Gone are the days of Newt Gingrich’s Contract for America, a plan which every Republican got behind and backed. A unified agenda back in 1994 was possible because of Newt Gingrich’s intoxicating personality and strong leadership style; but it was also a different time, a time before the Internet inspired a culture of choice and information.
Today, thanks to the Internet, each Member of Congress can and should be fighting in the trenches for the hundreds of issues which drive their voters to the polls under the banner of the Republican Party. The Internet provides a medium to distribute our message like never before. We can fight on thousands of fronts.
Rather than being forced to to pick a few, limited set of agenda items, House Republicans should change the game and act more like iTunes and NetFlix — offering conservative, libertarian, and independent voters a lot of different choices — all of which can only be found under the larger brand — Republican.
This is a recipe for diluting, rather than rebuilding, the brand. One subscribes to Netflix for entirely different reasons than one aligns with a political party.
Most go to Netflix to get a wide variety of movies in a convenient manner. Most choose a political party as a shortcut to candidate selection. Most people don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours researching candidates, especially for down ballot races. But, in a contest you really haven’t paid much attention to, you’re reasonably sure that you’ll get what you want by picking the candidate of the same party as your choice for governor or president. That sense makes the Democrat and Republican brands very important; to the extent this is not the case, the brands are diluted.
One could argue that both parties are already doing too much of what David prescribes. Partly, this is inevitable. Our institutional design essentially preordains a two party system and our geographic diversity makes it even more likely here than elsewhere that we’ll have catch-all parties. A Mississippi Democrat is almost always going to be more conservative than a Massachusetts Republican. And, in the House especially, local interests are going to skew Member voting behavior considerably.
At the same time, however, there ought to be some common principles that members of a party roughly agree upon. Otherwise, frankly, why have parties at all? Why not just adopt a Louisiana-style system where candidates run in a free-for-all and the top two vote getters square off in the general election?
Photo credit: Mr. Guybrarian