While Douthat and Salam’s detailed plan of action for GOP 2.0 touches on a number of significant events and trends that have increasingly pushed them out of favor with their once core constituency, the focus of this analysis of their text will be on the Bush administration’s relationship with working class voters and for that matter, with Americans across economic strata.

This focus is in part also due to the fact that the Bush administration made radical changes in nearly every political arena and thereby ushered a new and particularly corrosive brand of Republicanism—especially damaging to relationships with working class Americans. The myriad renegade elements of Bush administration policies were inherently misaligned with the overall value set of working class Americans, who were once considered a guaranteed voter base for Republicans. This is also certainly true of those who opposed the election of Bush both the first and second times although for the sake of brevity, it almost goes without saying explicitly that Bush and his policies were considered irresponsible in nearly every aspect—from social, fiscal, legislative, and international angles simultaneously. This analysis suggests that the Bush administration inflicted permanent damage on the American political psyche and the effects have resulted in a sort of national post-traumatic stress disorder.

Symptoms of this post-Bush-era PTSD include a massive shift toward the Democrats, especially from the working class the authors carefully define. Oddly, however, this is the case even though many of the social values this large population holds are not in alignment at all with their new champion. In short, as the authors argue, the success of Democrats is not in the way they appeal to vast elements of the population as in fact, they demonstrate how Democratic ideas are not aligned with the working class to begin with. Instead, they suggest that Democratic success has hinged on the multiple, record-setting failures of the past Republican reign of George W. Bush, which has resulted in unprecedented levels of voter and consumer dissatisfaction. This discussion will continue along these lines and will further explore the theory of Bush-era national PTSD in a massive shift in voter alliances through the primary text of Douthat and Salam with ample support from the collection of analyses provided in Right On: Political Change and Continuity in George W. Bush’s America.

What is most striking about the collection of insights, assessments, and points of analysis into the Bush administration that is expressed in Right On? Political Change and Continuity in George W. Bush’s Amercia is that is provides unique perspectives in terms of contemporary history and more broadly, in that it encompasses the Bush administration’s actions in a more global context. For one thing, the series of essays that are provided in the text are written prior to some of Bush’s most appalling and disengaging (voter-wise) political moves as he was on the verge of his second term at the book’s inception. While it is interesting to read this text from the viewpoint of the “futurist” (since we know the outcome and correctness of the authors’ predictions) for the purposes of the analysis presented here, it is worth noting how Bush’s first term policies were signals to working class and other voters that he may not have had the “average” American’s best interests in heart. Just as importantly, this provides a view of how the Bush administration was perceived outside of the United States and some of less publicized issues about the administration’s handling of international relations is revealed. What emerges from this text, although it is less argumentative in nature as a text and more based on analysis and project, is that there should have been ample “warning” to American voters that problems lay ahead. While the arguments presented in Right On were not consistent enough or vocal enough in providing such a warning that might have been useful if this text was more publicly accessible and promoted more heavily.

As the analysis in this text makes clear on several occasions, the problems that Douthat and Salam saw with the “loyalty over brilliance” paradigm were present from the very beginning of the administration and only continued to worsen in severity and, as the writer of this analysis here suggests, in outright nose-thumbing at the same voting population that propelled this administration into the White House in the first place.

Douthat and Salam’s assessment of the current state of the Republican party and its alignment with working class voters offers a valuable introduction that is critical in understanding some basic definitions the authors freely throw around, including the very term “working class” itself. Whereas this term used to typify those in labor or agricultural jobs and was more aligned with “blue collar” exclusively, at least as far as income association went, this new group of working class voters can be much more intricately defined. The authors suggest that “the working class of today is defined less by income or wealth than by education—by the lack of a college degree and the capital associated with it” (Douthat and Salam 7). Furthermore, they contend that far from being defined by economics solely, this incredibly large segment of the population has its heart fundamental problems that have “as much to do with culture as with economics” (7). This group, which is swelling in numbers, especially as more families need both partners working in order to maintain a basic standard of living is feeling the pinch, particularly as economic conditions sour. They need to feel that they are living in a manner that allows for payment of mortgages and credit card debt, staggering healthcare costs, as well as the newer insertions into the “Sam’s Club” party’s laundry list of worries the almost arbitrary hikes in gas prices and the more distant-than-ever seeming notion of college education for their children—all of these basics in life that were once more affordable and attainable are being slowly stripped away, leaving bare bones behind of once acceptable paychecks. While the blame cannot be placed exclusively on the current Bush administration, there are few ways in which they have helped ease one mounting crisis after another. They have created a situation that is utterly unique in modern political history; one that caused a sea-change in political associations and alignments out what Douthat and Salam endlessly refer to as “insecurities” that are not just economic or political—there are more broadly and meaningfully defined a cultural in nature.

The broader cultural issues at stake include the problems with mounting credit card debt, problems rooted in the globalized economy, including a shift in emphasis from production to knowledge-based sectors, and the rise in illegal immigration that has put the squeeze on unskilled labor positions and has added a new, cultural-based set of fears and insecurities. What the authors of Grand New Party did not anticipate, however, is just how heated these issues would become, even following the election. The credit crisis is worsening and American jobs are being slashed across all sectors and class lines in an effort of national belt-tightening that is quite unprecedented—at least in recent memory. Still, despite these more clear and present concerns that can do nothing but increase in the “fear factor” with the growing crunch, the authors view even more basic, civic cultural notions at the heart of the conflict among this group. The authors contend, quite arguably, that both parties have had a historical misunderstanding of how working class Americans place value and emphasis on cultural and social issues such as the definition of marriage, women’s reproductive rights, life and death issues ranging from stem cell research to the death penalty. What they aim at exploring is just how these hot-button issues for this core constituency can be addressed or, perhaps more insidiously, exploited.

The issue of exploitation of working class Americans and their social values forms part of the lighter critique of the future of the American Republican Party as offered by Philip Davies in Right On: Political Change and Continuity in George W. Bush’s America where the suggestion is made that the evangelical Christian movement, which was enthusiastically endorsed by the born-again president George W. Bush, formed part of the strongest source of support for the Republicans during both elections. In his critique, Davies contends that this social end of the political process was the main thrust behind Bush and his initial success and approval ratings. Following 9/11 where issues of patriotism, god, and country were at their height, it was easy to overlook the burgeoning theocracy and it was not until relatively recently, most notably with the growing economic crisis, that religion and social policy took a backseat. Still, both texts identify the evangelical movement as critical to the presidency of Bush in that it allied him with the core values of working class voters, but by the end of his term with the election of Barak Obama, even those theological principles were not enough to salvage the Republican party. With both critiques in mind, one has to wonder how much the Bush administration, particular in its second bid for the White House, which was only a narrow and highly contested success, did exploit evangelical support. While this is a topic that is guaranteed to ruffle feathers and is not the topic of this analysis per se, it is a notable contribution in examining how Bush first won his position through his advocacy of evangelical principles and continued to cling to some success in the second election, again in part because of these stated values.