Monday, December 29, 2008

Republican brand headed for Oldsmobile-ville


After the Presidential election I advised Republicans to restore their shredded brand by looking to Lincoln. Not to Reagan or to stale media pundits, but to Lincoln, the source of Republican strength and appeal. My warning was: Obama is already stealing your Lincoln... and he is!

This from Bill Kristol in today's New York Times:
"Obama will be the first president to take the oath of office using the Lincoln Bible, held by President Lincoln at his first inauguration, since ... Lincoln.
... It’s an homage to Lincoln, not a claim to be like him. Obama intends to look back to Lincoln for guidance and to look up to him as a model. Lincoln, our greatest president and statesman, had a deep understanding of American exceptionalism. He thought long and hard about the relationship of American founding principles to political practice, and in his actions exemplified the prudent and skillful pursuit of a principled end. He was also a great war president. Obama could do a lot worse than study Lincoln and learn from him."

Heading for brand oblivion
This – in words more eloquent than mine – is Brandsinger's characterization of Lincoln. My point on November 11 was that Obama – by arrogating Lincoln's values to his own cause – can kick the props out from under Republicans. If Republicans concede Lincoln's legacy to Obama, they leave little of their brand but a ramshackle hut divided against itself, an empty, irrelevant shell ready to be discarded along with the Olds and (soon) the Buick.

brandsinger

7 comments:

Jay Livingston said...

The core of the Lincoln brand (president, not car) is that he ended slavery and extended civil rights to blacks. Ever since Nixon and the "Southern strategy," the GOP has shown a distinct lack of enthusiasm for civil rights. So the Republican relation to the Lincoln legacy has been at best ambivalent -- in the public eye and even among themselves.

And FWIW I find nothing in that excerpt that is eloquent.

brandsinger said...

Hey Jay! thanks for tuning in.
My point back on Nov 11 was that Lincoln stood for qualities that Republicans should revive and honor. He was a champion (and embodiment) of upward mobility, for example. And he was a strong (and wise) leader in war.
YOU SAY that "the Republican relation to the Lincoln legacy has been at best ambivalent" -- and I SAY that's a missed opportunity to revive the brand based on the power and appeal of their founder.
Keep smilin!
brandsinger

brandsinger said...

Oh - and Jay - as to your second point - Bill Kristol wasn't eloquent - okay, okay, I agree.

I was just saying that to be respectful. I am more eloquent.

brandsinger

prodigilson said...

As a partisan and lefty, I'm thrilled to see the Republican brand fall apart.

But partisanship aside, aren't political brands both created and destroyed very quickly? Noteworthy events happen quickly, the electorate has a short memory, and both parties are durable--that is, both will persist even if one or both brands are in the toilet, unlike a corporation that might cease to exist and abandon its brand when things get bad. Given these facts, a party's stature can rebound quickly, bringing its brand back from the dead. Should the Democrats stumble--and Rod Blagojevich isn't exactly helping keep that from happening--the Republican Party will rise in the popular estimation, if for no other reason than it is the party that is NOT the Democratic Party.

brandsinger said...

Hi Prodigal Leftyson:
Remember the Know-Nothings? the Bull-Moose Party? the Federalists? The Whigs? Probably not -- because all these American political parties extincted themselves. It could happen to a modern party in crisis -- and it should happen to the Republicans who have proved to be incompetent and irrelevant. The time is right for a new brand, since the Democrats -- with the exception of Obama -- are moribund too. Check out NY State -- a Kennedy leading a Cuomo to take over a seat from a Clinton. Some democracy. Time for real change.

prodigilson said...

Indeed, it could happen--though I suspect that more "official" safeguards exist to keep these parties in existence. And moribund as they may be, the empty husks continue, with the majority of the voters by default belonging to one or the other, and with the empty husks assuming one identity or another, depending on the national mood. As much as I, as a "leftyson," would like to see the Republican Party cease to exist (replaced with an actual small-government, free-market party, as there is a true need for such an entity), I suspect that the Republican Party as an institution will morph to become a home once more for the disenchanted small-government conservatives who have seen their party lose that brand.

brandsinger said...

Prodigal Lefty: The Republicans seem destined to be a SMALL small government brand, as you suspect. My original point - back in November - was that they can become a large and viable alternative if they would only return to the values of Lincoln -- which can be adapted and applied to today's issues. As I also wrote, Obama is arrogating Lincoln's mystique to himself... hence my belief that Republicans are toast for years to come.

Keep smilin,
brandsinger