The re-branding of American politics

The Next 100 Years by Peter Zuris


There was much analysis done during the campaign for the current administration about innovative approaches taken by the Obama campaign to spread the word. The use of the Internet, the focus on the man and not the party, personal contact between volunteers for the candidate and the public. The use of the social apps like Twitter and Facebook. They all seemed to work at that time by that candidate as evidenced by his election.

Republicans learned from that lesson but have, quite successfully in my opinion, adapted those lessons to these times and their current situation.

A purposeful re-branding. President Obama bet in the last election that his name would be a more powerful rallying call then the name of his party (That's been only rarely true in the past). The Republican brand has seen the wisdom in that, but is taking the opposite tack, and is now drawing attention to a new brand name, "tea party". The same strategy Toyota used when they wanted to put some emphasis on their high priced products and invented "Lexus".

At the moment, the Republican Party, now the tea party, is short of star power, at least until they can figure out if Sarah Palin is viable or not. So, especially at this time in history, pre-election, their focus is on building the brand, so when they find some viable candidates, they will be helped by brand loyalty. Again, an analogy to the car companies. Design and build a good car, ordinary. Put the Ferrari brand on it and it becomes extraordinary.

Another aspect of the same thought process. President Obama's focus on his name rather than his party was in recognition that the old image of political parties has been tarnished over the years. Most people now see them as back room decision makers rather than iconic of the will of their people. The Republicans agree, so they are now portraying their new brand as grass roots, of the people, instead of hierarchically organized, of the powerful. I'm pretty sure that the name "Republican" has become disposable. They've successfully created two brands. Republicans, the party of "no" that reliably resists everything proposed by Democrats and the President, and the tea party, the party of hope and change for the conservatives. Pretty slick.

All of this is good thinking but, how would it be implemented? The answer to that, is also the answer to, what is the strongest asset of the Republican/Tea Party. Their communications network. Radio (Limbaugh et al). TV (Fox News). Print media (the Wall Street Journal). Brilliant for a couple of reasons. One, all of those are not overtly political, therefore they are not regulated by the rules that campaigning is limited to. For funding. For equal time. For standards of truth. Second it can be as effective as negative campaigns have proven themselves, without the downside. The risk of getting some of the mud slung on yourself rather than your opponent. Third, if done with the skill of the entertainment industry, it will create a culture, that seems more and more "in tune" with the message. It creates and sustains its own audience. The audience believe that they choose what they watch. The truth is that they've been led there. Another analogy. Reality TV. Some would say that the companies who have gotten rich from that product line merely discovered what audiences wanted. Entertainment professionals know the truth. The companies created the audiences that they now serve.

These are all merely observations of the current goings on. Where they will lead? History will tell us shortly. For all of the brains working on this strategy, there is an equal set working on both defenses and offenses to defeat them.

We all love democracy. We all hate politics. But they are, inseparable.

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