RE-BRANDING THE GOP?
This Op Ed was published in the Post Register on April 12, 2016
Our two political parties are brands and that “brand” represents a contract with a party’s voters, writes Jay B. Gaskill.
By Jay B Gaskill
I was proud of the Idaho GOP when its members decisively rejected Donald Trump. Clearly “The Donald” has challenged the GOP establishment. But he is also questioning the very idea of conservatism.
From local talk shows, columns and letters one can glean very little about what it means, on any deep personal level, for someone to say “I am a conservative,” except that he or she is unhappy with the current president.
What is conservatism, really? Over the centuries, conservatives were opponents of change – liberals were advocates of change. America’s founders were liberals in that sense, as were their allies in the British parliament. But context always matters. In Soviet Russia, the ruling communists were called “conservatives” and their opponents were “liberals.” The Reagan administration supported the Russian “liberals.” But Reagan was a conservative, wasn’t he?
There are underlying conservative principles. One is at the core: the elevation of individual human dignity over the collective, coercive “social improvement” programs. A conservative respect for individual human dignity translates to the right to earn and keep one’s property; the defense of the traditional family as an institution; and the robust commitment to law and order and national defense. Conservatives are committed to the U.S. Constitution as a unique achievement in world history that is designed to protect individual human dignity from enemies, domestic and foreign, including from the government itself.
Our two political parties are brands: The Republican Party brand emphasizes conservative values and goals, but not to the exclusion of some liberal ones. The Democratic Party brand emphasizes the progressive improvement of the human condition via large scale collective measures, but not to the exclusion of some conservative goals. For Republicans, the Constitution is a bedrock boundary, a bulwark against tyranny. For many Democrats, the Constitution is a living instrument that must bend to suit the times. Few of us are “pure” partisans – life is too complicated. Neither party is purely conservative or liberal.
Party branding represents a social contract with voters. Trump would change the Republican brand. A few years from now, we will remember how a celebrity with self-contradictory opinions sought to take over the GOP. For now, we can’t know the outcome. We can’t even be sure whether a President Trump would care about the property rights of an Idaho landowner, or whether he would regard the U.S. Constitution as something more than a problem for his lawyers.
Most GOP officials have not lost the ability to count actual votes. Polls are volatile and inaccurate. Votes are real. A majority of individual Republicans voting in the primaries have consistently rejected Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.
You doubt this? Find one primary race where Donald Trump broke 50 percent among actual GOP voters. The delegate count exaggerates Trump’s successes because GOP mavens miscalculated. They planned on a Jeb Bush consensus. They gamed the playing field to facilitate that outcome. The unintended result was that a candidate with a minority of votes could run the table. Trump saw the opening and ran with it.
If Mr. Trump never gets a majority of individual GOP primary votes, he should never get the nomination.
If either party’s brand is to change, that should be left up to its voting members.
Gaskill is a “recovering lawyer” who lives in Idaho Falls.
Copyright © 2016 by Jay B Gaskill and the Post Register
A longer, related article by Jay Gaskill: The Emerging Coalition of the Creative, Non-Left
More about the author at – http://jaygaskill.com/Profile.pdf
Somme collected articles on Webster’s Web Commentary at http://www.webcommentary.com/php/ShowAuthor.php?id=gaskillj
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