It’s a Thursday morning in my speech class. We had just watched the 2012 DNC and RNC speeches the prior days. We’re in the persuasive speech unit and are investigating the different propaganda techniques. After some discussion, I ask if it mattered whether or not a candidate was a likable person to be an effective executive for the United States. The answer was a resounding no. Then why do speechwriters, campaigns, and candidates themselves work tirelessly for the candidate to appear likable? Kids aren’t dumb. They understood the question—we like to like the person for whom we vote. We want to think our vote was a charitable donation to the common man, a passive and lazy pass at helping our fellow Americans despite all evidence to the contrary.
I’ve watched Michael Steele, Reince Priebus, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and others get on the soapbox and repeat the same diatribes over and over again. Socialism is bad. Free Markets work. Empower the individual. Don’t tamper with the Constitution.
Since I started voting, only a single election occurred where my vote went to the winning team—2010. In 2008, I watched Obama get elected, I also watched my dorm-dwelling peers run around in victory, blissfully unaware of the implications. I went to bed early that Tuesday night.
I ponder all of this as I continue to go to work everyday, wondering if the future generation whom I coexist with on a daily basis will take notice. Will they realize the people with a D next to their name are substantially failing? Do they even care? The answer is probably not and no, respectively. So how do we get them to take notice?
I posit that such an answer snuggles safely between logic and culture. I’m only in my first quarter-century of life experiences; however, I’ve been following politics for long enough to realize that while Republicans may have some of the right ideas for pushing our country onto further prosperity, they suck ass at advertising their brand. Politicians are brands, nothing more, nothing less. You realize this epiphany when you’re teaching propaganda techniques implemented in convention speeches and see platitudes mired in generalities combined with the subtleties of diversity, inclusion, etc. We want to like this guy; we want to like his brand, his associations. Should I buy the Romney? Or should I buy the Obama. The Romney looks (and media certainly doesn’t help) a little stiff. The Obama, on the other hand, looks much more cool and collected.
“Oh my god! Look, it’s Obama on ESPN with Stuart Scott making NCAA March Madness picks!” said the disinterested-yet-eligible-to-vote teenager.
“Dude, I was watching Jimmy Fallon and Obama was slow-jamming the news. It was hilarious,” one potential voter said to another.
These aren’t new ideas. I watched Gavin McInnes, a frequent contributor on Fox News’ late night show Red Eye, make a speech on culture at Restoration Weekend 2013 (See video below). I’ve also been a fan of Red Eye (sidenote: for those of you who are unaware, Red Eye is a Fox News show that can be best described as a charmingly low-budget panel discussion with a diverse set of personalities in a format similar to a group of people drinking at a bar. It can be both funny and intelligent but never abrasive or angry. It’s more Daily Show, less political punditry) with Greg Gutfeld. Anyway, in McInnes’ speech and his regular appearances on Red Eye, he takes on ideas like gay marriage and legalization but with a more conservative/libertarian justification.
The patriarch of this movement, though, is Andrew Breitbart (despite what his critics say said about him, he was always a mixed libertarian-conservative). He correctly pointed out in Righteous Indignation that culture permeates our subconscious. We see a likeable gay character on a show like Modern Family and we associate gay people with funny quirks. We watch Elysium and see class warfare taken to a literal level. We watch Avatar and are served a double shot of Colonialism. It’s not enough to simply wag a finger and say, “Oh, liberal Hollywood.”
Conservatives generally bash the arts and humanities. Conversely, liberals tend to embrace the creative disciplines. Hence, you get art that is done from a liberal lens. Further, conservative art is usually overt and unfunny. See: An American Carol. It all circles back to our tendency to push candidates and leaders who are overwhelmingly stiff and unmarketable regardless of how competent they are for the job. But it’s become guilt by association. The candidates represent the Republican brand, and the brand is damaged. It’s time to rebuild the brand.
In an interview with Breitbart.com, Gutfeld said about the arts, “[conservatives] take risks with money, but not with much else. But that’s wrong. We wrinkle our noses at things we don’t understand. Rather than just understanding it.” He continued, “Louis CK may be profane, but he’s also perceptive and honest. Alec Baldwin may be an ass, but he’s one of the finest comedic television actors in recent memory. I hate the phrase ‘open-minded,’ but we must open our minds to the creativity you otherwise might find unnerving.”
Opening up also means relaxing on social issues. I realized this when I thought about gay marriage and said to myself: I really don’t care. If you wanna be gay, go be gay. On marijuana: I don’t smoke, but it’s not my place to say you can’t in the same way no one can tell me if I want to drink a bottle of Jameson in my own home. McInnes said it best, we need to put all our eggs in one basket. So what if Chris Christie’s running mate is a “black gay midget with face tattoos,” if (subject to change since the Bridge-gate scandal) he’s the front-runner, why not throw support around the horse that can actually win the race.
Just this week, a co-founder of GOProud changed his identification to Independent. He said he couldn’t escape the bigotry of the Republican party. Also this week, a new term–at least for me–emerged on the interwebs, conservatarian. In California, the GOP is hoping to align more libertarian social values with conservative economic philosophies. It’s a marriage that, I think, can win. Besides
ideologues, most people aren’t fond of seeing their year-end W2, seeing how much money, their money, is not in their bank accounts, and then settling on the idea that only a small percentage of that money will be returned to them. It’s time to promote the individual. Be a party of individualism, a core tenet being the empowerment of individual freedom. Freedom includes social and economic autonomy, an idea that while promoted by the conservative brand, is often tainted by the fact that Republicans get too heavily involved in moral evangelism.
Anyone right-of-middle must start managing the message. They must start becoming culturally relevant and relatable. The philosophical ideas will follow. This is why Red Eye needs to not be on Fox News, but on an FXX or Comedy Central. We go there for entertainment, education is in the periphery; it’s subconscious. If the apolitical populace can see the conservative/libertarian brand as approachable the way Gutfeld and McInnes (Andy Levy included) already are, the ideology can manifest into a new electorate.
It may be a cheap trick, but Republicans need voters to want to want them.