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Grand New Party Recycles Old (But Good!) VDARE.COM Ideas
Peter Brimelow writes: I know some readers get annoyed, but I was going to block off VDARE.COM's home page again tonight with a new fundraising appeal. After a few hopeful days, our current campaign has once again stalled. And nothing else seems to work.But then I got this piece from Steve Sailer, which is a case study in the influence of VDARE.COM writers. Steve, in his serene way, doesn't seem to mind that the authors of the book he reviews have ripped him off. He thinks it's all for the good of the cause, and he's right. But to do the pioneering work that causes the MSM to steal their ideas, our writers need to be paid. Please give generously.
Two young Atlantic Magazine editors, both fairly conservative, Ross Douthat (email him), and Reihan Salam (email him), have written a much-discussed book, Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream. They argue, sensibly, that the Republican Party should focus on policies that strengthen families, financially and morally.
"The American dream is ultimately a dream of home, of a place to call your own, earned and not inherited, and free from the petty tyranny of landlords, bureaucrats, and bankers. It's a dream of a country in which ownership is available to everyone, provided that they are willing to work for it, rather than being handed out on the basis of wealth or caste, brains or beauty."
Less poetically, they want the traditional high wage, cheap land America that Ben Franklin endorsed in his 1751 essay showing that "When Families can be easily supported, more Persons marry, and earlier in Life."
Of course, Republicans have been winning the family vote recently. In 2004, George W. Bush carried 25 of the top 26 states grouped in terms of white "total fertility rate" (number of babies per woman per lifetime), while John Kerry was victorious in the bottom 16.
But Republicans haven't actually delivered much to deserve the family vote, other than some good judicial nominees. What has the Bush Administration's policy, now endorsed by John McCain, of Invade the World/ Invite the World/ In Hock to the World done to build the human capital of average American families?
Douthat and Salam argue that the GOP's commitment to tax-cutting has hit electoral diminishing returns. It's no longer 1980, when the "animal spirits" of businessmen desperately needed to be jumpstarted by cuts in marginal tax rates.
Instead, they offer a long list of creative, if wonkish, reforms that Republican politicians might consider.
"But making credentialing dependent on four years of college sets the barriers to entry so high that it limits competition and shuts out ambitious Americans who lack the time and money to acquire a four-year degree."
And, let's be frank, it's not just time and money. Plenty of Americans are smart enough to earn a decent living at a job for which they've been well-trained who aren't ever going to be smart enough to fulfill, say, Cardinal Newman's vision of what a well-rounded university-educated gentleman should know: hence today's enormous college dropout rate.
Ross and Reihan continue:
"A far fairer system would assign credentials on the basis of examinations, either national or state-level, that evaluate students on the basis of the actual skills they'll need to do their jobs well."
A benefit they don't mention: this would reduce the amount of time Americans at impressionable ages are exposed to leftist indoctrination on college campuses.
In general, the youthful authors aren't cynical enough to note that policies don't endure just on their merits—they have to grow their own constituencies.
As a mirror image of Democratic immigration policy, Republicans should focus on programs that raise the marriage and birth rates among Republicans. As Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg noted, in 2004 when all else was held equal, being single made a voter 56 percent more likely to vote Democratic.
For example, Randall Parker has long emphasized the importance of getting competent people through the education system and into the workforce faster. "Turn kids into taxpayers sooner", Parker trenchantly suggests.
The partisan benefit to Republicans is that this gives their kind of people more years to get married and have more children.
Stop handing young people over to educrats to be indoctrinated in the assumptions of the Democratic Party for an ever-increasing numbers of years.
When Grand New Party arrived in the mail, I opened it at random to page 160 and read:
"What's happening isn't that second-generation immigrants are assimilating to American norms; rather, a portion of the immigrant population, frustrated with stagnating wages and an economy that's less favorable to high-school graduates than fifty years ago, ends up dropping out of the system and assimilating downward, toward the behaviors associated with the poorest native-born whites and blacks".
"Excellent point!" I thought. "I couldn't have put it better if I said so myself. Come to think of it, I have been saying that in VDARE.com since 2000".
On the next page, I read:
"But we might start to look more and more like Great Britain, where the working class is exposed to the same pressures as their cousins in the United States, but with darker consequences. The process of family breakdown, in particular, is far more advanced in Great Britain than it is here: The illegitimacy rate is 41 percent in England and Wales, and it's 46 percent among native-born women; England's heavily Asian foreign-born population actually brings the rate of out-of-wedlock births down.
"How true", I nodded.
"Hey, wait a minute", I exclaimed a moment later. "I did say so myself! This is a summary of one of my VDARE.com articles".
In my April 10, 2005 VDARE.com column How Much Ruin in a Nation? UK vs. US White Working Class, I wrote:
"Crime's sister, illegitimacy, is also high in Britain. In England and Wales 41 percent of new babies are born to unmarried women. And it's even worse —46 percent … among women born in the U.K. (The high illegitimacy rate for Caribbean immigrant women is more than balanced by the very low figures for South Asians.)"
Ross and Reihan go on:
"The epidemic of fatherlessness goes a long way toward explaining why the crime rate in Britain resembles the dark days of crack-epidemic America: There are more murders in today's United States, largely because we have more guns, but the crime rate as a whole is some 40 percent higher in the United Kingdom …
My 2005 article had begun:
"Why have the morals of the white working class in the U.S. proven more resilient than those of their white counterparts in Great Britain? Last week, I discussed the high crime rate in the United Kingdom—by one estimate about 40 percent worse than in the U.S. … While the rate of assault has been higher in England than America, angry Americans are more lethal because of our hundreds of millions of guns."
Similarly, in their Introduction, Douthat and Salam offer this majestically Brimelovian formulation:
"If the Left sometimes seems to want to turn the United States into Europe by swaddling working-class voters in a cradle-to-the-grave welfare state, the Bush-era GOP's mix of neglect and crony capitalism too often appeared bent on pushing the United States toward Latin America—where the rich are rich, and the poor are poor, and there's no independent, self-sufficient working class in between."
And there are many other such examples of the VDARE.com Touch throughout the book.
For instance, Douthat and Salam are relatively sound on immigration. In their subchapter "The Trouble with Immigration", they note:
"… mass immigration threatens to pull the working class downward. … The college educated have reaped the benefits of a steep decrease in the price of labor-intensive services, while low-skilled Americans, exposed to increasingly stiff competition, have seen their earnings stagnate and even dwindle. African Americans, in particular, have suffered as immigration has risen: A recent study suggests that immigration accounts for roughly a third of the overall decline in the black employment rate over the last forty years."
Unfortunately, Grand New Party has no footnotes or endnotes. That's reasonable these days, because notes belong online, with live links to source materials.
Yet the book's notes don't appear to be on the web either. No VDARE.com writers are mentioned in the book's index. But regular readers of this website will have no trouble identifying every few pages in Grand New Party ideas that first surfaced on VDARE.com.
This isn't plagiarism, of course—it's influence.
Grand New Party is pervasively influenced by VDARE.com.
Indeed, the VDARE.com effect is largely what makes Grand New Party much more sophisticated than other recent political books.
That's one of VDARE.com's roles—to serve as the Research & Development lab where important ideas can be frankly, and thus fully, discussed.
Other writers can then try to make them more palatable for the world of Political Correctness.
But there's an inevitable downside of adapting your writing to accommodate the taboos of the age, though. It's that even when you start from a point of clarity, your thinking gets murkier the more you try to conform to mainstream media norms.
Consider the book's emphasis on class and voting.
When thinking about who votes for whom, allegedly the subject of Grand New Party, the single most important factor is one that gets little mention in the book: race.
By the final 2008 Democratic primaries, for instance, Barack Obama was defeating Hillary Clinton 90 percent to 10 percent among blacks, purely due to race. On class issues, Hillary's campaign was aimed slightly more toward the median black voter's class than was Obama's. Yet blacks didn't care. Racial solidarity ruled.
Race is fundamental in elections—because people tend to vote like their relatives.
Fortunately, Ross and Reihan do a good job of avoiding writing about it unintelligently, and even say some brave things. Still, the book is vaguer than it had to be because of the authors' perceived need to avoid talking too much about ethnicity—the building block of American politics.
Class, on the other hand, has Karl Marx's imprimatur. So, by definition, it's okay to talk about it in polite society.
Yet, a century and a half after Marx, class remains a hazy subject, lacking in insightful definition. If race is who your ancestors were, then perhaps class could be usefully thought of as who your descendents might be, whom your children are likely to marry.
I'm amused by how people will tell me with great confidence that Race Does Not Exist because nobody can allocate every individual into a precise category. "What race is Barack Obama?" they'll ask with a presumption of intellectual triumph in their voices.
What class did Obama grow up in?
I know his life story well, but I couldn't give you a definitive answer. I doubt if Obama could, either. And, yet, nobody claims that Class Does Not Exist.
Similarly, although the subtitle of Grand New Party indicates the book is about "the working class", I remain unsure whom exactly the authors consider "working class". At one point, they refer to "America's working class, our democracy's natural political majority" which seems awfully expansive. America has usually proudly claimed for itself the title of "a middle class country."
More Americans describe themselves as "middle class" than "working class," but many Americans would use both terms to describe themselves. In a recent Pew poll that didn't even bother to offer the response "working class", a full 91 percent of the public self-identified as some form of middle class (19 percent upper middle class, 53 percent middle class, and 19 percent lower middle class).
Douthat and Salam explicitly state that their definition of working class extends beyond blue-collar workers to many office employees. That's reasonable, but makes drawing the occupational line iffy.
At other times they define working class as "not a college graduate". Does that make the famous dropouts Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Michael Dell (Dell), and Larry Ellison (Oracle) working class?
Finally, where does race fit in to their definition of "working class" for the purpose of targeting by the GOP?
My impression is that Douthat and Salam are writing primarily about whites, with some nods toward Hispanics, but, being electorally numerate, are largely ignoring blacks, who, for racialist reasons, aren't going to vote Republican no matter how perfectly the GOP crafts policy proposals to meet their class's needs.
None of this is to say that class isn't a reality. But the book's discussion is more ambiguous than it would be if they'd laid all their cards on the table.
But, hey, that's what VDARE.com is for.
Let me propose a way to segment the electorate that can provide a more useful conceptual basis for Ross and Reihan's thinking than the increasingly outmoded term "working class".
The Democrats are the natural party for two kinds of people—those with more money than children (e.g. childless urban professionals); and those with more children than money (e.g., welfare mothers). The former can afford to insulate their limited number of loved ones from cultural decay, while the latter need the handouts.
The Republicans, in contrast, ought to be the natural party for those in the middle, with about enough money for the number of children they have. As Ross and Reihan aptly point out, drawing upon my essays on Affordable Family Formation:
"Given the impact of familial dissolution on the working class's prospects, the oft-heard [liberal] talking point that social conservatism represents an attempt to distract working-class voters from their 'real' concerns dramatically misses the point. Indeed, social conservatism, with its emphasis on stable, traditional families, is a perfectly rational response to the economic consequences of atomization."
People with roughly enough money to raise their families don't need or want a Swedish welfare state.
Yet, because they have kids, they don't like excessive risk, either. In particular, the American health care finance system, in which health insurance is tied to jobs, strikes many parents as a needlessly worrisome double-or-nothing bet.
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