if the contractor makes more money.
Trump stood against the upper class. He might define them as: people who live in nice apartments in Manhattan or SF or DC and laugh under their breath if anybody comes from Akron or Tampa. Who eat Thai food and Ethiopian food and anything fusion, think they would gain 200 lbs if they ever stepped in a McDonalds, and won’t even speak the name Chick-Fil-A. Who usually go to Ivy League colleges, though Amherst or Berkeley is acceptable if absolutely necessary. Who conspicuously love Broadway (especially Hamilton), LGBT, education, “expertise”, mass transit, and foreign anything. They conspicuously hate NASCAR, wrestling, football, “fast food”, SUVs, FOX, guns, the South, evangelicals, and reality TV. Who would never get married before age 25 and have cutesy pins about how cats are better than children. Who get jobs in journalism, academia, government, consulting, or anything else with no time-card where you never have to use your hands. Who all have exactly the same political and aesthetic opinions on everything, and think the noblest and most important task imaginable is to gatekeep information in ways that force everyone else to share those opinions too.
This architype that Scott describes is describes goes back decades. George W. Bush played to the NASCAR demographic, as did Trump and McCain, although Romney’s attempt at ingratiating himself with blue collar voters came across as forced, awkward, and inauthentic. The GOP, as far back as Nixon, has always conveyed a sort of anti-establishment form of anti-intellectualism and paranoia or antipathy of educated elites, to appeal to working-class voters, yet is very much a part of the establishment, or, as the War in Iraq showed, is the establishment, nor is the GOP particularly anti-intellectual in terms of hiring some of the most credentialed people for its positions.
There is also little evidence to suggest Trump’s implicit appeal to working-class values changed the make up of his turnout. Although Trump got 10 million more votes in 2020 than in 2016, the demographic and socioeconomic patterns of voters was similar to that of Bush, Romney, McCain, with poor people generally favoring democrats by a large margin and the upper-middle class being split evenly.
Scott’s post is sorta contradictory. He begins by saying that the GOP has an identity crisis and blames Trump, yet Trump won in 2016 and got an even larger turnout in 2020, possibly by appealing to the very working-class, anti-intellectual values that Scott proposes. So all the GOP needs to do is push candidates that will copy the same sort of rhetoric and style as Trump. Scott wants Trump to openly talk about class and use the word ‘classism.’ but Trump’s signaling and rhetoric is obvious enough to be effective.
1. War On College: As it currently exists, college is a scheme for laundering and perpetuating class advantage. You need to make the case that bogus degree requirements (eg someone without a college degree can’t be a sales manager at X big company, but somebody with any degree, even Art History or Literature, can) are blatantly classist. Your stretch goal should be to ban discrimination based on college degree status. Professions may continue to accept professional school degrees (eg hospitals can continue to require doctors have a medical school degree), and any company may test their employees’ knowledge (eg mining companies can make their geologists pass a geology test) but the thing where you have to get into a good college, give them $100,000, flatter your professors a bit, and end up with a History degree before you can be a firefighter or whatever is illegal. If you can’t actually make degree discrimination illegal, just make all government offices and companies that do business with the government ban degree discrimination.
I agree with his “war on college” proposal of prohibiting discrimination based on degrees, but the likelihood of that ever happening is about zero. In spite of college grads tending to vote democratic, 45% of white, college-educated voters supported Trump over Biden. The 2024 Republican nominee will need all the support he can get, and alienating this large bloc of white, educated voters is possibly a bad idea. I don’t think STEM, history, business, etc. majors want to be lumped in with the departments that exist as a conduit of woke propaganda.
If I had to say, the most effective and feasible approach for the Republican Party and the presumptive 2024 nominee, is to keep attacking and sowing doubt about the credibility of the mainstream media, such as the repetitive but effective moniker of ‘fake news.’ This is effective for many reason: the utterance of ‘fake news’ alone drives a wedge that is implicitly understood between coastal, elite types and everyone else, without having to elaborate. Second, there are vastly more Republican voters with colleges degrees than who work in the media, so there is no risk of alienating millions of potential voters by attacking the credibility of the mainstream media. It does not require that the GOP change its policy or approach to economics issues, or any issue for that matter, as it is just rhetoric.. Third, trust in the mainstream media, even by liberals and moderates, is already low. When the NYTs attempted to dox Scott, and in the subsequent story that followed, very few readers sided with the NYTs even among liberals, judging by online sentiment. Trump tweeting about fake news would always get an overwhelmingly favorable, enthusiastic response by his supporters, second only to Trump tweeting about ‘law and order’.