Monday, November 1, 2010

What the Working Class Wants

In a powerful article on the failures of Obamism Henry Olsen lists the seven cultural indices of the white working class.

  • Hope for the future
  • Fear of the present
  • Pride in their lives
  • Anger at being disrespected
  • Belief in public order
  • Patriotism
  • Fear of rapid change

Looking at that list, conservatives can say that we align automatically on most of them, but on two we have a problem: Fear of the Present and Fear of Rapid Change. For it is on those two items that the working class clings to the government welfare state. And it is there, it seems to me, that conservatives can and should work to prove to the working class that a non-government welfare state will help them and give them a better life: opportunity as well as security.

Let us bring this down to earth. If conservatives want to reform Social Security we must erect institutions that demonstrate to the working class that their savings won't be at the mercy of Wall Street. If we want to reform health care we must demonstrate to their satisfaction that the new system really will be safe and secure for them: that they won't be chucked into a second-rate nursing home for the last years of their lives. If we want to reform education then we have to persuade the working class that they will be able to afford a privatized system, one that values hands-on work as well as academic work.

Conservatives have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to develop a governing philosophy that converts our limited-government notions into practical ideas that communicate to the working class and also deliver for them.

It is not an accident, of course, that Sarah Palin almost seems to have been sent from central-casting to be the leader that can connect between conservatives and the working class. But you could say the same of Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) or even Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN).

Meanwhile I am still holding out for an 80-seat Republican pickup in the House of Representatives tomorrow.

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