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Never forget the dream

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Two analyses of the current political environment recently caught my eye and caused me to rethink the GOP’s current positioning on the economy.

The first, put out by the nonprofit group American Principles in Action, aggressively challenged the conclusion reached by a so-called “autopsy” put out by the Republican National Committee, which basically said that the Republican Party needed to appeal to more moderate voters by being less offensive to minority groups.

Instead, according to this group, “Republicans urgently need to construct a conservative economic message that connects to working and middle-class voters’ present economic concerns.”

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According to the report, “In 2012, the GOP positioned itself as the party in favor of ‘job creators.’ It was a clever neologism, intended to suggest that policies benefiting business, especially small business, would help the middle class. But it may have been too clever by half. We believe that one of the reasons the Romney economic message failed is that positioning oneself as an experienced ‘job creator’ working for other ‘job creators,’ albeit to increase jobs, can backfire. Republicans say ‘job creators’ but voters correctly hear ‘my boss.’ And voters increasingly hate their bosses.”

A recent article in The American, the magazine of the American Enterprise Institute, authored by Henry Olsen, titled “Setting the Record Straight About the White Working Class,” affirms some of the conclusions reached by American Principles in Action.

Olsen argues that the white working class didn’t buy the economic arguments made by Mitt Romney and the Republican Party in the last election. “For the typical white working class person, family and stability are more important than career and upward mobility. They saw their middle-class bosses as people who ‘worried all the time,’ were ‘cold and snobbish,’ and as ‘arrogant, very arrogant people.’ They saw their work as ‘just a job,’ not a rewarding activity of itself.”

Just imagine how they viewed Romney, with his billions of dollars, his car elevator in his garage and his arguments in favor of creative destruction!

American Principles made another intriguing argument in its paper: it said these voters are deeply concerned about the value of the dollar. It cited exits polls in the last election showing that rising prices vied with unemployment as one of the top concerns of voters. In fact, in Ohio, it was the top concern of voters.

But how does that jibe with policy makers who see no threat of inflation?

Indeed, on Sunday The New York Times reported, “as Federal Reserve policy makers prepare to meet this week, there is growing concern inside and outside the Fed that inflation is not rising fast enough.”

This seems to be a perfect example of how Washington is not listening to the concerns of working-class Americans.

Voters are worrying that their dollar is not going as far as it used to just as President Obama’s pick for Federal Reserve chairman promises to weaken the value of the dollar further in order to promote economic growth.

The American dream for many working-class Americans is not what has been commonly assumed. The Republican Party has long assumed that every American wants to create a small business, make a million dollars, drive a fancy car and live a rags-to-riches story.

But for many Americans, their American dream is to be able to have a good job at good wages, to be able to provide food and shelter to their family and to be able to spend time living full lives outside of work. They want economic security more than they want the bling that comes with the rich set.

Republicans need to have a greater appreciation for their aspirations as they build an agenda for the next election.

Feehery is president of Quinn Gillespie Communications and spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership. He is a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com.