Start GOP makeover with ‘new’

Both parties need a pick-me-up when it comes to their image. Except for the die-core identifiers of the parties, practically no one wants to shout out in a crowd, “I’m a Republican!” or “I’m a Democrat!” Vocal exuberance about such damaged or fading brands can, at best, hurt your social standing and, at worst, prompt friends and neighbors to plan an intervention. 

In the case of my Republicans, it’s even worse. Our base doesn’t even like Republicans. The disgruntled social and economic conservatives think that the label “Republican” is just the second half of “Rockefeller Republican,” so they are as suspicious of the GOP as Democrats are. It’s why they developed the term “RINO” — “Republican in name only.” But they have disparaged so many Republicans with that ugly slur that the “in name only” part has just lost out. It’s now simply a slur on the party name. We are talking about an epic crisis of confidence.

I don’t think that either party is going to change its name and join the witness protection program under an assumed identity. So we have to do something big — really big, as in huge or enormous — to “re-identify” the two parties under their present names. It’s such a massive undertaking that I’ll limit my suggestions to my Republican side of the ledger. Frankly, my recommendations are generally borrowed from the corporate world, where broken brands must be repaired and resurrected quite often.

The first thing I’d do, and I know it sounds trite, is to start talking about the “new” Republican Party. It’s a little thing, I know, but you have to make people start to think about what it means, to ponder exactly what’s new and why. It’s the first step to opening up people to fresh information about what the GOP is. Walk down the supermarket aisle and you’ll see the power of “new” manifest. Between “new” and “improved,” it’s a footrace. New is an old slogan, but timeless. It works, or you would not see savvy brand experts invoking it so often. How can something so over-used possibly work? I think it’s because we, as both consumers and voters, want to have hope that there is something new and better. Yes, we’re jaded, and we’ve been fooled before about something being genuinely new, but we’ve learned to still hold out hope against hope that the new Tide will be better than the old Tide.

A second suggestion, one that might also seem trivial to some, is the need for a new logo or identifier for our GOP. We’ll always be elephants, but our logo doesn’t need to feature that. The logo might instead try to communicate something about being a bottom-up party of the people, of the grassroots, the middle Americans, and not the party of top-down big government from Washington, D.C. I am not a graphic artist, but I know that an obese and pondering elephant isn’t the new image that opens people up to our party. It says nothing about our message. The logo could also be more contemporary and even possibly “cooler,” dare I say, thus more appealing to a new generation that thinks Republicans are old and stodgy. Even the red, white and blue patriotic motif should be reexamined. The Democrats do those same colors and use the same stars. Is it working for them? I don’t think so.

My third suggestion is for adoption of a single big theme for our party that touches a wide swath of voters. Last week I suggested becoming the party of jobs. It might also be homeownership, bottom-up federalism, community service, energy independence or something comparably ambitious. We just need to stand firmly for something that bolsters our brand and gives credence to that adjective “new.”

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.