Joel Kotkin, a California Democrat, Looks at the GOP

Joel Kotkin, a Democratic researcher, has been in the forefront of detailing the struggle of the middle class and has even been outspoken about his own party's role in increasing the divide between rich and poor. Many of his ideas actually would appeal more to Republicans and independents than his own party and he has been critical of what he calls the Left Oligarchies who have rigged the system in their favor like Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of Silicon Valley. Kotkin recently noted a conversation with a young Republican senator that the biggest conflict within the Republican Party is between the donor class and the grassroots Republicans. I sometime view this as a little too simple since the GOP donor class is as divided on many issues as the Koch Brothers differ from Paul Singer on foreign affairs; and Foster Friess, a major donor, is a supporter of conservatives on social issues and has been sympathetic to blue collar Republicans, whereas other major donors are more liberal on social issues.

There are similarities between the donor class, and one area is tax policies as they are looking for growth oriented policies, but for many in the middle class, it is not tax cutting that drives their agenda but a more broad base policies that will increase their own income. They are not as enthusiastic about lower tax rates for the wealthy if they are left holding the bag.

One should point out that for many grassroots and Donald Trump supporters, the Republican establishment is much broader since it not only includes the so call RINO division of the establishment but also includes those who have disagreed with Trump, including National Review (which actually agrees with much of Trump's position on immigration and senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru has written much about reaching out to the middle class.) Even Fox news, which is dominated by many populist voices like Lou Dobbs and Bill O’ Reilly, is now considered part of the establishment.

However there is fear of Donald Trump, much less about his point of view, but rather for his divisive presence who could doom us to four years of Hillary Clinton. Trump is the voice of Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan coming alive, putting together a coalition of center-right focused on the middle class. The majority of Trump supporters are working and middle class and while much of the media would love nothing more than dismiss these fools as antediluvian racists, they are the forgotten American. Many of these middle class who may be remnants of the old Reagan Democrats, and these voters are concerned about immigration since many of these voters view increase immigration not as boon but a threat to their own path to success.

Kotkin added, “Immigration, for many of them, is also an economic issue, as it creates more competition for jobs and, in some cases, as we have seen recently with the H-1B visa program, has been shamelessly used by companies to separate even educated Americans from their jobs…Nor is Silicon Valley, still heroic in the minds of some conservatives, necessarily seen as a boon by these Republicans. As left-leaning journalist Steven Hill has pointed out, the 'share economy,' promoted by the likes of Uber and Airbnb, also 'disrupts' the pattern of full-time employment once enjoyed by millions of Americans. These firms may proffer a 'techno-utopian future,' dominated by these 'disruptive' businesses, and enjoy strong ties to the Obama Democratic Party, but they are turning many workers into what Hill calls 'tumbleweeds adrift in the labor market.'

Trump has many failings including making a living as crony capitalist making his own deal with government and Democrat politicians and makes no apology for being very rich but part of his appeal lies with his own view of the political class which he is forever calling “stupid.” He has tapped into the fact that much of America no longer trusts government but this distrust goes to other institutions of the ruling class including corporations and Wall Street. Trump is appealing to independents and working class Democrats who understand the rules of the game no longer works for them and they are alienated and as Kotkin noted, “One has to go back to Reagan to find a Republican Party that could consistently position itself as populist. Reagan’s appeal was based on security and taxes; for today’s GOP, the issue should be – besides terrorism and rising crime – how to address the decline of the middle- and working-class economy.” In the past, Democrats appealed to the middle class with programs designed for the middle class including the G.I. Bill and had no problem with fighting a class warfare. Hillary Clinton campaign is now attempting to appeal to the Middle Class through welfare expansion geared strictly to the Middle Class but Hillary, like Obama, is building a base based less than class and more on race and identity politics. Many of this new coalition is built around millennials, minorities, single, the academic class as well wealthy tech executives and the Obama rejection of the Keystone pipeline and Obama war on fossil fuels is a dagger aimed at many blue collar Democrats. With coal mines closing due to EPA regulations, many blue collar who just two decades were voting for Bill Clinton are now abandoned by his wife.

Our data showed consistently that the average Americans agree that Keynesian economics no longer works for them as increased debt and deficits are ruining their fair chance to succeed. They prefer economic growth and job creation to dealing with inequality and even saving the planet by dealing with climate change. They don’t care what the planet temperature is if they are being asked to live in a society where there is no economic progress in the future. Kotkin views Trump's divisive and impulsive nature as obstacles in the general election and he sees Cruz as too conservative and unappealing to win, but he noted, “The fact that many of Trump’s supporters are attracted to the idea of a 'strong leader,' and less to his positions, offers some hope for the GOP. Trump’s following could shift to a more reasonable candidate, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Marco Rubio, if they are willing to break with the establishment corporatist view now clearly in eclipse…Indeed, as that young senator explained to me, Republicans can no longer hope to play, and win, the establishment game; the failure to date of the big-money-backed Jeb Bush campaign tells us this. The rich today are as likely to be Democratic as Republican. Climate-change-focused, socially liberal progressives increasingly dominate on Wall Street, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Big business would be very happy with Hillary Clinton, whose moves they can predict, as opposed to an upstart Republican.”

One can disagree with this assessment on whether Rubio will be the better candidate than either Trump or Cruz, but there is no doubt that the Republicans must review how they plan to attack the 2016 elections. For four decades, the Republicans have depended upon a coalition of social conservatives, national security hawks and supply siders, but this coalition that elected Reagan is now fraying and no longer the majority. The good news is that the left has abandoned the blue collar white voters and many within their minority base has more in common with the white blue collars. These minorities own their businesses and are moving into the middle class, but they are seeing their own doors being shut by the oligarchies that fund the Democratic left.


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