Marco Rubio thinks the future of the Republican party should be based on “a multiethnic, multiracial working class coalition.” On Election Night, his colleague Josh Hawley declared, “We are a working class party now. That’s the future.”
The economic lesson from the election, according to Rubio, is that the GOP will win elections only if it sticks to a version of Trumpism without Trump, which he says means avoiding a return to “unfettered free trade” and “market fundamentalism.” Other conservatives who have been arguing for a pivot away from free markets have said something similar since November 3, claiming vindication for their policy prescriptions.
On two basic points, they are right. First, the GOP should absolutely exist to improve the lives of working-class Americans. Second, the election was not a repudiation of the economic policies of the last four years. With the Republicans very likely to hold on to the Senate and gaining ground in the House, it seems the president lost the election despite the economy’s performance during his term, not because of it. Majorities of voters in all major battleground states said they preferred Trump over Biden as to who would better “manage” the economy. Even after the pandemic hit, 56 percent of voters said that they were better off than they were four years ago. That figure is at least nine points higher than it was after the first term of the last four presidents to successfully seek re-election. Many Republicans, and maybe even the president himself once he accepts defeat, will wonder what might have been were it not for the pandemic.
But the lesson from the economic successes of the last four years is not what Rubio and Hawley would have you believe. In fact, it might just be the opposite.