U.S. Industrial Policies, Left and Right: Convergence, Divergence, and Political Implications

Dougherty, Kevin J.; Habibi, Tara

This report puts President Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill in the context of other Democratic proposals for industrial policy coming from Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others and of Republican proposals for industrial policy emanating from Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and others.

For the left, we defined eight categories of opinion leaders. Four involved political leaders: the Biden campaign and administration; Sen. Bernie Sanders; Sen. Elizabeth Warren; and other Democratic Congress members submitting legislative bills and resolutions that advocated one or another form of industrial policy. These other members included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Edward Markey, Sen. Charles Schumer, Sen. Chris Coons, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Ro Khanna, Rep. Tim Ryan, and others. We also defined four categories of thinktanks or policy organizations that have advanced left-oriented industrial policy: the Brookings Institution; the Century Foundation; labor-oriented thinktanks (Economic Policy Institute and Alliance for American Manufacturing); and the Roosevelt Institute.

For the right, we defined seven categories of opinion leaders. Four involved political leaders: . Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Josh Hawley, and Sen. Tom Cotton, and other Republican Congress members leaders (including Sen. Todd Young, Sen. John Cornyn, and others) espousing industrial policy beliefs in the form of legislation and resolutions sponsored. We also had three categories of think tanks and policy organizations that have come out in favor of a conservative version of industrial policy: American Compass; American Affairs; and the Niskanen Center.

The report compares and contrasts the Democratic and Republican proposals on three heads: the problems they say call for industrial policy; the nature of the policy solutions offered; and the main targets they envision for such policy solutions. On all three, we find considerable convergences but also sizable divergences between the Democratic vision for industrial policy on the one hand and the Republican vision on the other.

The report argues that the Democratic vision for industrial policy – with its emphasis on creating good jobs in the process of addressing climate change -- may be crucial to Democratic chances in 2022 and 2024 by allowing Democrats to successfully appeal to two key constituencies: voters concerned with climate change and working-class voters concerned about good jobs both for themselves and their children. However, Democratic chances could be enhanced if their industrial policy proposals can effectively counter and even coopt distinctive and popular elements of the Republican proposals, particularly their attention to the challenge posed by China and to popular concern about loss of community and meaningful work.

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April 12, 2021