Blue Model Death Watch
Who Doesn’t Want to Move America Forward?

Most voters would rather have a president who focuses on “moving America forward” than a president who focuses on “protecting what has made America great.” Does this mean the GOP is doomed if it doesn’t change its ways? That’s the argument political analyst Charlie Cook makes in a recent National Journal column:

One thing that jumped out of [the latest NBC/WSJ poll] spells bad news for Re­pub­lic­ans—and it’s only bound to get worse. It boils down to the two Amer­icas we have now—how the dif­fer­ences in out­look are gen­er­a­tion­al and how Re­pub­lic­ans should worry about align­ing them­selves in ways that, over time, will in­creas­ingly put them at a dis­ad­vant­age. Nos­tal­gia is great in its place. But in polit­ics, get­ting caught up in the past is per­il­ous.

Look at the re­sponses of 828 re­gistered voters when they were asked, “in think­ing about the next pres­id­ent,” which of two state­ments came closer to their point of view. The first choice: “It is time to have a pres­id­ent who will fo­cus on pro­gress and help move Amer­ica for­ward.” Or: “This is a time to have a pres­id­ent who will fo­cus on pro­tect­ing what has made Amer­ica great.” I must con­fess that the word­ing both­ers me a bit, be­cause people can define “pro­gress” and “move Amer­ica for­ward” in dif­fer­ent ways. Not sur­pris­ingly, 60 per­cent of the re­spond­ents pre­ferred to “fo­cus on pro­gress and help move Amer­ica for­ward”; just 38 per­cent chose “pro­tect­ing what has made Amer­ica great.” […]

Re­pub­lic­ans, in oth­er words, risk isol­at­ing them­selves from young­er voters and in­de­pend­ents, in par­tic­u­lar, if they’re seen as cling­ing to the past.

But which party is more guilty of “clinging to the past?” Perhaps because the Democrats have energetically deployed phrases like “making progress”, and “being the right side of history”, and perhaps because issues like immigration and same-sex marriage have taken center stage in the last few elections, Cook seems automatically to associate Republicans with a politics based on the past. But as we have always emphasized on this blog, it’s not nearly that simple.

One of the major issues of our political moment is the ongoing collapse of what we call the mid-20th century blue social model. Thanks to globalization, new technologies, and demographic changes, this model is on its way out, and a more entrepreneurial, competitive, and unpredictable system is taking its place. And on many issues related to the decline of the blue model—propping up public sector unions, for example, or stifling the sharing economy—it is actually Democrats who are more likely be caught up in outdated approaches.

That’s not to say Republicans have a fully formed economic program for addressing the decline of the blue model, or that they are doing a good job pitching a forward-looking agenda to voters. Redsters who just focus on cutting programs and government functions don’t have a holistic policy vision. But they have at least made some promising noises (like Marco Rubio’s speech in New York yesterday about the “on-demand” economy), while the Democrats’ economic agenda often amounts to doubling down on the 1950s economic model at all costs. So its not at all clear which party is stuck in the past.

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