One of the most common readings of Grand New Party, from liberals and conservatives alike, was that Reihan and I were proposing that the Republican Party tack toward the center, becoming more moderate on economic issues in order to appeal the American middle, rather than to the conservative base. Sometimes I agreed with this reading of our proposals: Certainly, the book breaks with conservative orthodoxy on a variety of fronts, and draws on some of the smarter work being done on the center-left in some of the policy ideas it advances. But I also shared the take of a highly intelligent friend, who read the book in galleys and remarked to me over lunch one day that if our ideas were ever operationalized - if the GOP became, more explicitly than it already is, the party of working-class America, and wove a pro-family thread through its economic as well as its cultural agenda - nobody in the media would end up calling the result "moderate" or "centrist." The chattering classes are already inclined to treat the Republican Party as a gathering of gun-toting yahoos with too many damn kids; if the GOP made its working-class populism more explicit, adding economic as well as socio-cultural elements, and found standard-bearers who embody the background and aspirations of the Sam's Club demographic more completely than a son of privilege like George W. Bush, the results would lend themselves to even greater hysteria, condescension and demonization than the Republican Party's current incarnation.
I think the coverage of Sarah Palin to date - by colleagues I used to respect and publications I normally admire - at least partially vindicates this theory about the reception that would greet the kind of GOP I'd like to see. Which is a sobering thought, to say the least.