Posts Tagged ‘GOP’
What is a “brand”?
A “brand” is a product or service or organization which has values, qualities or traits deeply associated with it. It is the “identity” of a product, service or organization, and it is reinforced by “differentiators”: those things which set the brand apart from its competitors. When you buy Coke rather than the generic alternative (and typically pay far more in the process), you do so perhaps because you prefer Coke’s taste (a trait) or (more often) because Coke’s marketing efforts have associated with their product values you favor or relate to. When you buy Pepsi instead of Coke, maybe you like Pepsi’s taste, or maybe you identify with Pepsi’s efforts to position their product as “younger”. At root, however, “brand” is a function of trust: when you buy a Coke, you trust it will consistently deliver whatever it is you’ve come to expect. Whether you are in Hong Kong or London or San Francisco, when you order a hamburger at a McDonalds, you trust it will taste the same and deliver the same experience. Being true to the brand promise is of extreme importance: if the burger you ordered at any particular McDonalds was completely different than the burger at any other McDonalds, or if each can of Coke tasted differently, the brand would instantly become meaningless: the brand promise betrayed, there is no longer any reason for you to pick the brand over a competitor.
What does the idea of a “brand” mean in the context of the Republican Party? And how’s the health of the Republican Party’s “brand”?
The Republican Party likes to brand itself as the party of small government, fiscal prudence, a free market and liberty. Their brand promise is lower government spending, less governmental intrusion into the lives of Americans, safety and the ability to transact business with limited governmental constraints, and minimal direct governmental participation in the economy.
How has the GOP performed on its brand promise? Are the party’s differentiators meaningful to their customers, the Amercian electorate? The answers, in short, are: poorly and no.
Many voters today see little difference between the Republican and Democratic parties: independent voters are now the largest segment of the electorate, and the fastest growing. Republican George W Bush, of the ostensibly “small government” party, increased government spending substantially: the rate of non-defense discretionary spending growth during the first term of his Presidency was over 3,500% greater than it was under President Clinton’s first term, and over 230% higher than President Carter. This was in following his father’s footsteps: George HW Bush increased spending over 6,800% faster than President Reagan. When it comes to “small government” and fiscal prudence, the Republican Party has lost, entirely, any ability to differentiate from the Democrats: for the period 1988 – 2004, Bush 43 (a Republican) grew government spending the fastest, followed by Clinton’s (a Democrat) second term, then Bush 42 (a Republican), and finally Clinton’s (a Democrat) first term. Going back a bit farther, President Nixon increased spending at a rate five times faster than President Carter did. There is no difference between the parties, and this undermines the Republican brand significantly (it doesn’t damage the Democrats nearly as much, as their branding has not often made fiscal prudence a brand promise).
On the issue of liberty and freedom, there is likewise little to differentiate the party brands: President George W Bush substantially reduced individual freedom by way of (among other things) authorizing warrantless wiretaps of citizens of the United States and effectively eliminated habeus corpus protection; President Obama (among other things) granted retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who went along with these wiretaps, and subsequently extended his interpretation of a President’s powers to include the assissination of United States’ citizens without charge, trial or conviction. A Republican and a Democrat, with little to distinguish their stances on personal freedom and liberty.
In more recent times, the Republican party has also come to be the home of the “social conservatives”: that part of the electorate most pre-occupied with issues such as abortion, gay marriage and “Christian values”, and often identified as the “religious right”. This segment of the party has significantly diluted the Republican brand, and in focusing on “social conservative” issues, has dimished the core differentiators of the Republican brand we mentioned earlier: small government, fiscal prudence, a free market and liberty. And while 78% of those Republicans aged fifty-eight or older described themselves as “social conservatives”, 46% of Republicans aged eighteen to thirty-seven describe themselves as “social moderates”. The “social conservative” aspect of the Republican brand is a losing proposition for the party in the medium to long term.
The rapid growth and substantial number of independent voters is the consequence of the parties’ diluted brands: if Coke and Pepsi and the no-name brand all taste exactly the same and are the same price, what compelling reason beyond inertia is there to make a person pick Coke over Pepsi, or Pepsi over Coke, or either over the no-name brand? This is where the GOP finds itself in 2012. And things are going to get much worse for the Republican Party establishment: the younger the voter, the less likely that voter is to be a member of the Republican Party. 37% of the party’s members are fifty-eight or older, and 24% are between forty-eight and fifty-seven, but only 14%-15% of members are between the ages of twenty-eight and forty-seven, and just 6% are between eighteen and twenty-seven. The party is aging, and new voters do not find the brand compelling.
The conventional thinking is that the Republican Party is for people who have stuff (which they don’t want the government to take away), and the Democratic Party is for people who don’t have stuff (and want the government to give them stuff), and as people get stuff, they shift to the Republican Party. But that thinking is deeply flawed: the current generation of voters aged eighteen to twenty-seven have stuff, and they’re not joining the Republican fold (in 2008, 58% of voters aged eighteen to twenty-nine were either Democrats or leaned Democrat, while only 33% of that age group were, or leaned, Republican, a downward trend that has continued uninterrupted since at least 1992, when Republicans had a 47% to 46% edge in this age group).
The Republican Party has repeatedly betrayed its brand promise, and the party no longer has the core differentiators it once did. As such, it does not have a meaningful sales pitch for new customers – those people reaching voting age. The party’s brand has become “New Coke”.
What can the Republican Party do to reverse this slide and rebuild the party’s brand? And are they doing it?
Almost all the candidates currently competing for the Republican Presidential nomination are running on a platform based not upon the core Republican brand, but on relatively recent changes to that brand, which coincide with the dilution of party support among new voters – the “New Coke” of the Republican Party: social conservatism, military interventionism and big government. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is considered “conservative” because he is staunchly “pro-life” and wants to bomb Iran (while his history in office shows him indistinguishable from a Democrat when it comes to the “Classic Coke” version of the Republican Party: he voted in favor of increasing the debt ceiling, consistently voted in favor of earmarks, backed Arlen Spector in his run for Presidential nominee of the Republican Party (Spector, a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-gun rights and pro-affirmative action candidate, subsequently switched sides, becoming a Democrat in 2009), does not believe United States citizens enjoy privacy protection under the Constitution, and believes the government should involve itself in private enterprise by picking certain sectors for special treatment (Mr Santorum would like to eliminate the corporate tax on manufacturers, and only manufacturers)). Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney implemented a government health care program while Governor, increased state spending by over 32% in four years and, in an effort to appeal to the “New Coke” Republican brand, switched from “pro-choice” to “pro-life”. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, believes the federal government should be responsible for finanically assisting citizens’ home purchases, has signed a “New Coke” document entitled a “Pledge of Fidelity” promising not to cheat on his current wife, and wants to remove more personal freedoms by strengthening the Patriot Act. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who increased spending over 82% in Texas, focuses on the “war on religion” the federal government is supposedly waging. These candidates all believe that “New Coke” is a winning formula, and they are doubling-down on it. And this lack of differentiation has resulted in a fractured field: no candidate received more than 25% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.
The lone candidate seeking to rebrand the Republican Party, to bring back “Classic Coke”, is Texas Representative Ron Paul: he proposes cutting government spending by one trillion dollars in the first year, eliminating five federal departments, increasing personal liberties by doing away with things such as the Patriot Act and permitting states to decide issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Mr Paul’s foreign policy, which calls for non-interventionism and only Congressionally-authorized wars, is materially different from the Democrats and every other candidate. And that rebranding, that original formula, is resonating with customers: in the Iowa caucuses, 48% of caucus goers aged seventeen to twenty-nine voted for Mr Paul, as did 43% of independents. These are the very customers the Republican Party desperately needs in the years and decades ahead.
For those efforts to rebrand the Republican Party, Ron Paul has been alternately ignored or reviled. The Republican Party doggedly insists that “New Coke” is the winning formula, and any suggestions that “Classic Coke” should be reintroduced is met with open hostility. Mr Paul has been called “dangerous” and more recently “disgusting” by his fellow Republican, Rick Santorum. Mr Paul’s foreign policy is dismissed out of hand: a non-interventionist defense policy is not even permitted debate. But as we’ve seen already, independents are the largest share of the electorate, and they are demonstrating a genuine taste for “Classic Coke”. And in hypothetical match ups against President Obama, Mr Paul’s “Classic Coke” matches Mitt Romney’s chances for victory in a general election.
The Republican Party establishment ignores this erosion of its brand at its peril: with nearly twice as many young people leaning Democrat rather than Republican, and with independent voters the deciding factor in general elections, “New Coke” is a strategy for failure. The Republican Party’s brand is materially and demonstrably diluted, and the party is going to need to engage in a serious rebranding exercise, building meaningful differentiators and building trust with new customers. Those customers are waiting, and they seem to have a thirst for “Classic Coke”.
Just in time for the weekend, an…
Ode to the Establishment Three:
Mr Establishment one…I mean Perry
His spending record is pretty damn scary
Lifetime in politics should keep voters wary
He’s no Mr Reagan – more like Mr Kerry!
Plummeting poll numbers just ain’t so nice
But fat cat donors from Texas add spice
If I could give poor little Ricky advice
I’d suggest that he really should have thought twice
About running a race way in over his head
Should have stayed in his kingdom in Texas instead
Where his cronies were keeping him rather well fed
Guess all the backslapping went to his head!
‘Cause keeping positions consistent and straight
For ninety minutes of a TV debate
Ain’t so easy for this candidate
Harder to fool all the folks out of state!
Mr Establishment two…I mean Romney
Can’t get the polls much above a low twenty
Ain’t looking like “President” is his destiny
Hell, they’re calling again for Pawlenty!
Poor poor Mitt can’t get here from there
Really too bad – he’s got slickness to spare!
Bad timing, I guess – these days voters they care
About Mitt’s heavy spending and ObamneyCare
Twenty-three twenty-three twenty-three twenty-three
Polls keep repeating what Mitt doesn’t want to see
Cain goes up more and down there goes Perry
But Mitt’s twenty-three is the only consistency
It’s a real shame ’cause he seems like a good guy
But Mitt’s selling stuff that the people just won’t buy
At least you can say that you gave it a good try
There’s twenty sixteen and you’re still young and spry!
Mr Establishment three would be Cain
Former Fed banker came in from the rain
Tries to come off as just simple and plain
But that former lobbyist is at it again
Old big tobacco used to help pay the bills
Now Cain’s got a smoking guy as one of his shills
Goofy campaign ads don’t give us the thrills
And the “Cain Tax” (read: sales tax) makes us run for the hills!
“Harassment! Harassment!” old co-workers say
“He done me wrong, back in the day!”
“I don’t remember, but yes we did pay”
But somehow the story just won’t go away
But maybe, just maybe the story will pass
With hands in your pockets and not on a…lass
Hard to appear like you have so much class
When lawyers on TV keeping shouting “harass!”
Deep in the status quo these fellows three
Shouting in unison “Please vote for me!”
“I’m the true ‘outsider’, yes honestly!”
“But please, oh please, don’t look so closely!”
Because what you’ll see is the same tired dance:
Establishment figures who hope you’re entranced
By promises that won’t withstand second glance
Designed to fit nicely in all circumstance
Since it’s Friday, a little levity is in order to prepare us for the weekend. So here, then, we present an Ode to the Candidates:
Little Ricky he don’t make no sense
Rotten grammar misplaced tense
Ran up the budget eighty percent
He’s part of Texas establishment
“Vote for Gore!” old Ricky said
Gotta wonder about that boy’s head!
“Illegals need to go to school!”
That Ricky’s such a tax and spend fool!
Little Mitt’s got a health care plan
For every woman child and man
But he don’t want you to have a choice
All slicked back hair and radio voice
Mitt says he’s a business man
But he’s just following daddy’s plan
From a family of politicians
Pampered lives oh so patrician
Mr Cain’s a fun pizza guy
He’s got a plan but it won’t fly
Put the tax in every store
Better load your wallet heading out the door!
Cause 9-9-9′s a catchy rhyme
But it’s 12-12-12 in no short time
Gotta love his delivery
But this ain’t pizza, can’t you see?
Dr Paul’s a Texan man
With a three year balanced budget plan
“The Constitution’s coming back!
End the Fed’s monetary attack!”
Cut a trillion in year one
But hold on folks, Mr Paul ain’t done
Ditch the Ed, Interior and HUD
Energy, Commerce and all the other crud.
Ms Bachmann’s got some solid points
Despite her time in all those tax lawyer joints
But her hero Reagan didn’t drink that tea
Raised taxes every year of his presidency
Think TEFRA was a good idea?
And massive spending every year?
Grow tax receipts by 8.2
Is that what Michele wants us to do?
Newt is full of bluster and bluff
And all the wonky policy stuff
Give him credit – he’s got good lines
But Newt my man you’ve had your time
“Personal mandate!” big Newt used to say
Until the tide went a different way
Now he’s peeking at Ron Paul’s lines
And damning the Fed – it New Newt times!
Thank you Sarah for sitting it out
Your spending in Alaska left us all in doubt
TV shows seem more your style
To stretch your fifteen minutes a mile
You really don’t belong in this ode
With “bridges to nowhere” and a dead end road
You’ve had your fun now keep on walking
There’s business at hand and the adults are talking
Rick Santorum gets just one verse
’cause “war war war” just makes things worse
Little Rick’s running out of cash
And that odd expression – I think he’s got a rash!
Huntsman – are you kidding me?
Stilted jokes ain’t comedy
Working for Obama has made you nuts
And where the heck are the budget cuts?
So which one’s going to take on Barrack
And put the country on a different track?
And send that man from whence he came
“Community organizing” seems more his game
’cause leadership ain’t his song to sing
Takes more than that “hopey changey” thing
One term it seems is more than enough
For “tax the rich!” and class warfare stuff
Guess we’ll see on that day in November
How many of his sins the people remember
“Spend! Spend! Spend!” is his rally cry
“Congress won’t do it – I can’t understand why!”
Should prove to be an interesting race
Keep making a mess or clean up the place?
Will forty-five get his four
And point forty-four to the exit door?
Texas Governor Rick Perry, the leading GOP contender for the Presidential nomination in 2012, is a particularly odd choice for Republicans and Tea Party advocates alike. Polls consistently show him atop the pack of contenders for the GOP nomination, however there are a significant number of reasons his consideration as a Presidential nominee, as well as his standing in the polls, comes as a surprise.
- Mr Perry used to be a Democrat, until he concluded the path to power in Texas is paved with Republican pavement;
- Rick Perry is a career politician. He has been in various offices since 1984, when he was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives as the Democratic representative of District 64 (he switched sides in 1989). Career politicians are not looked upon favorably by Tea Pary supporters, or Constitutionalist;
- Mr Perry’s use of executive order to attempt to force state-ordered vaccinations on eleven year-old girls in Texas violates two concepts Tea Partiers, and libertarians, hold dear: the order was passed (and later reversed by the Texas legislature) without being put to a vote of the people’s representatives, while at the same time representing a shocking intrusion by government into people’s lives by requiring parents to actively opt out of the forced vaccination program. The notion of an individual (in this case the Governor) ordering injections of children without debate or a vote is rather shocking. Mr Perry now considers this a “mistake”;
- Mr Perry’s policy of granting discounts on taxpayer provided education to illegal aliens in the state of Texas is anathema to most Republicans (and to taxpayer advocates as well);
- Governor Perry has increased taxes multiple times in Texas. He voted for a $5.7 billion tax increase proposal, and refused to pledge not to increase taxes, a pledge which, notably, his Democratic opponent in the 2002 contest for Governor of Texas made;
- Mr Perry not only supported Al Gore in 1988, he was the chairman of Mr Gore’s Texas campaign committee. It is difficult, for a whole host of reasons, to imagine Republicans embracing the chairman of Mr Gore’s Presidential committee as their nominee for President of the United States;
- “Crony capitalism”, the latest buzzword of Republican Presidentail hopefuls, can be seen throughout Mr Perry’s tenure in politics: trading prominent appointed positions for campaign contributions has been a hallmark of the Governor’s strategy while in office.
- While Governor of Texas, state spending grew 30.6% under Mr Perry’s leadership, after adjusting for population growth and inflation.
UPDATE: supplementary data from Mrs Palin’s time as Alaska’s Governor:
Mrs Palin never once cut spending during her tenure as Governor. During Mrs Palin’s first year as Governor, the Alaska state budget remained identical to the prior year, at $17.67bn. During that same year, federal transfer payments to Alaska increased 2.56% to $10.68bn. The next year, the Governor increased spending by 0.57%, while federal transfer payment increased by 2.56%. The following year, Mrs Palin increased the state’s spending by over ten percent; 10.57% to be exact (to $19.57bn). That same year federal transfer payments increased yet again, and massively: this time transfer payments from the federal government went up an astonishing 32.4%, to $14.65bn (see below – it seems Mrs Palin’s gift for extracting federal money translated very well from her time as mayor of Wasilla). All state statistics can be found at usgovernmentspending.com; federal payments to Alaska can be found at census.gov.
All told, with Mrs Palin at the helm, the state spent 10.75% more by the end of her tenure than it did when she took office. During that same period, federal payments to Alaska by the federal government rose an incredible 40.74%.
All those extra dollars, of course, come from the taxpayers.
We’ll leave it to you to decide whether increasing state spending by over 10% and enjoying over 40% more federal largesse is the mark of a fiscal conservative…
CNN today published a press release on behalf of Sarah Palin. What we mean by “press release” is that the “story” is simply about a speech Mrs Palin is planning to give in Iowa tomorrow, Saturday September 3, 2011. As such, it is a story advising readers that there is a story forthcoming at some future date. The article does, however, speculate (as these articles always do) about Mrs Palin’s ambitions to stage a run to become the President of the United States. The article goes on to state that Sarah Palin will potray herself as an “outsider” to the Washington establishment in the forthcoming speech.
The problem Mrs Palin faces, however, is that she is a qualified “tax and spender”. Sarah Palin is the former Governor of a state, Alaska, where an enormous percentage of the population is anything but “outside” government. In fact, 31% of all workers in Alaska are directly employed by government of one level or another (Gallup). Additionally, as the New York Times correctly reports, Alaska received the greatest per-capita amount of the so-called “stimulus”: the equivalent of $3,145 for each man, woman and child. Further, Mrs Palin, as Mayor of Wasilla, hired a lobbying firm which in turn extracted $25,000,000 from the Federal Government. Wasilla is a town of less than 7,000 people, which works out to another $3,571 for every man, woman and child. Sarah Palin’s political background in Alaska (and in fact the entire background of the state she hails from) is almost entirely predicated upon extracting money from the federal government. Here’s a quote from Carl Gatto, Republican, 13th District, Alaska House of Representatives: “I’ll give the federal government credit: they sure give us a ton of money. For every $1 we give them in taxes for highways, they give us back $5.76.” Of course, the extra $4.76 Mr Gatto’s state receives comes out of the pockets of workers in every other state, by way of taxes.
At root, Mrs Palin, for all her constitutionalist, small-government rhetoric, is “tax and spend”, provided, of course, it is non-Alaskans paying the bill.
Yet somehow Sarah Palin appeals to a not-insignificant subset of the Tea Party movement. And she is largely perceived as anti-tax, anti-spending. Which is consistent with her actions, provided one doesn’t look beyond her home state, where her actions have demonstrably shown the real message: “I’m not in favor of taxes except for taxes on other people, and I’m not in favor of government spending, except when it is spent in Alaska and paid for by non-Alaskans.”
A very curious and mixed message indeed. And a difficult position to translate into national policy, where there isn’t a pool consisting of 99.77% of “others” to tax.
This is the first in a series of articles examining media coverage of the run up to the 2012 US Presidential election. Today we examine the media response to the Iowa Republican straw poll and attempt to find an empirical answer as to whether the media is under-reporting Ron Paul’s candidacy.
Ron Paul, one of the Republicans hoping to become his party’s Presidential nominee, is an interesting candidate: an obstetrician / gynecologist who has been a member of the House of Representatives on and off for 22 years (1976 to 1977, and again from 1979 to 1985, representing Texas’ 22nd District; 1997 to present representing Texas’ 14th District), Dr Paul has for three decades been considered “on the fringe” of the Republican Party, holding views centered on liberty, freedom and the supremacy of the United States Constitution. Recently, it seems his party is coming around to his views: witness the sudden clamoring for an audit of the Federal Reserve (something Dr Paul has been proposing for many, many years now) and the likewise anti-foreign war tilt of many (but not, notably, all) Republican Presidential aspirants.
But is Ron Paul getting a fair shake from the media? Here is a candidate who set single-day fundraising records in 2007 (and 99.42% of his funding came from individual contributors, with not a cent from federal funding), who has been ahead of the curve on several key issues (notably economic bubbles caused by federal monetary policy and the sagacity of foreign military adventures) and just today finished an extremely close second to Michele Bachmann in the Iowa Republican Presidential straw poll (Mrs Bachmann beat him by just 152 votes). Yet there are more media mentions of Tim Pawlenty, who finished a distant third, receiving fewer than half of Dr Paul’s votes. Does it just seem like Ron Paul isn’t getting the recognition he deserves with a second place finish in the straw poll, or is the media actually giving the Paul campaign the cold shoulder?
To examine this in further detail, we compared the results of the straw poll with media coverage of that same poll by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the Huffington Post and Fox News, which we picked arbitrarily. We examined each article and counted the number of references to each prospective Presidential candidate, as well as the number of paragraphs in which each candidate’s name appears, and then expressed these numbers as a percentage of all candidates’ numbers of mentions and paragraphs.
Here’s the executive summary:
- Every single one of the news sources we chose gave a disproportionately low number of mentions and paragraphs to candidate Paul, and in some cases, substantially;
- In every case, Tim Pawlenty, the third place finisher, received more mentions and more paragraphs than Ron Paul;
- The discrepancy between Mr Paul’s straw poll result and subsequent article mentions was the largest in the Los Angeles Times article: despite garnering 27.65% of the Iowa straw poll results, the LA Times article mentioned Mr Paul just twice, in a single paragraph. By comparison, Tim Pawlenty received half as many votes as Mr Paul but received three mentions. Mitt Romney, who wasn’t even part of the straw poll, likewise received three mentions, over three separate paragraphs;
- After the Los Angeles times, the publications with the greatest disparity between Mr Paul’s Iowa showing and the coverage they afforded him were (in order of largest disprepancy to narrowest): New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Post, CNN and Fox News;
- Rick Perry’s attempt to distract attention from the Iowa straw poll worked: Mr Perry received 49 mentions in the articles we surveyed, compared to 47 for the straw poll winner, Michele Bachmann, and just 18 for Ron Paul;
- Herman Cain received fewer than one-third of the votes Mr Paul received, however CNN mentioned him as many times, in the same number of paragraphs, as Dr Paul;
- Fox News came closest to giving each candidate a number of mentions and paragraphs proportional to that candidate’s poll showing (but Ron Paul was still substantially under-represented).
*****Update 1: strange too how the results of the Ames straw poll were announced by the organizers – or rather, weren’t: Michele Bachmann was announced as the winner, and that was it – no announcement of how the rest of the field fared, which is particularly strange given that Ron Paul came in second by just 152 votes. You can see the announcement here (see also around the 2:35 mark, as Paul’s numbers are shown on the board and the crowd reacts).
*****Update 2: today (Sunday, August 14th, 2011) the New York Times ran an article titled, “After Iowa, Republicans Face a New Landscape” written by Jeff Zeleny and Michael D. Shear. The article spends 27 paragraphs discussing the remaining potential Republican Presidential nominees in light of Tim Pawlenty’s withdrawal from the race. In those 27 paragraphs, the candidate who missed winning the Ames straw poll by just 152 votes is given this single sentence, in the second-to-last paragraph: “Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who finished a close second in the straw poll, could also influence the race with his strain of libertarian views that have become more popular in this economic climate.”
*****Update 3: Jon Stewart ran an excellent segment about the concerted effort to ignore Mr Paul:
Here is the data in chart form (in order of largest “Ron Paul discrepancy” to least): red lines indicate percentage of votes received in the Iowa straw poll by the candidate; white lines indicate percentage of paragraph mentions for the candidate (as compared to total number of paragraphs in which all candidates’ names appear, ie not to the total number of paragraphs in the article); blue lines indicate total number of mentions of the candidates’ names in the article: