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"Resuscitating the GOP 2: The Brand - Commentary by Joseph C. Phillips"

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"And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Mark 3:25


It is both reasonable and fair to ask reformers of the Republican Party – those suggesting that we jettison the right wing and seek the gooey center of American politics -- exactly how many of their convictions they are willing to compromise in pursuit of electoral success. It is also fair and reasonable to ask whether the people can truly admire or trust any public servant that is willing to sacrifice their convictions upon the altar of political power.

Party reformers are quick to point to the Democratic Party model that has proved successful, to whit: silencing the far left of their party and supporting centrist or blue dog candidates. Or so they say. The list of pro-life, pro-family, pro-second amendment, Global warming skeptic democrats in party leadership positions is very short indeed.

More significantly, a new liberal by any other name is, well, still a new liberal. The bed-sheets in the white house had barely been changed before the newly empowered party approved new funding for abortions internationally and attempted to hide funding for domestic abortion clinics in the stimulus bill, moved to nationalize banks and auto manufactures, pushed to nationalize healthcare, reversed welfare reform and killed the D.C. school voucher program. Then they had lunch. No. Far from moving to the center -- from abandoning their principles -- democrats simply lied about what they were up to. In some circles this is called being politically savvy; in others it is more correctly called being dishonest. And there is a reason the left is deceptive about their intentions: they know that if they told the truth they could only get elected in California and certain districts of Caracas.

Conversely the conservative principles of family, faith, personal liberty and entrepreneurship are the very values that resonate with the vast majority of the American people; we need not be fearful of espousing them. Indeed we ought to shout them from the rooftops. But principle is not a brand and it is the Republican brand that is in need of a bit of spit and polish. The party brand has become associated with disingenuousness and weakness, two traits the American people do not suffer lightly (as Democrats will no doubt discover after the honeymoon ends.)

Two recent examples.

In March congressional Republicans lambasted the earmarks in the stimulus bill claiming their Democratic colleagues were not serious about cutting wasteful spending. The furor died down when it was revealed that a full 40% of the earmarks were going to Republicans. It is difficult for voters to take seriously Republican promises to guard the public trough from pork barrel spending when they are sopping their biscuits in the gravy.

Last week the Media reported that the Social Security and Medicare Trust funds will become insolvent much sooner than predicted. Republicans have begun to play “I told you so.” The problem is that 4 years ago when former President George W. Bush attempted to transform Social Security Congressional Republicans retreated from the challenge. Perhaps they were high on the satisfaction of having created a brand new entitlement: prescription drug benefits. It is next to impossible to present oneself as the party of entitlement reform after having created a new entitlement boondoggle and failing to find the political will to reform another.

On the issues people care most about – health care and the health of this economy-- the GOP has failed to define the debate and are in danger of being outflanked by the left just as they were outflanked on social issues. Where the party should have credibility it has lost trust and most importantly when it should have been leading it instead decided to follow.

The conversation Republicans ought to be having is one that has nothing to do with party moderates versus conservatives and everything to do with repairing a brand by standing up for those principles that most Americans still believe in.

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.




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