Conn Carroll on Grand New Party

I’ve said that Grand New Party is far from perfect, and one of the many respects in which it is flawed is that it is not always crystal-clear. Conn Carroll, a communications strategist at the Heritage Foundation and a tremendous smart, decent guy, does us a big favor by taking note of a 1977 CPAC speech in which Ronald Reagan lucidly explains a key theme of the book.

If there is any political viewpoint in this world which is free from slavish adherence to abstraction, it is American conservatism. …Conservatism is the antithesis of the kind of ideological fanaticism that has brought so much horror and destruction to the world. The common sense and common decency of ordinary men and women, working out their own lives in their own way—this is the heart of American conservatism today. Conservative wisdom and principles are derived from willingness to learn, not just from what is going on now, but from what has happened before. …

The New Republican Party I envision will not be, and cannot, be one limited to the country club-big business image that, for reasons both fair and unfair, it is burdened with today. The New Republican Party I am speaking about is going to have room for the man and the woman in the factories, for the farmer, for the cop on the beat and the millions of Americans who may never have thought of joining our party before, but whose interests coincide with those represented by principled Republicanism. If we are to attract more working men and women of this country, we will do so not by simply “making room” for them, but by making certain they have a say in what goes on in the party.

Outstanding. I’ve never read this before, and I’m very glad to be reading it now. But Carroll then pivots to the following criticisms.

Among other things R&R call for the hiring (I presume on a federal level) of hundreds of thousands of new police officers,

Nope. We’re basically advocating a COPS II program, as advocated by John J. Donohue III and Jens Ludwig, in which the feds would provide temporary grants to local police forces. The idea is that the returns from lower crime will allow cities and towns to fund the new cops out of their own revenue in the future. We don’t go into the revenue model, however, for reasons of brevity. Our intentions was to sketch out possible policy directions, which is why we offered policies that clash and contradict each other. The book is not meant to be roadmap, but rather a starting point.

funding for green collar jobs,

Actually, we advocate the Manzi approach to climate change.

high-tech infrastructure for the Great Plains.

The idea here is to channel ag subsidies in a direction that is more responsive to the needs of rural communities — decisions that should be made close to the relevant communities.

All of these initiatives unnecessarily grow the size of the federal government.

We certainly don’t imagine that any candidate or political party will advocate all of these steps regardless of economic circumstances or changing evidence.

Their embrace of the employer based system for delivering health care is also disappointing, as is their embrace of Medicaid ‘reform’ that “expands eligibility while cracking down on overspending.”

This is a little odd. We frankly take a very open stance on healthcare, and spend much of the section criticizing the employer-based system. We do, however, offer both incremental and radical strategies for reform. The incremental strategies aren’t our preferred strategies — they are meant to shave costs and reduce the number of the uninsured in the short term.

In their Atlantic interview Reihan also says they are looking to “reframe American social model to make it more flexible and responsive” to a disruptive modern forces that “undermine the well being of American families.” Instead of expanding government to meet this goal, the GOP needs to do a better job of explaining how removing certain policies could help the working class. R&R identify some candidates for the chopping block including zoning laws, FICA taxes, and direct funding for four year colleges (R&R would rather see the cash go to students).

This is all consonant with GNP. We did not emphasize deregulation in the book because conservatives are already convinced of the wisdom of deregulation.

But the GOP needs to go further, and for all John McCain’s faults, his health care plan is an excellent step in this direction (the actual plan, not McCain’s skill at explaining it).

We’ve both praised it, independently and in a number of venues.

Conn Carroll is a thoughtful observer, and I think of this review is more an indication that Grand New Party should have been much longer and clearer.