The GOP “branding” fight nationally and in Illinois

A lot of commentary has filled the new and old media during the past couple of weeks about the latest chapter in the Republican Party’s “crisis” that caused the loss of their Congressional majority in 2006 and now three special elections in 2008.

Illinois Republicans are quite familiar with this “crisis” and the struggle over the direction of the party, since for a long time, our party here has been working to throw out its mainstream platform principles.

This topic has been covered on this website for a few years now, so we welcome the heightened debate over the future of the party’s “brand.”

How we got where we’re at is pretty simple to understand. Instead of working to win public support for solutions based on traditional Republican values, most of our elected leaders have long been following the direction of the public opinion poll winds.

Their behavior has been purposeful, not accidental. I wrote a couple of years ago that their actions suggested they wanted to make the GOP into something it’s not – almost as if they were attempting to create a third party.

It has also been pointed out how Illinois’ own Dennis Hastert actually succeeded in exported our state party’s brand of failure nationally. Instead of using his eight years as House Speaker to aggressively advance the cause, reach voters, and build a list of accomplishments and thus a growing list of supporters, he fiddled.

Hastert did succeed in dumbing down the U.S. House Republican caucus to the point where eighteen months after they got the boot they’re still refusing to do things differently.

Now they’re getting a lot of good advice from a lot of good sources. They’re also being presented with silly comments from Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, such as this:

“Let’s let the party come all the way to the center… Let’s invade and let’s cross over that (political) center.”

Last week writer Victor Davis Hanson put it this way in a column titled “What’s Wrong with Republicans?

“On this great debate, I tend to agree with Mark Levin and others that conservatives should reach out with conservative principles better framed and presented, rather than change the message for the perceived advantage of the hour.

What the Republicans need is not an abandonment of conservative principles, but a smarter, more articulate defense of even more conservatism, not less.”

Hanson then gives short examples on how to do that regarding gas prices, taxes, the border, judges, national security and ethics. He writes (emphasis added):

“[The GOP’s] core principles have to be articulated hourly and can’t be compromised. In an honest debate, Obama’s alternatives to the above would be to turn toward more government, higher taxes, more bureaucracies, more dependence of the individual upon the state, etc. And I can’t believe the public wants a prescription that historically simply doesn’t work.”

What we need are more candidates and office holders willing to join in this work of proper “branding.” To do that, they’re going to have to realize the game has changed, and it’s time for them to update their approach to their job.

©2008 John Francis Biver