A little while back I was happy to take a take a call from a reporter writing from that bible of the beltway, Roll Call. If you're not familiar with the publication, it's pretty much the trade paper of politics, covering everything that has anything to do with power, punditry and politics. It wasn't the call that was so intriguing as the subject of the call. In fact, it was the call I'd been waiting to answer for several decades now:
What's wrong with the Republican Party's brand -- and how would you fix it?
To me, that kind of a question is a letter high fastball, perfect for lofting over the fence and way up into the bleacher seats. It's a big, fat, juicy steak for a branding carnivore like myself, so I was only too ready to respond. In fact, I actually made an exception to my "never give a creative solution in a media interview" rule.
The interview went well. Sadly, it's journey through the editing process did not, with many of the most salient points (as they often do), getting ripped out of the piece by an editor who clearly was more concerned about space than content.
No matter. That's why God invented blogs. Thus, I submit to you the important points of how the Republican Party could successfully brand itself, quickly and permanently.
Let's dispense with the easy stuff first, which would be all the ridiculously stupid mistakes the Republicans have made. Repeatedly. For years. We've all heard the sound bytes about "the party of 'no'" and the "Republicans' refusal to compromise." We're all familiar with the tired old grind about Republicans being the party of "old, rich, racist white men." Fine. We all know what doesn't work.
Here's what does work:
1. If they want to dispel the notion that Republicans are not the party of "old, rich, racist white men," the first thing they've got to do is disassociate the party from the guys who are "old, rich, racist white men," which would include politicians who refer to immigrants as "wetbacks." So guys like Alaska's Don Young need to be thrown under the bus in a very public, very mediagenic way. No fooling around. No apologies. Just throw him to the wolves and let the rest of the sheep watch what happens if they don't follow the herd.
2. Focus on what the Republicans like best: Money. Here's something you may not know: Most immigrants -- legal and otherwise -- are actually politically conservative, not liberal. The principal reason they immigrate to the United States is to improve their lives, politically and financially. Which means the vast majority of immigrants have way more in common with Republicans than anyone realizes.
So rebranding Republicans? Simple. The main platform needs to be their common interest with immigrants and the financially oppressed, mainly, Empowerment Through Enterprise. Republicans should be stressing inclusiveness, but prioritizing social and political inclusiveness just below economic inclusiveness. The problem with the "party of no" is that it never raises an opportunity to answer with a "yes." Empowerment Through Enterprise would do exactly that. By reaching for its roots, Republicans could be offering immigrants (along with everyone else) a piece of the American Dream by proposing economic means for them, eventually resulting in social and political ascent.
The Republicans have never been good at social programs. And even when they do, every non-Republican looks at them askew because the Republicans have to be dragged kicking and screaming to go along with social programs. But if their perceived strength really is "all about the money," why not start there? Why not propose a bevy or economic incentives and plans that truly do "empower through enterprise?" Put immigrants into business. Organize their labor. Show them the way up. Tax their revenues. Once they own their piece of the pie, just watch how loyal they'll be to the people who served it up to them.
I don't care what your political leanings are -- everyone loves to make a profit. Even more to the point, nobody wants to be given the American Dream. Everyone wants to earn it.