Should Republicans Call Domino’s?
NRO’s Jonah Goldberg thinks the Republican Party should take a lesson from Domino’s Pizza, which has apparently admitted that their product is awful and is working to fix itself.
You may have seen the commercials or the YouTube video touting the iconic pizza-delivery chain’s reinvention. But if you haven’t, Domino’s new campaign can be summed up easily enough: “We blew it.”
Focus groups and consumer surveys revealed something pretty much everyone outside of Domino’s has known for years: Their pizza stinks. It tastes as if aliens tried to copy real pizza but just couldn’t capture its essence.
In their four-minute video (search YouTube for “the Pizza Turnaround”), executives, employees, and chefs at the company confront their harshest reviews head-on. They talk about how much it hurts to hear that their product “tastes like cardboard” and is worse than microwave pizza. But they admit the truth and commit themselves to starting over with more flavor, better crusts, and cheese that doesn’t taste like discount weather caulking. Domino’s says that the American palate has improved, and they want to update their recipe to take account of that fact.
The appeal of the campaign should be obvious: honesty. Domino’s admits they lost their way, and they want a second chance. They’re confronting the criticism head-on rather than denying it.
I was unaware that Domino’s was reinventing itself. For that matter, I never thought their pizza was particularly bad compared to other chain restaurants. Still, this seems like a smart strategy. Here’s the ad video:
The Internet agrees. AllahPundit doesn’t have an opinion on the political angle of this but endorses the Domino’s ad and their new and improved pizza. Glenn Reynolds is skeptical but may “give ’em a try.” Mike Hendrix loves the ad but not the pizza.
But I digress.
But the GOP’s troubles over the last decade have a lot to do with the fact that Americans didn’t stop liking what the Republican party is supposed to deliver. They stopped liking what the GOP actually delivered.
As a conservative who cares more about policies than partisan success, I would hate to see the GOP abandon conservative policies in order to be more popular. That would be like Domino’s listening to critics and then deciding to get into the Chinese-food business. Indeed, by my lights, that’s what George W. Bush tried to do with his “compassionate conservatism.” He surrendered to liberal arguments about the role, size, and scope of government on too many fronts. In effect, he said you can have your pizza and Kung Pao chicken all in the same dish. That’s not a good meal, it’s a bad mess.
So what would a GOP-turnaround recipe look like? That’s a subject for any number of other columns. But for starters, I’d look to young political chefs like Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.). He’s been the leader in attacking “crony capitalism” — the corrupt merger of big business and big government, a hallmark of the Obama administration. For too long Republicans confused supporting big business with supporting free markets, when big business is often the biggest impediment to fair competition. Other fresh new ingredients would almost surely include pro-family tax policies and the de-linking of legal and illegal immigration as interchangeable terms.
But first, the GOP needs to admit it screwed up. That’s what Democrats did with Bill Clinton, and it gave the “New Democratic Party” a new lease on life.
This makes some sense as a marketing strategy. But there’s a wee problem: Unlike Domino’s, the Republican Party doesn’t control its product.
I don’t know the details of Domino’s franchise arrangement, but I presume that they can order franchisees to conform to precise recipes. More likely, the sauces and various other products are centrally ordered and distributed. Regardless, a Domino’s thin crust pepperoni pizza should taste exactly the same in Birmingham, Austin, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Detroit, and Boston.
The Republican Party, by contrast, is a brand name and a headquarters but its “chefs” are all independent.
That’s largely a good thing. While there are regional differences in taste, people nonetheless want their chain food fare to be consistent wherever they happen to be. But neither political party wants to run on the same platform in Atlanta and San Francisco. Political cultures vary much more on a regional basis than pizza preferences.
But it does come with some downside. The national headquarters has precious little ability to pick and chose candidates and platforms on a local level. Pretty much any yahoo can call himself a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian and run in that party’s primaries. Sure, the RNC and DNC can influence these things on the margins by recruiting candidates and pouring national money into local races but, for the most part, these things are organic.
Beyond that, good luck in coming up with a consensus on the new Republican “recipe.” The fact of the matter is that there’s widespread agreement that the GOP needs to fix itself but none on what the reinvented party should look like. Is it going to be more liberal on social issues? More conservative? Is it going to be run by the Tea Party gang? And who’s going to decide, anyway? Michael Steele? The current congressional leadership?
In reality, the Republican primary electorate will decide this on their own two years from now. Will they tack to the middle with a Mitt Romney? Or go the populist route with a Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin? Or maybe they’ll go off the reservation with a David Petraeus? There’s no telling at this juncture.