Netflix Republicans?

Netflix Republicans? David All argues that most of the talk about Rebuilding the Republican Brand is too focused on the past. Instead, the party should take its cues from Internet success stories like Netflix and iTunes.

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

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    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.

    That’s not what they are talking about, J-Dog. I think it is a variant on McCain’s “gas tax holiday” party-building exercise. Since that gesture didn’t quite work, maybe giving people “free netflix” might be a way to build party support and move voters associations with the party from problematic realities like Bush’s record.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    I can see some sense in this. Part of it is the framing of the issue. The same action can be seen as fiscal responsibility by the government, smaller government, states rights, national security, etc. So the same proposal can be “sold” to different parts of the electorate who care about different things.

    The problem is that if you don’t have over-arching principles, you can easily end up on different sides philosophically. Obama’s pandering on NAFTA is a great example of wanting to be for free trade and suck up to unions at the same time. There he is on both sides of the issue depending on who he is talking to. Another good example is the threat posed by Iran. On one day he says Iran does not pose a threat to the US because of their small military budget. On the next day, to a different audience, he calls Iran a grave threat to the US. So he positions himself on both sides of an issue. The press is so much in the tank for Obama that he isn’t called on it. Republicans don’t have that luxury.

  3. Michael says:

    That’s not what they are talking about, J-Dog. I think it is a variant on McCain’s “gas tax holiday” party-building exercise. Since that gesture didn’t quite work, maybe giving people “free netflix” might be a way to build party support and move voters associations with the party from problematic realities like Bush’s record.

    Maybe, but given the GOP’s luck lately everybody would just rent Michael Moore films.

  4. Michael says:

    The press is so much in the tank for Obama that he isn’t called on it. Republicans don’t have that luxury.

    Yeah, it’s not like the press is going to McCain’s house for a barbecue or anything like that.

  5. mq says:

    Trying to be all things to all people…isn’t that what we make fum of Obama for?

  6. Adam Graham says:

    Okay, well I went to my Queue and put, “Strong Social and Economic Conservative President” in my Queue and it says, “Very, very, very, very, very long wait.”

  7. DL says:

    The problem is the vast gap between Washington and the other 57 (+ or – 5) states. When representatives of the people become the entrenched ruling class -there can be no cure, short of some kind of a revolution.

    As far as how to solve what the party should stand for, I say let them decide with one of the motor world’s favorite solutions as to who’s best. No not NASCAR – I mean demolution derby -that’s what we have going on in the GOP now.

    Election day? I’m probably going deer hunting -my vote hasn’t mattered for years. It’s like trying to decide whether your going to serve company crow or seagull.