The Democrats’ spin on the ongoing government shutdown, branding the Republicans ‘terrorists’ and the American people ‘hostages’ is a case in point. A successful re-branding of the Republican Party does not entail rehashing the glory days of former conservative leaders or attaching #ReaganForever onto every RNC Instagram; this type of messaging falls on deaf ears. For example, millennials don’t truly understand why Republicans deify Reagan because they were not alive then. Nearly 20 years later, conservatives can appreciate what Reagan did for the image of the Republican Party, but the future of conservatism cannot subsist on borrowed light. To suggest that this older and previously popular image of conservatism can be maintained forever is ridiculous. The current younger generation no longer faces the peril of a Soviet nuclear arms attack, but rather, other perplexing dilemmas, such as determining the government’s role in defining the word marriage.
Thus, Democrats have been successful in winning recent Senate and presidential elections, not necessarily because they are more right per se, but because they are more engaged in timely conversations. From same-sex marriage to healthcare, Democrats are more willing to think creatively about solutions for these modern day dilemmas, and thus attract more support. Combine this ability with an ingenious intuition to market and brand their cause in order to attract hip, young talent to their enterprise, and you’ve created an irresistible force.
Please do not misunderstand. I am not proposing that Republicans wholeheartedly subscribe to Hollywood’s rules as they begin some great re-branding crusade. Hollywood is extremely successful at marketing diversity and open-mindedness, but it is often done in a superficial way, never really addressing the deeper cause. Regardless, the industry’s success provides a good case study on image management, something current Republicans could learn from. In fact, conservatism actually fosters intellectual and community diversity. If this facet of the Republican Party was more effectively conveyed to the public, they would be more successful; conservative messages are more subtle in mass media. For example, conservative themes infuse popular TV shows, such as Friday Night Lights, LOST, Fringe and in the Divergent and Hunger Games book series, the movie the Dark Knight Rises amongst countless others. Conservatives can and should claim such films, TV shows, books, magazines and other media.
Because these conservative ideals are underrepresented in mass media, breaking into new forms of media and maintaining presence becomes even more important. Republicans have tried to harness the power of YouTube, Twitter and other social media outlets to promote their causes. The Republican leadership has under produced more often than not—think Koch Brother’s creepy Uncle Sam ad dissuading Americans from Obamacare. Conservative pundits have been successful in the blogosphere, but new inroads need to be made in other media forms as well. Republicans have access to the necessary social media tools but they do not use them as well as their Democrat counterparts. The situation is comparable to giving a 14-year-old the Adobe Suite software. Yet, the advanced creative software is useless to the child because he lacks a creator’s vision to make a successful product from the tools he has been given. Without creativity, it doesn’t matter what tools an individual can access. I have access to pastels, but access alone does not render a Claude Monet.
The realm of art has been portrayed as being reserved for progressives, especially when it comes to using art to communicate a political message through movies, music, books and other media. This falsehood has been propagated by the media because being a conservative politically has also become tied to a socially conservative individual. However, the two are not mutually exclusive. While 1984/Ayn Rand libertarian faire has become popular, these are the exceptions, not the rule. Conservative thought is more closely associated as catering to the ABC Family variety, not the Sundance Film Festival movie goers. However, an effective re-branding campaign can change popular perceptions or at least get the ball rolling.
We must market the principles of the past more effectively to sell millennials a better future.
Jarman is a freelance writer with a B.A political science from Brigham Young University.