Thursday, February 07, 2013

Brand X


Eric Cantor and John Boehner and the Republican congressional caucus aren't desperate to refurbish their brand just because they want to make a successful endeavor more snappy and perky. No, their brand is seriously tarnished and absolutely toxic to large swathes of the population. Old white people, not so much, southern reactionaries and religionist lunatics... they're fine with the GOP brand. But young people, women, African-Americans, intellectuals, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, people with triple-digit-IQs... those groups aren't buying the reactionary policies of Greed and Selfishness tempered and popularized with Hatred and Bigotry. That's what people-- other than Southern whites-- hate about the GOP. And the rebranding effort isn't going anywhere near any of that. Which is why it will fail and fail dismally.

Ever buy a pair of shoes from Toms? The way they've branded their stores is with a simple statement on top of their website: "With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One." They have vegan shoes and they have an interesting and unique story and their branding isn't like anyone else's. They just opened a flagship store at 1344 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice. You could have a problem recognizing it as a retail space, although Blake Mycoskie's shoes and eyewear are on sale there. It's designed like a living room and that's what it feels like. There's a cafe with stuff from Pressed Juicery, Valerie Confections and Cafecito Organico. They offer craft classes and screenings, extended hours and do everything they can to make you want to hang out there. That's not how Cantor and Boehner are going about building their tattered brand.

The clowns on Morning Joe-- and in the Beltway media generally-- may present Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan as "policy wonks," but these are grubby political hacks and well-paid shills for the corporations who underwrite their very lucrative careers. More discerning observers than the Morning Joe crew might even present Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and their ilk as obvious criminal types who manage to stay out of prison because they and their kind write the laws defining bribery, corruption and graft.

Cantor's task Tuesday was to somehow make his party sound less conservative while extolling the virtues of conservative policies. He's wasn't very convincing. I don't think it made anyone who voted for Obama two months ago want to go back in time and recast their vote for Mitt Romney. I don't think hearing Cantor's speech would have saved the House seats lost by Allen West, Joe Walsh, Frank Guinta, Ann Marie Buerkle, David Rivera, Dan Lungren, Brian Bilbray, Chip Cravaack, Charlie Bass, Marie Bono Mack, Nan Hayworth, Quico Conseco, Roscoe Bartlett, Robert Dold, Judy Biggert and Bobby Schilling. And I don't think if Cantor had only made the speech on November 1, we'd now have a Senator Todd Akin, a Senator Richard Mourdock, a Senator Tommy Thompson, a Senator Connie Mack, a Senator Scott Brown, a Senator Rick Berg, a Senator George Allen, a Senator Josh Mandel, a Senator Pete Hoekstra, a Senator Linda McMahon, a Senator Linda Lingle, a Senator Denny Rehberg, nor Senators Charles Summers, Wendy Long, Heather Wilson, Tom Smith, John Raese, and Joe Kyrillos. And Orrin Hatch's 65% win wouldn't have swelled, nor would have John Barrasso's 76% win nor Confederate crackpot Ted Cruz's 56% victory.

It's now a net negative for a politician to be endorsed by the NRA. The latest polling finds that the overwhelming majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship the GOP was fighting and labeling "extremist" even while Cantor was making his speech. And it's not just Democrats who favor what reactionary Judiciary Committee chairman Goodlatte called "extreme" Tuesday. 53% of moderates, 52% of independents and even 45% of self-described conservatives and 42% of admitted Republicans prefer comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. But those Republicans-- let alone the moderates and independents-- are not part of Eric Cantor's and John Boehner's dysfunctional House caucus. These are the people catering to the Southern Know Nothings and racists who want to deport 11 million Hispanics living in the U.S. And Cantor was trying to soften the GOP image while keeping those people happy.

At it's heart-- for lack of a better word-- the Republican Party is really about reducing or eliminating regulations for Big Business, low or no taxes for corporations and the very wealthy and an end to public services for the middle and working class. This agenda has never been all that popular among normal people-- so they've made a deal with the devil and added in all the racism, religious bullshit, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, etc. It's a tactic as old as the political right itself is. There is no other way to get that toxic agenda supported in a democracy. Cantor attempted the impossible-- making Republicans look less Republican without offending a base that has been brainwashed and empowered by Hate Talk Radio and Fox News. Steve Benen found his rhetoric inconsistent with reality. He took discredited right wing ideas, "stuck them in the microwave for a minute, and tried to pretend he'd prepared a fresh meal. Cantor still wants to repeal 'Obamacare,' fund private school vouchers, and encourage colleges to 'provide prospective students with reliable information on the unemployment rate and potential earnings by major'."
At its core, the Republican agenda is still the Republican agenda. Slightly different packaging is irrelevant, and the fact that Cantor's speech was so thin reinforces the perception that the party isn't really prepared to change much of any thing, their recent defeats notwithstanding.

Cantor seems to realize that another "government is evil" speech is pointless-- for all the assumptions about the "center-right nation," he realizes that the American mainstream sees a role for a healthy public sector that promotes the general welfare. But the problem with this latest rebranding campaign is that Cantor wants to present a Republican agenda that will "benefit families across the nation," but he can't fill in the blanks.

There's a reason for this, which the right generally prefers not to admit: conservatism isn't an effective governing philosophy when it comes to using government to make a positive material difference in the lives of working families. Cantor spent 45 minutes trying to jam a square peg into a round hole, and it was ultimately unsatisfying because his pitch lacked any kind of persuasive depth.
Tweaking the tone is not going to do it for 'em and until they start backing away from policies that are unpopular with ordinary working families, they're stuck with the crazy base which is demanding policies that are even more hated than the GOP core values. Think Progress offered 8 salient examples of how Cantor served up a new GOP that is exactly the same as the discredited old GOP.
1. SCHOOL FUNDING: “Imagine if we were to try and move in this direction with federal funding. Allow the money we currently spend to actually follow individual children. Students, including those without a lot of money or those with special needs, would be able to access the best available school, not just the failing school they are assigned to.” This is a redux of Mitt Romney’s school funding plan, which while a decent idea in theory, wouldn’t be possible alongside the House GOP budget’s call for $2.7 billion in cuts to spending for disadvantaged students. As The Nation’s Dana Goldstein explained, this plan calls for shuffling funding “without guaranteeing the federal funding or regulatory support necessary to ensure quality.”

2. HIGHER EDUCATION: “Over the course of this Congress, we will also work to reform our student aid process to give students a financial incentive to finish their studies sooner. We will encourage entrepreneurship in higher education, including for-profit schools.” The House Republican budget would eliminate Pell Grants for more than one million students. Many for-profit schools, meanwhile, take huge amounts of taxpayer money while leaving students burdened with debt and facing bleak job prospects. Their focus is corporate profitability, not education, and they use aggressive marketing tactics to target vulnerable students.

3. WORKING MOTHERS: “Federal laws dating back to the 1930s make it harder for parents who hold hourly jobs to balance the demands of work and home. An hourly employee cannot convert previous overtime into future comp-time or flex-time…Imagine if we simply chose to give all employees and employers this option. A working mom could work overtime this month and use it as time off next month without having to worry about whether she’ll be able to take home enough money to pay the rent.” Cantor’s proposal would do far less good than simply ensuring that all workers have access to paid sick leave and paid maternity leave. The U.S. is currently the only developed country with no paid sick leave policy and one of just three without required paid maternity leave.

4. TAX REFORM: “Loopholes and gimmicks benefitting those who’ve come to know how to work the system in Washington, are no more defensible than the path of wasteful and irresponsible spending we’ve been on for decades. Working families should come first. Everyone agrees a fairer, simpler tax code would give us all more time.” Republicans pay lots of lip service to tax reform, but want to raise no new revenues through the closing of loopholes and deductions, despite the fact that the deficit reduction implemented since 2011 has come overwhelmingly via spending cuts.

5. IMMIGRATION: “It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home…. I’m pleased that many of my colleagues in both chambers of Congress on both sides of the aisle have begun work in good faith to address these issues.” Republicans have embraced immigration reform after losing the Hispanic vote in the 2012 election. In 2010, Cantor and 160 other Republicans voted against the DREAM Act, a measure that “would offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people who attend college or serve in the military.”

6. OBAMACARE: “The new medical device tax in ObamaCare makes it harder for researchers to develop these innovative devices in the U.S….ObamaCare has unnecessarily raised the costs of our health care. “ A tax on the medical devise industry-- which will benefit from health care reform-- will help fund coverage expansion, without undermining innovation. As the Center For Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out the tax “does not apply to eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, or any other medical device that the public generally buys at retail for individual use.” It would also have minimal impact on innovation since “tax rate is just one of the many factors affecting financial incentives.” The Affordable Care Act has had a very small effect on current premiums.

7. MEDICARE: “We should begin by ending the arbitrary division between Part A, the hospital program, and Part B, the doctor services. We can create reasonable and predictable levels of out-of-pocket expenses without forcing seniors to rely on Medigap plans…. “ President Obama has included many of these efficiency reforms in his budgets-- but the GOP’s proposal move far beyond increasing program efficiency. Cantor and almost all Republicans support transforming Medicare into a voucher or premium-support program that will shift health costs to seniors without reducing overall health care spending.

8. MEDICAID: “We can provide states more flexibility with respect to Medicaid that will allow them to provide better care for low-income families in a way that ultimately lowers costs… And we must make it faster and simpler for states to gain approval of federal waivers to modify their Medicaid programs.” Democrats support increasing state flexibility in the Medicaid program, though Republicans-- and Cantor himself-- have voted to slash federal funding for Medicaid by 1/3 and shift some of the burden of Medicaid’s growing costs to the states. As a result, states could reduce enrollment by more than 14 million people, or almost 20 percent-- even if they are were able to slow the growth in health care costs substantially.

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At 9:26 AM, Blogger gcwall said...

The government and big business have been gaming the system for so long, that they do not have a clue how to run both legitimately. They cannot write a single piece of legislation that does not increase advantages to the advantaged while continuing to disadvantage the disadvantaged.

The collaboration between big business and the government functions like a cancer that exploits as many healthy citizens to the point of diminishing returns while the tumor grows and consumes the host until no healthy citizens remain.

Cantor and other right wing carpet baggers find their answers only in predator, prey scenarios while disregarding the destructive consequences of prioritizing individual greed over community service. Civilization cannot thrive in an atmosphere where the solution to survival is to consume everything, while imposing a police state regime to guarantee control over the economy by manipulating citizens with fear that leads to ignorance.

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Dennis Jernberg said...

Brand Ecch, featuring the Ecch-Men. (Note: Marvel Comics reference)

This "rebranding effort" reminds me of bloated old corporations trying to make themselves relevant again by changing their name to something some marketing-consultant focus group thinks hip. It's also closely related to the increasingly desperate efforts of creationists trying to rebrand their cult pseudoscience to something like "Intelligent Design Theory™" in order to convince smart people that their pseudoscience is Truer Than Science; that failed, and so will this.


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