Can The GOP Reboot As The Parents’ Party?

Reihan Salam has a great summary and exposition of the latest (and not-so-latest!) thinking surrounding a possible Republican renovation as the party of what he calls “the parenting class.” Lately this idea has gained the sort of momentum that doesn’t really materialize unless there’s really something there. So I’m sympathetic toward the notion of moving away from a monomaniacal tax cuts focus, and it’s not surprising to see Republicans look toward the family for a partisan purpose.

Nevertheless, there are some risks and cautions I’d want to flag early, and I do so here.

In particular, I’d observe that Republicans have routinely — and, I think, correctly — warned against trying to “save” failing institutions by using the power of government and the bias of policy to bail them out and prop them up with subsidies. It’s all too easy to see how the traditional family, in an unflattering way, slots into that political framework — despite the many deep differences between the traditional family and an institution like, say, the American automotive industry.

It’s harder than I’d like for it to be to see exactly how the pivot to family policy would free the GOP from the trap that’s hurting it so much now: claiming to oppose Democrats out of principle, but opposing them in practice just insofar as their preferred policy outcomes differ. Erick Erickson put the matter bluntly:

While the default rule should always be to never use the tax code to encourage or prohibit behavior — it should just be about raising revenue — as long as Washington intends to do that, the Republicans should favor a tax code that rewards two parent nuclear households with multiple children and, through the use of generous deductions, provide incentive for one spouse to stay home.

To me, at least, this sounds like a perfect recipe for ensuring that the default rule will be the default rule only in Republican dreams.