Judge Judy Republicans
Andrew Sullivan, who successfully coined the term “South Park Republicans,” is trying out a new one: “Judge Judy Republicans.” He does so in a persuasive response to a new book by his Atlantic colleagues Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam.
I think that moniker is a little more fitting – if a little less marketable – for Ross’ and Reihan’s hoped-for constituency than “Sam’s Club” Republicans. After all, the problem with the working poor, as [their book, Grand New Party] GNP has it, is not that they’re capable of finding shopping bargains and living within their means. It’s that they’re sinking in a welter of family dysfunction and economic distress – and end up like the plaintiffs on Judge Judy. Why are they sinking? GNP blames the elites for getting jiggy with it in the 1960s and 1970s and setting a bad example for those without the resources to cope adequately with extra- and pre-marital sex, contracepted intercourse, divorce, re-marriage, and so on.
A good point. “Sam’s Club Republicans,” though, is better branding than “Judy Judy Republicans” and therefore more likely to catch on. While both are enormously successful enterprises, there’s no stigma in Sam’s Club. Judge Judy, let’s face it, has a certain lowbrow association.
Further, as I understand it based on their November 2005 Weekly Standard rollout article “The Party of Sam’s Club,” Douthan and Salam are simply talking about people with blue collar jobs struggling to get by.
This is the Republican party of today–an increasingly working-class party, dependent for its power on supermajorities of the white working class vote, and a party whose constituents are surprisingly comfortable with bad-but-popular liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, expanding clumsy environmental regulations, or hiking taxes on the wealthy to fund a health care entitlement. To borrow a phrase from Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, Republicans are now “the party of Sam’s Club, not just the country club.”
Therein lies a great political danger for Republicans, because on domestic policy, the party isn’t just out of touch with the country as a whole, it’s out of touch with its own base.
These people aren’t necessarily Judge Judy defendants. Most of them likely graduated high school, show up for work on a regular basis, and refrain from siring children out of wedlock and stealing the automobiles of the woman they left pregnant while owing three months’ back rent and the $5300 she loaned him to go to bounty hunter school from which he never graduated because he kept showing up to class drunk. After all, you have to have money (or at least good credit) to shop at Sam’s Club.
I do, however, fully agree with Andrew’s implied conclusion: Sam’s Club Republicans sound a hell of a lot like plain old Democrats. A “conservatism” where the government takes money from the successful to redistribute it to the working poor in hopes that they’ll somehow become more productive is not “conservatism” at all.
That the GOP was ever the country club party is an absurd myth. One simply doesn’t win elective office appealing only to the top half of one percent. But a populism that allows the many to vote themselves the wealth of the few was one of the principal fears of founders like John Adams. Certainly, we don’t need both our major parties championing that notion.