Importing some o’ that Canada-style right-wing politics

A few weeks before our recent election unpleasantness began, I had lunch in Ottawa with Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat, two young U.S. Republican blogger/pundit types whose book, Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream competes with my own in the hard-fought category of Political Books With Really Long Subtitles. To caricature their argument, Douthat and Salam believe U.S. Republicans should seek to attract middle-class and working-class voters with families, roughly the kind of people who used to be called “Reagan Democrats,” with narrowly targeted bits of small-scale interventionist government policy, often tax benefits. In other words, they argue for Harper-Muttart micro-policy along the lines of the tool-belt tax credit Patrick Muttart used to get “Dougie’s” attention in the 2006 election. Or the ban on candied tobacco that helped get the party noticed by mothers this time around.

I found Salam and Douthat fearsomely intelligent, humble about what they don’t know (Douthat has shown real class on his blog as he witnesses the flameout of the woman who was his preferred candidate for Vice President, Sarah Palin) (Oh, hush. Nobody’s perfect), and especially in Salam’s case, almost weirdly up on the details of Canadian politics.

Now, in a piece for the website of the Atlantic Monthly, Salam connects the dots and argues explicitly for Harper as a model for the U.S. Republicans. His article will confuse Canadian readers who believe Harper already gets all his ideas from south of the border — why reverse Niagara Falls? Why should Charlie Parker copy Sonny Stitt? — but it will provide a novel perspective for others.

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