by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The notion of the Republican Party — or any party, really — being a “workers party” is conceptually confusing. That word, “worker.” Let’s think about it. Sure, I am a worker. I care a lot about my job. But “worker” is not my only important identity. I am also an investor. I care about the performance of companies whose stocks are in my retirement portfolio — or, rather, in the index funds in my retirement portfolio. I am also a parent, so I care deeply about the future America in which my children will live and work. I want the American economy to be a vibrant one that (a) creates economic opportunity for future workers, (b) keeps America militarily strong, and (c) provides a compelling political and economic model to the rest of the world. Also, I am one of the nearly 8 billion humans who live on this planet. I care about its environment, both for me today and my children tomorrow. Human living on Earth is a pretty important identity. It’s easy to see how policies, such as environmental regulations, trying to help one identity could conflict with another.
Oh, and what workers does a workers party care about, exactly? Just “blue-collar” workers? They’re important. But that label doesn’t describe what most of us do today or are likely to do in the future. And which blue-collar workers, exactly? A tariff on, say, steel might theoretically help workers at a steel producer, at least in the short run, but what about workers at companies that make stuff out of steel?
Also this: Does an emphasis on “workers” mean suggesting to workers that they should be shielded from the disruption of innovation and trade rather than be prepared to prosper in a dynamic economy where churn — the ebb and flow of jobs, businesses, and industries — is the healthy norm?