Everyone today is supposed to have a Brand.
It used to be that a Brand was a product name, like Kraft or Kellogg’s. Now a Brand is a perceived promise, like Volvo means safety or John Deere means long-lasting durability.
Branding has gone beyond the corporate world. Colleges are supposed to have Brands. So are people, especially young job seekers, who are told by recruiters to establish personal brands.
Political parties talk behind the scenes about their Brand. The informal Brand of the Republican Party is that it is the party for the rich. This Brand works not only on the rich, but also on those who dream of being rich.
In reality, both parties have worked hard over the past four decades to dismantle the middle class. So for me, the real Brand of the Republican Party is not so much about the rich but about efficiency.
I learned this as a reporter covering the presidential nominating conventions in 1980. The Democratic confab in New York was utter chaos. Idealistic, but a bureaucratic nightmare of sloppiness. The Republican meeting in Detroit, however, was organized, smooth and run better than Disney World.
The differences were striking and, I think, reflective of each party’s national character.
This came back to mind last week when I read two news items. One involved the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the other Amtrak. The article on the housing authority was about cutbacks in staff vehicles and how at one time 200 authority employees were given free cars to use as they pleased. The piece on Amtrak, the quasi-governmental agency that runs the nation’s passenger railroad, said that over the past 10 years food and beverage concessions on trains lost $800 million.
Republicans, I’m sure, have been involved to some degree in both the housing authority and Amtrak. But both agencies really represent Democratic operations. Had Republicans been totally in charge, I doubt those news stories would have been necessary.
For starters, we all know Republicans don’t need free cars. Mitt Romney, for example, has so many vehicles he plans to install an elevator in the garage at one of his homes. Big savings there. With Amtrak, the Republicans would have given the food business to a private firm that contributed heavily to the party, and the government would have saved $800 million.
These are just two small examples of how the GOP could save the country money. There must be thousands more. If the Republicans could solidify power and close these gaps without giving away the proceeds in sweetheart deals to special interests (far too likely), we might be able to balance the budget without further damage to the middle class.
The party could then adopt the branding tagline that AT&T has been using at the Olympics: Rethink Possible.