Let's face it-America looks like it's a one-party politcial system today. Even in little ol' Vermont, the Democrats are ruling the roost; the Republicans have been fading away here, like the ephemeral fog of autumn, since the 1950s.
The recent Democrat-led veto of Gov. Jim Douglas' own state budget veto-for good or bad-shows that the GOP (Grand Old Party) is a party that has fallen from a '50s pinnacle to a 2009 nadir. Someday, perhaps, the danger of one-party rule will sink in with Green Mountain State voters and beyond, but for now there's lots of work to be done by Vermont's-and America's-faltering party, the Republicans.
Now, two of the GOP's most controversial young thinkers-New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and the Atlantic Monthly's Reihan Salam-have presented a workable plan to save the future of the Republican Party.
On the heels of U.S. Sen. John McCain's failed presidential campaign comes a revised edition of the duo's 2008 book, titled "Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream".
This new edition-with a seering analysis of the 2008 campaign-was just published last week by Anchor Books. But enough hand wringing and self flagellation-the new edition offers serious ways the GOP can return to glory and even clinch the elections of 2010 and 2012.
Arguing that it's time to move past the party's fixation on Reagan, Douthat and Salam present a provocative challenge to the Republican leadership on both national and state levels.
Based on their Weekly Standard article that caused a sensation when published (Rush Limbaugh blasted the authors as being evil RINOS, Republicans In Name Only), the authors call upon Republicans to win the loyalty of working-class voters in an effort to solidify not only an election-winning majority, but a party based on policy-not identity.
The authors claim the following:
For 40 years, the working class has shifted its allegiance back and forth between the Republicans and the Democrats without being served by either. Democrats' cultural liberalism on issues-from crime to marriage-has undermined the social foundations of working-class prosperity, while the Republicans' small-government, tax-cutting philosophy has threatened programs the working class holds sacred.
To break this deadlock, Douthat and Salam propose a limited-but not passive-government, a la 1900s Republican President Teddy Roosevelt. The authors long for a government that defends the free market but also promotes the factors that make free-market capitalism possible: cultural solidarity, social mobility, and the two-parent family.
With proposals on all of the hot-button topics, Social Security, taxes, immigration, inequality, health care, the environment, and social policy, this blueprint throws down a gauntlet for Republicans: deal with the problems of the working class or be doomed to more electoral defeats.
Douthat and Salam offer the following recommendations:
•A PRO-FAMILY TAX REFORM that simplifies the tax code dramatically: 1.) reduce taxes on investment 2.) do away with the majority of itemized deductions, and 3.) massively expand the tax credit for children, from the current $1,000 to $5,000 per child, treating children as an investment, not a form of consumption.
•A GUARANTEE THAT NOBODY WILL BE AT ECONOMIC RISK DUE TO NECESSARY MEDICAL EXPENSES, through incremental, or dramatic reforms. The federal government would help cover the most expensive patients (taking advantage of the fact that 4/5 of all medical expenditure comes from 1/5 of the patients), coming to the aid of smallbusinesses and companies like G.M. that are crippled by health-care costs for workers and foreign competition that set up shop in so-called right-to-work states.
•SUPPORT FOR WORKING PARENTS, with measures that would allow either parent to provide child care full-time for several years before returning to the workforce: 1.) subsidies to parents who care for children at home, and 2.) pension credits that reflect the economic value of years in "household labor" or tuition credits for postgraduate or vocational education.
•ENERGY INDEPENDENCE AND GLOBAL WARMING, enterting the debate too-long ceded to liberals, Douthat and Salam propose an environmentalism that is pro-growth and pro-jobs instead of Democratic punitive measures such as cap-and-trade: A new agency dedicated to fund alternative-energy research, and subsidies to help farmers turn biomass into charcoal a process which removes carbon from the atmosphere and which could replace every source for electricity, with enough left over to power Canada. Homegrown nuclear power-which generates zero greenhouse gases and, in ration, a small amount of waste compared to coal-should be a viable "green" option.
•AN IMMIGRATION COMPROMISE that splits the difference between the anti-immigration hawks and the advocates of open borders: earned legalization programs balanced by increased spending for border control and serious sanctions for employers who hire undocumented workers.
•SCHOOL CHOICE FOR EVERYONE with a public school system that applies the success of charter schools: incentives for schools to differentiate themselves through exceptional programs, principals highly attuned to the needs of their students, transparent spending at a local level, and a weighted system to draw support to the poorest students, not the most privileged.
•THE CURRENT HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY, a relentless drive to shift costs onto individuals and minimize competition through network restrictions, makes it impossible to find the best care, or even discern whether your money is being wasted.
Whether the GOP blueprint presented Douthat and Salam would fracture the party if adopted is not known, but the GOP of 2008 will not resemble the GOP of 2012.
Douthat and Salam proclaim that the conservative revolution has failed and something needs to be done now to save the two-party system, and the rest of America, from decending ever deeper into statism.
Only time will tell if statism becomes the norm-where the only political expression is altruism or collectivism and where a person's life and work belong to Washington, D.C.