Last week the Republicans officially took over both houses of Congress.
I have some advice for the Grand Old Party: Go long on the Grand, and shelve the Old.
Stand for something new and inspiring. Be the party of Growth and Opportunity.
And tell the people about it.
It’s a message that can win the White House and keep Congress for the next decade.
Call it a freshening of the brand, call it strategic messaging, call it marketing and advertising, but mostly call it overdue.
The private sector does it every day out of necessity. Otherwise, you’re lost in the marketplace. Identifying what you’re selling, your market, the best way to say it, and whom to say it are part of any successful business plan.
Think about some of the great branding campaigns and what they meant for the long-term success of the company: Intel Inside, Have A Coke and A Smile, Don’t Leave Home Without it (American Express), A Diamond is Forever (DeBeers), Think Different (Apple), Tastes Great, Less Filling (Miller; a personal favorite). And oh yes, Nike has a few.
They resonate with people years later.
If necessity really is the mother of invention, Republicans are going to have to do more than roll out legislation for the Keystone Pipeline, as great as it may be, and wait for President Obama to veto it.
Better, the GOP should refresh its brand for the long-term benefit of the country.
Before I lay out the blueprint to save America (you’re welcome, by the way), let’s get a couple key premises on the table:
1) Why do I care? Well I have to confess to being pro-growth, pro-opportunity, pro-business and pro-problem solving with creative communications. And even though the Republicans just took over Congress, they still don’t have an identifiable message as far as I can tell.
My personal beliefs align most closely with those of the Republican Party if you believe in the principles on which our country was founded, for example individual liberty, sovereignty of the people, federalism, state’s rights, limited government represented by our democracy (as messy as it is in practice), and private property.
And it’s really not a hard call if you contrast those basic beliefs with a Democratic Party veering toward socialism and an imperial government, the antithesis of why the U.S. was founded in the first place.
2) Who cares about growth and opportunity? How about immigrants, particularly the most important demographic in politics today, Hispanics. (disclaimer: Hispanics today aren’t voting commensurate with their population but that will change. And, if you look at the 2012 election results, Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for President Obama. Why?).
Opportunity is tried and true, it draws people, it conjures the imagination and inspires big dreams. It’s why people come here and don’t leave (and by the way, why 1,000 people per day move to Texas, but I digress).
3) Why is the Republican Party considered the party of business? Maybe it’s best described by this constitutional principle (if you’re into that sort of thing):
The highest level of prosperity occurs when there is a free-market economy and a minimum of government regulations. Prosperity depends upon a climate of wholesome stimulation with four basic freedoms in operation: 1. The Freedom to try. 2. The Freedom to buy. 3. The Freedom to sell. 4. The Freedom to fail. (www.freerepublic.com).
I’m personally a believer that business, commerce, trading stuff for stuff, and the profit motive underlying are all largely good. It’s what creates the wealth that allows us the creature comforts we enjoy, to take care of those who can’t do it for themselves, and allow the U.S. to support most of the free world in some fashion. We the people get to choose within the marketplace and reign in the rogues as needed (see Wall Street, circa 2008).
Republican objectives need to be wrapped in a broader message if not a full-scale branding campaign so stay with me for a minute on the big message – Growth and Opportunity – and underlying principles that accompany them.
Heck, include Mom, Apple Pie and the Flag for all I care. Isn’t the American Dream why we’re all here or want to be? Isn’t that what the revolt was all about? We get to pursue happiness, for goodness sakes, and even have the right to choose it.
Call it American Revolution 2; after all, while it’s not King George, other countries are nipping at our heels economically (BRIC and now the Middle East oil squeeze) and educationally (we’re being substantially out-performed in the STEM subjects).
We are the world’s greatest innovators. Of the most valuable private companies in the worlds, 9 of the top 10 are American (through Q3 2014; Financial Times Global 500). Of the world’s most valuable brands, the Top 7 are American. Our gross national product is #1, according to the United Nations, and it’s not even close, almost double that of #2-ranking China, which is nice.
So capitalism has worked from that perspective.
For another perspective, we’re # 10 in the so-called Prosperity Index that measures the success of countries based on 89 different economic analysis variables in industry, education, health, freedom, opportunity, and social capital. (Business Insider).
Prosperity may be overrated. Anyway, get the people on your side and make it happen.
We’re entrepreneurs, innovators, risk-takers, mavericks. It’s part of the American DNA.
Isn’t opportunity another word for liberty and what the revolutionaries fought for, and what (presumably most) Republican elected officials campaigned on?
Do we all need a history class?
So let’s say we can agree that growth is good since jobs and output drive the economy in a positive direction and it’s worked out well for America so far.
So how should the GOP define opportunity? I say keep it simple:
1) Individual Freedom and Jobs. Everyone should have the chance to get a job or start a business. If you’re willing to work, this is inherent in our capitalist society. But what tools do we need.
2) Education. Everyone should have the chance to get a post-secondary education. That’s a traditional University, community college, vocational school, or the like. And everyone should be encouraged to go. In fact, we should require the government to pay for it if, for example, that person will do a minimum of 1 year of service, whether it be military or charitable (the Israel model). We do it for secondary education, but that’s not good enough today. Remember this constitutional principle: A free society cannot survive as a republic without a broad program of general education. This was a worthy goal in 1776 and needs to go farther today as we operate in a global economy.
3) People first. The constitutional principle of popular sovereignty says that the authority of the government is created and sustained by the consent of its people, the source of all political power. We are a republic; our elected officials represent us. If they forget that, remind them (you can do it nicely, but it should be done).
This could solve a lot of things.
Public policies should support these core principles. For example, the phrase “rule of law” in our constitution refers to the idea that laws are to be followed and that they apply equally to everyone. People obey the law and not the whims or a ruler. Further, no one is above the rule of law. This can certainly be applied when it comes to protecting private property rights which I suspect is favored by a large majority of the country.
Another application of this concept is economics and how to fund our federal government. Everyone needs to be invested, have a stake in what we’re doing. Today, almost one-half of the country is paying no federal income tax (note: not including payroll taxes and state taxes; federal taxes only). The income tax is a mess; we need to get away from our so-called “progressive” income tax and find some other way, like a national sales tax (w/exceptions), for all to pay a share. During WWII everyone pitched in and patriotism was at an all-time high. Our current revenue model is unsustainable and trending the wrong way; we can’t have half of the country pulling the wagon and the other half riding… The wagon won’t move.
That said, the income chasm is growing between the rich and poor – we need to figure out why and how to fix it. Not to make it equal – it will never be equal, we’re not a socialist country. But, we need to pay attention to the underlying causes.
Yes, we should account for enlightened evolution; beliefs held by a society in 1776 can and should change over the course of 238 years. But the basic principles on which the country was founded should remain constant. This is not Europe and I refuse to believe that most Americans want it to be.
So, I’m proposing a GOP refresh. Repeat after me — Growth and Opportunity.
Just Do It.
If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary…. [But lacking these] you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” – James Madison