Today, David Brooks gave praise to Reihan Salam's and Ross Douthat's new book, Grand New Party, in an op-ed entited "The Sam's Club Agenda". (Two days ago, Patrick Ruffini posted and encouraged everybody to start reading and debating.) I plan on going to the Barnes & Noble across the street from where I work today to buy it.
While I haven't read the book yet, Brooks made an interesting observation on Salam and Douthat's vision: "This is not compassionate conservatism (which flattered the mind of the compassionate donor), it’s hard-work conservatism, which uses government to increase the odds that self-discipline and effort will pay off."
Bottom line up front: all politics still seems to be local. While the federal government is involved in a lot of bread-and-butter economic issues for the middle class, voters obvioulsy feel very removed from what goes on inside the Beltway; yet, a larger amonut of folks pay attention to local and state issues, partly because you are more likely to have a connection and conversation on a first name basis with your city councilman or state representative than you are with your senior U.S. senator. (An unrelated question: how has new media affected the mantra that all politics is local?)
Major league/professional sports teams have "farm team" systems where they can identify and train prospects. The best franchises in baseball have fully developed minor league system: Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, etc. The NBA only recently saw the usefulness of having a minor league system with the NBDL. Here's an observational question (and I look forward to responses/disagreements/debate on this): Do the Democrats today have a better "farm team" system than the Republicans? My answer would be yes, because not only have liberal/left-leaning organizations and the DNC have been involved in identifying and training politicians and aspiring politicians at the local and state level; they have supported these candidates using Web2.0 tools like ActBlue.
[I also bring this up in light of a report that was released by House Republicans responding to why they just lost some special Congressional elections. The report apparently states that: "None of the candidates nor their allies successfully established themselves and their local brand in contrast to the negative perception of the national GOP."]
Now the real question: What can the next Republican Party do to develop our "farm team" system? The point here is that a lot of the middle class economic issues are problems that can be solved with conservative principles and policies at the local and state level: property/sales/severance taxes, transparency in budgeting, taxpayer-backed bonds, and accountability in education. And while we on the right like delegating power to state and local leaders on legitimate state and local issues, I believe that any national center-right organization and the next Republican Party need to have much closer coordination with state parties, local leaders, and potential local leaders to both identify (in the long term) those who can move up within the system and to identify (in the short term) local issues that are important to the middle class.
If we're going to have a broader Republican Party, and if we buy into Salam and Douthat's vision, developing the Republican Minor League will be just as important, if not more important, than keeping the Republican Major League in line.