Elements of the blue social model have been supported by members of both major parties at various times, but its most stubborn defenders today tend to come from the left. The inevitable decline of that model, then, should be a godsend for the Republican Party.Yet a new New York Times piece about divisions within Republican-controlled legislatures in the Midwest over right-to-work legislation suggests that the GOP is having trouble adjusting to post-blue America. Despite massive electoral gains in 2010, many state Republicans are hesitating to back these measures for fear of potential backlash from the unions and their supporters:
But in St. Paul, some Republican leaders have been more muted. Kurt Zellers, the House speaker, was quoted earlier this year by The Minneapolis Star Tribune as saying “there’s not a fever” in his caucus for an amendment on the right-to-work idea. And colleagues say that some moderate Republicans have, in private conversations, alluded to fears: Would a ballot referendum come November ignite the state’s strong Democratic base? And what might that mean for Republican dominance in the Legislature, where every seat is up for election this fall?
This timidity is more than a symptom of union bullying; it points to the larger problem that the Republican Party, especially in the Midwest, still hasn’t figured out how to turn voters’ urgent concerns about the blue model into a politically sustainable program for deep change. Rather than propose innovative new ideas toward a vision for the future, the Midwestern GOP is projecting a message about what they are against. Those who want to get beyond blue need to think more creatively about the next steps.Attacks on teacher unions and bad public schools would have gone nowhere without ideas like charter schools and vouchers. What concrete alternatives do Midwest GOPers propose to improve economic prospects for workers?Without some good answers, this agenda won’t fly outside states of a deep red hue.