If you have an idea for a new solution to an old problem, you have two ways to promote your new solution. One is you can try to convince people it is a novel solution that is not just a better version of old solutions. It is a compete departure from the old way of addressing the problem. The other option is to disguise the originality of your solution and pitch your new idea as an advance on the old idea. Your new solution is a new and improved way of solving this old problem.
For example, you have come up with a new home cleaning product. Instead of the normal kitchen cleaner that relies about chemicals, your new product relies on microorganisms that eat the typical kitchen grime. You could try to convince people that using an alien life form to keep the stove clean is better than the old way of getting rid of grease and grime. Alternatively, you could skip past the details and focus on the amazing ability of your new product to clean the stovetop.
One approach is about changing minds. In this case, you need to convince people that novel life forms are better than chemicals. The other approach is about positioning your product at largest point of agreement. In this case, most people hate cleaning their kitchen, so you focus on that as your rallying point. The choice comes down to how open minded people will be about the novel idea. If you think people are open to a new approach, then your novel idea is the better option.
It also depends upon your willingness to take risks. You could try and fail to change people’s minds about using invincible critters to clean the kitchen. They could be perfectly safe and better for the environment than the use of caustic chemicals, but people freak out over invisible critters. Your effort to change how people think about the use of microorganisms could fall on deaf ears. Even worse, they could think you are a crazy person promoting dangerous ideas.
This is always the dilemma of politics. The reason the parties sound like two metronomes is they think it is safer to focus on the established market. They eschew novelty because that runs the risk of catastrophic failure. Their donors could be offended, or some large segment of their voting base could oppose it. The downside of the tried and true is a modest election loss. The downside of embracing a novel set of ideas is turning the party into a fringe party of weirdos.
This framing is what the Republicans now face. Most would like to go back to being the bland shadow of the Democrats. That was easy and fun. It required little risk, as all they had to do is wear little American flag lapel pins and be mean to Democrats. Until the 2016 debacle, being a Republican was simple. You waited for the Democrats to step on a rake, and then you talked about it on Fox News. Come the election you told your voters that they had to vote for you or the Democrats would win.
The one thing the Republicans seem to have figured out is the old approach is not going to work, even if the evil orange menace has been purged from their city. Maybe it is the threat of Trump running in 2024 or their own internal polling, but they seem to have figured out that the old product is not going to sell. They need a new product to take to their voters if they hope to win future elections. This is the gist of this memo circulated by the House GOP leadership last month.
In addition to it being leaked to the public, friendly media was told to promote it to the typical Republican readers. Here is James Pinkerton promoting the working class stuff in the context of British politics. That one off-year election is supposed to be a proof of concept for the new working-class conservative. Here is Fox News “reporting” on the origins of the memo and the person behind it. The “minuscule minority” bit seems to be coded language for the neoconservatives.
Given the timing and the ouster of Liz Cheney, the market testing of the new idea to win elections must have gone well. This summer the Republicans will have their regular meetings and strategy sessions to figure out how to take their new message to the market for the 2022 misterms. At least for now, they think sounding like a kinder gentler Donald Trump is the ticket to success. Look for them to stump in shirt sleeves or maybe blue jeans and flannel shirts this fall.
It is tempting to think they are going for the novel approach as outlined at the beginning, over the tried and true approach. In reality, they are not veering far from their standard approach to politics, which is a pure economic play. That has always been the GOP approach to politics, when you strip away the gingerbread. “Vote for us and you have more money and more cheap stuff.” They are now tailoring that message for the humans their analysists have identified as working class.
The trouble with this approach is the Trump phenomenon was not powered by economic anxiety. Immigration, for example, was never about money but about culture and demographics. Lots of people hate the changes they see in their communities and they were attracted to the TV carny-barker because he mentioned it. The same is true about trade policy. What people see is Walmart and Amazon obliterating small business and they associate it with global trade policy.
The other problem is there is an “own the libs” vibe to it. The people running the Republican Party are just as divorced from the dreaded private sector as the robots running the Democratic Party. Is anyone going to mistake Ben Sasse for a working class guy? Kevin McCarthy? Lyndsey Graham? There is a good chance they look like John Kerry dressed up as a hunter in the 1996 election. These Republicans talking like Huey Long will underscore their otherness to the voters.
On the other hand, homo economicus has always been a homunculus for white middle-class voters to crap into in order to avoid the culture war. In this regard, the Republican message, like the libertarianism on which is rests, has always been a form of political escapism for white people. Reducing everything to money means avoiding the debate about culture items, like race and sex. Reframing Trumpism to be nothing more than an economic play fit the conditioning of the typical white voter.
On the other other hand, the thing that sociopathic grifters always know is there is one last squeeze of even the oldest lemon. This could wring out one more good election for a party that no longer has a reason to exist. Baby Boomers, hoping to buy enough time will flock to the message. The struggling economy and the reality of the Biden administration will suck the life from the Left. The GOP will get one last shot to sucker white people into thinking this time will be different.
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