The Magazine

The GOP Isn't Dog Food

So can we please stop talking about the 'Republican brand'?

Apr 27, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 30 • By LEE BOCKHORN
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Certainly fresh faces and fresh communications techniques can help, but only as the vehicles for fresh ideas. Successful politics cannot be reduced to mere marketing. (As President Obama is beginning to discover, even a wildly popular "personal brand" doesn't make governing easy.) New conservative statesmen and a newly vibrant Republican party will not emerge if we consider them akin to dog food or soap, whose market share can be increased with clever ads and a snazzy new label.

In a Washington Times op-ed last month, Governor Sanford wrote: "In many ways, a political party is little more than a brand." What a cramped, unlovely view of the role of parties in our democracy.

Political parties are often messy things--but at their best, they draw their strength and their reason for being from the real needs and hopes of millions of citizens. They serve the public by structuring choice: by formulating alternative ways to address public needs and advancing candidates who will carry those solutions forward. Republicans and conservatives can hasten their return to relevance by talking less about their "brand" and working harder to address the needs and aspirations of the people whose votes they seek to win.

Lee Bockhorn is a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and NEH chairman Bruce Cole.