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Near the end of The Godfather, Tom Hagen leans over to Michael Corleone and asks “Do you know how they’re going to come at you?” Mikey sure did, and now we know too, assuming the Democrats are as crafty as Tessio instead of as feckless as Fredo.
A lot of you are young, way young, and you never lived through a time when the Democrats were the working man’s party. Back in the day, the Democrat Party was not solely race hustlers, commie professors, abortion nuts, and unionized government flunkies. It was the party of guys who got dirty at work, who built things and went to war, and who wanted to feed their families and live with dignity. But they also loved their country and did not understand supporting welfare cheats and coddling criminals. These were Reagan Democrats, who saw their party evolve after 1972 into one run not for the working class but for the Chardonnay class. Reagan got them because they loved the flag and hated commies. Yet the economic message that appealed to them was still powerful – and Mondale was the last guy to still send it even though the smug swells and San Francisco freakshow kept it from resonating.
With Clinton, a guy you cannot even imagine in a hard hat (and even less so Obama), the Democrats put these working-class voters aside in favor of what would soon devolve into their present woke agenda – an agenda that offers nothing to guys who don’t go to work in loafers. And the Republicans squandered the coalition Reagan had built – the Bushes were the antithesis of backers of the working man, and W barely won the first time and only won the second because these working folks understandably wanted to kill every single 7th century SOB with a hand in 9/11. That was a mistake. Too often we Republicans treated their legit economic concerns as an annoyance and let ourselves be caricatured as Buick-driving bosses. When you nominate Mitt Romney, a guy who needs only a top hat and monocle to look exactly like everyone who ever outsourced your job to Shanghai, you are not reaching out to the working man.
Trump saw this huge constituency just lying there, ignored by both parties, and he re-purposed Sir Mix-A-Lot’s tactic of recycling abandoned ample-bottomed babes and applied it to the working class – when the Dems and the GOP decided to toss it and leave it, he pulled up quick to retrieve it. And he won.
Remember that ancient Joe grew up when Democrats supported non-governmental workers. This was natural to him, and he played the old-school “I got the back of the workin’ man” riff perfectly. “Made in America.” “Manufacturing jobs.” “Work hard and take care of our families.” And more “jobs, jobs, jobs” – including some that do not need a college degree.
We, Republicans, are utterly unprepared for this narrative right now. We want to talk about the culture war issues and we should – they are important and powerful. But we cannot just abandon the working man issues for the Democrats to exploit – Biden is lying about his agenda – he cares as much about working families as he cares about good parenting – but this is about narrative, not reality. We need to move away from the reflexive defense of corporations, especially since so many of them hate our guts and pay off the Dems. We need to ensure that our infrastructure works (DeSantis’s recent move to rebuild Florida roads was exactly what we need) and that we keep inflation from crushing those working but just getting by. Does Biden want to stand up for the little guy on credit card charges? Ok, cool. Let’s do it. Max $8? How about a max of $5? The banks always side with our enemies against us, so why should we squander our political credit defending them?
We can and should embrace policies that help private-sector working Americans flourish even if it annoys the corporations that used to be in our coalition – make that especially if it annoys the corporations that used to be in our coalition.
This is a narrative, and the Democrats will have the kind of problems with pushing it that we saw in Biden’s speech. They can do it for a bit, but then they must pivot back to the woke nonsense the rest of their coalition demands. Their heart is not in making sure those cisgender brutes from flyover country get a fair deal – it’s that their activist, commie, and pervert base is happy. That’s where modern Democrats’ heart is. When a Democrat today tries to be on the side of the workin’ man, he/she/they are faking harder than a Bulwark staffer’s wife.
Regardless of the manifest insincerity behind Biden’s political greatest hits tour and the difficulty pulling it off over the long haul, this is an opportunity for a cunning Republican. Trump seems to have forgotten about the people who rallied and elected him – he’s too busy being mad at Ron DeSantis for refusing to genuflect. That means this is an opportunity for an upstart.
DeSantis could do it. He is staking out the culture warrior territory effectively but he has already started doing so. He should continue to – the people he needs are mad about perverts pestering their kids in schools, but they also hate $10 eggs.
It’s a huge opening for Mike Pompeo, who is crushing it on America First foreign policy. He needs to expand his appeal outside his comfort zone, and this is a huge opportunity to stake out a domestic claim. He has to get past the whole Harvard rich guy thing, but he made himself into a rich guy after serving his country as a cavalry officer instead of getting it handed to him like some soft, non-serving sissy like Mitt Romney.
It won’t work for others. Nikki Haley could try it, but she’s so fake no one would believe it. And Chris Sununu thinks we are morally obligated to suck up to big corporations so that’s out. Larry Hogan has the sweat part down, but that’s only because he’s humongous.
Bottom Line: The working-class vote is up for grabs. Biden made a fumbling, ham-handed attempt to grasp it that worked for nearly a half-hour before disintegrating into his usual woke incoherence. We, Republicans, need to see how they are coming at us and to get some guys together to take Tessio for a ride.