Friday, January 8, 2010

The Republican Party doesn't need to re-invent, it needs to get back to basics

In What the GOP Can Learn from a Pizza Chain Jonah Goldberg makes the case that the Republican Party would do well to look to Dominos Pizza as an example of how to win back loyalty:

...But if I were giving my two cents — and whaddya know? I am! — I’d tell the GOP to look not to Reagan in 1980 or Gingrich in 1994, as so many pundits suggest.

I’d look to Domino’s in 2010.

You may have seen the commercials or the YouTube video touting the iconic pizza-delivery chain’s reinvention. But if you haven’t, Domino’s new campaign can be summed up easily enough: “We blew it.”

Focus groups and consumer surveys revealed something pretty much everyone outside of Domino’s has known for years: Their pizza stinks. It tastes as if aliens tried to copy real pizza but just couldn’t capture its essence.

In their four-minute video (search YouTube for “the Pizza Turnaround”), executives, employees, and chefs at the company confront their harshest reviews head-on. They talk about how much it hurts to hear that their product “tastes like cardboard” and is worse than microwave pizza. But they admit the truth and commit themselves to starting over with more flavor, better crusts, and cheese that doesn’t taste like discount weather caulking. Domino’s says that the American palate has improved, and they want to update their recipe to take account of that fact.

The appeal of the campaign should be obvious: honesty. Domino’s admits they lost their way, and they want a second chance. They’re confronting the criticism head-on rather than denying it.

Obviously, the analogy to the GOP isn’t perfect. For example, last I checked, Domino’s didn’t get bogged down in an unpopular war.

But the GOP’s troubles over the last decade have a lot to do with the fact that Americans didn’t stop liking what the Republican party is supposed to deliver. They stopped liking what the GOP actually delivered.
Exactly.  Once upon a time the words "republican" and "conservative" were interchangeable.  Anymore, it seems that the (R) after many congressman's name could be just as easily read (D) and vice versa.  When presented with a homogeneous product the voters have either chosen the candidate with the flashiest advertising campaign or decided "why bother?".  For better or worse, and it has turned out to be worse, Obama distinguished himself in 2008 and McCain did not.

As a conservative who cares more about policies than partisan success, I would hate to see the GOP abandon conservative policies in order to be more popular. That would be like Domino’s listening to critics and then deciding to get into the Chinese-food business. Indeed, by my lights, that’s what George W. Bush tried to do with his “compassionate conservatism.” He surrendered to liberal arguments about the role, size, and scope of government on too many fronts. In effect, he said you can have your pizza and Kung Pao chicken all in the same dish. That’s not a good meal, it’s a bad mess.
Moreover, abandoning conservatism would be silly. According to Gallup, Americans identify themselves as conservative over liberal by a margin of 2–1, the same proportion as just after 9/11.

So what would a GOP-turnaround recipe look like? That’s a subject for any number of other columns. But for starters, I’d look to young political chefs like Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.). He’s been the leader in attacking “crony capitalism” — the corrupt merger of big business and big government, a hallmark of the Obama administration. For too long Republicans confused supporting big business with supporting free markets, when big business is often the biggest impediment to fair competition. Other fresh new ingredients would almost surely include pro-family tax policies and the de-linking of legal and illegal immigration as interchangeable terms.
If the Republican Party were to follow Goldberg's advice I could easily see myself getting back on board.  Unfortunately, the "big tent" Republicans such as NRSC chairman Sen. Cornyn appears disinclined to get back to basics and instead supports RINO candidates over conservatives.  Sen. Lindsay Graham has thrown in with John Kerry and is thumbing his nose at party members who are clearly appalled by Cap & Trade.  The examples are nearly endless. 

Republicans have the opportunity to capitalize on Obama's disastrous first year but they won't do it by smugly claiming that they deserve the public's confidence simply because they represent a different party than is currently in power. 

If the party is to regain the trust that it betrayed they need to make big changes and make them soon.

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