Stannard: Makeover for the GOP is only skin deep

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Bob Stannard, a lobbyist and author. This piece first appeared in the Bennington Banner.

His rotund self sits behind the microphone. His face is red. He is apoplectic. He is screaming endlessly at people he cannot see. “They (the GOP) think they got landslided (in 2012), but they didn’t.” “The Republican Party lost because it’s not conservative, it didn’t get its base out,” he said, adding, “People say they need to moderate their tone — they don’t.”

These are the words and the opinion of one Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk show host. He was responding to the new Republican National Committee report called the “Growth and Opportunity Project.” This report apparently was done as a result of a survey of voters who found the Republican Party to be “scary, narrow minded and out of touch” and that they are the party of “stuffy old men.”

Well, Mr. Limbaugh can bark until his head explodes, but the voters pretty much sum up what most people already think. So what is the poor GOP supposed to do? One might think that they would modify their positions to be, say, a little less scary, but don’t hold your breath.

What you can expect to see is a marketing program, a makeover. They have to find another way to sell their message to the voters, even if voters don’t like the message. The Republican Party of today is not the Republican Party of 30 years ago. The party has been hijacked by conservative radical extremists. This should come as no surprise to Karl Rove, who is now opining that things must change within the party even though he was the architect who helped to empower the extremists.

You may recall when Rove worked for George Bush the plan was to empower the evangelicals of this country, a group that heretofore was sidelined. Bush and Rove nurtured this constituency and gave them credibility. The results were the rise of people like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Now, thanks to people like these two, Republicans are going to great extremes to be even more extreme. They oppose things like health care for diabetics while supporting things like kids drinking 22 ounce soft drinks laced with sugar. They support wars, yet turn their backs on wounded vets.

Can any amount of public relations and marketing gloss over the extreme positions held by national Republican leaders? That’s hard to say, but look at what happened last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting. Defeated Republican candidate Mitt Romney re-emerged to introduce the new packaging of the Iraq War.

“Whenever you think of these interventions — the impulse behind every single one of them was liberation, not conquest,” Romney said.

Tell that to Dick Cheney, who we learned this week was more interested in Iraq’s oil than previously thought by some. Many people thought that the primary reason to go into Iraq was for their oil, and because President Bush was on a vendetta for Hussein’s murder attempt on Bush’s father.

Americans aren’t stupid. They can see pretty clearly the agenda being put forth by the leaders of the Republican Party. The party seems to be saying that the top 1% needs more help via tax cuts and that working Americans should help pay for these cuts. Most people think this is bunk, which is why Obama was re-elected. All the PR in the world isn’t going to change people’s opinion, or is it?

Here in Vermont we’re seeing sort of the same thing on a much smaller scale. After Peter Shumlin won his election we saw the emergence of a group called Campaign for Vermont. In their marketing they state that this is a non-partisan, non-political group. They want to start a conversation about feel-good issues everyone agrees with like “prosperity.”

Interestingly enough, the group was started by a former chief executive of Bear Stearns, one of the largest Wall Street firms that ended up as a sacrificial lamb when the economic bubble burst. A handful of people from Bear Stearns made a lot of money. Thousands of people lost millions. These folks who lost big probably would love to hear about how to be more prosperous from a senior executive of a company that ended up losing their money.

The group is going around the state holding town hall forums to talk about issues and how to make Vermont a better place by lowering all of our taxes and scaling back on regulations. Sound familiar?

Some of the more cynical people out there think that Campaign for Vermont is simply a campaign for its founder, Bruce Lisman, who allegedly has gubernatorial ambitions. It’s just about marketing.

It’s not that they’re wrong on the issues. It’s just that you poor, uneducated voters out there aren’t getting it. What you need is a new marketing program. One that helps you get by the scary feeling you get when you see a party lash out at women or work to cripple the middle class. Your problem is that you’re just not seeing the big picture.

Hopefully, some of that 1% money will buy a bigger and better campaign to clear this up for you.

That should make Rush happy.

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  • Ron Pulcer

    Remember when Coca Cola came out with “New Coke”, and renamed “Coke” to “Classic Coke”. Then when the New Coke fizzled out, then there was just plain “Coke” again?

    I thought the “re-branding” started when some long-time Republicans like Dick Armey of TX (FreedomWorks) tried to co-opt the Tea Party brand before 2010 election. Likewise, many of the Tea Party candidates opted to run for elected office as “Republicans” and not a new 3rd party called the “Tea Party”. In addition, incumbent Republicans in Congress suddenly started calling themselves “Tea Party”. Michelle Bachmann was in the “Tea Party Caucus”:

    Relation to the Republican Party:

    “All 66 former members of the Tea Party Caucus are members of the Republican Party. Three of them are part of the Republican leadership. Thomas E. Price serves as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, making him the seventh ranking Republican in the House, John R. Carter is the Secretary of the House Republican Conference, ranking him the ninth ranking Republican, and Pete Sessions is the number six Republican as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Other former members of the Tea Party Caucus hold committee chairmanships such as Rep. Lamar S. Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.”

    I view this new marketing campaign as “Re-branding #2”. Classic GOP, or GO-Tea, and now New GOP?

  • Walt Amses

    To have one of our two major political parties so far out of the norm is frightening. The modern GOP spends countless hours and millions of dollars trying to convince Americans of things that are simply not true. Usually these issues are presented as threats from which we have to protect ourselves and eventually – sometimes years later – we learn that they were designed to create fear……Iraq, immigration, gays and lesbians, health insurance, birth control, President Obama, unions, teachers……the list goes on. Any notion that they’re changing with the times or with the direction America is heading can be easily dispelled by reviewing the list of speakers at their recent CPAC convention…..every blast from the recent past, every flamer, every southern fried dingbat, every delusional burnout and every raving paranoid that represents the “new hope” of the Republican Party showed up with bells on: Palin, Trump, Santorum, Ryan,
    Paul, Rubio, Jindel and Cruz……..and of course Lil Wayne…..LaPierre, whose foaming at the mouth rhetoric about the necessity of all of us having guns to protect ourselves from the rest of us sounded like the purple drank had finally taken those last few brain cells. They’re on the road to nowhere and they’re trying to take the rest of the country with them.

    • This op-ed has some crucial information missing. What kind of lobbyist is Bob Stannard; what companies, and special interest groups, pay for his services? What are some of his book titles?

      I pretty much vote a straight Republican ticket. I would be a registered Republican if Vermont made that possible. I don’t see how I fit into the above list of “southern fried dingbats and delusional burnouts”, although some may see my post-modernist poetry as “a blast from the past” (a term often used in a positive sense, to describe the perpetually popular “golden oldies” heard on the radio.).

      The direction in which America is now heading is catastrophic. Symptomatic of its financial and moral bankruptcy are the “fire sales” or “bankruptcy sales” (or “tax sales”) of Vermont’s ecological treasures to foreign energy companies (not to mention what British Petroleum did to the Gulf of Mexico in 2010). Chinese colonies exempt from American law will be next. A disarmed America suits these plans; in fact, China has requested it.

      To be a Conservative means to believe in protecting the valuable things we do have. To be “progressive” means to blunder into unknown territory that has often led straight off a cliff (e.g., the Russian “Revolution,” which was actually an anti-Christian coup). Because I am conservative, on my website you will see poems and pictures referring to people and things Americans cherish:including the Cross, the Flag, mothers and babies, military veterans, gardens, pets, songbirds and other wildlife, hunters and guns, but most of all, rural America and the farms that Thomas Jefferson considered the basis of America’s democracy. (The safe, clean, happy small towns I grew up in are prominently featured as well.)

      Let me list the things YOU see as positive, or at least, not to be feared:

      Iraq [most Muslim countries would like to blow us to smithereens]

      immigration [Criminal aliens are notoriously bad drivers. Also, how long will it be until some Vermont criminal alien uses his newfound mobility to legally drive away the farm where he has been in hiding, to rob, murder and rape? I’d say less than a week after the Legislature does its dirty work. Nationwide statistics support what I just wrote.]

      gays and lesbians [according to their own information, 90% of them have been sexually abused. Sound healthy? God help us if this is part of “the new norm.”]

      health insurance [no one was dying in the streets before Obamacare]

      birth control [You mean abortion. In the 2010 election, our current governor rose to victory on a pile of dead Vermont babies, past and future]

      President Obama [oh gosh, how much time do you have? To start with (see criminal aliens, above) he’s not “President” of anything, and as to who’s legally in charge of the country, it’s either John Boehner or Patrick Leahy, take your pick],

      unions [Commie thugs, most of them],

      teachers [I really feel sorry for the good ones.]

      Missing from your list is women’s rights. One of the tragedies of feminism (and there are far too many to list here), is that those of mediocre intellect and ability are thrust into positions for which they are ill-suited. The same is true of men; however, with less of a societal loss. Specifically, instead of raising a “quiverfull” of beautiful children, some would-be “corporate superbitch” who apparently overdosed on Danielle Steele novels as a teenager is not only free, but encouraged, to assume a position of authority, where she may bludgeon herself to death with hard words like “aesthetics” or “vehemence.”

      Conversely, even in the dark days before feminism, we have had saints, queens, abbesses, poetesses, women novelists and philosophers, and the occasional military commander: all of whom were recognized for their gifts and abilities by the men in power, but only on one condition: They had to prove themselves first.

      In closing: As a woman who does not spew the liberal line, I fully expect to be gang-attacked for my opinions, especially by those on this site who have trouble with big words, abstract concepts, and critical thinking. I invite you to shame yourselves; bring it on. (But don’t expect me to respond; I don’t have time).

      This was once a proudly Republican state, and I hope to be a part of that sometime in the future. Meanwhile, it’s quality not quantity that counts (example given: Senator Joe Benning).

      Ellin Anderson
      Brownington, VT

      • Bob Stannard

        Dear Ms. Anderson, thank you for your insightful response. As for “what kind of lobbyist” I am, I would guide you to the Sec. of State’s office. All lobbyists have to register (and disclose) their activities to them.

        In addition to lobbying I also work as a commercial broker.

        I am a working musician (although this industry, too, has changed to the degree where no one except the corporations can make any money).

        I have written one book: “How to Survive the Recession – A Vermont Perspective” and have been an opinion columnist for about six or seven years with the Bennington Banner and VT Digger.

        I’m an 8th generational Vermonter with values derived from parents of this great state. I was taught to pay close attention to what little money we had and no attention to my neighbor’s business. Unless my neighbor encroached upon my family whatever else they did was fine by us. If they were different from us that was OK with us. If they were gay, or of a different religion we didn’t particularly care as long as they didn’t push their beliefs on us.

        I guess what I’m saying is that I was raised as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. If you need/want an abortion that’s not my business. If you are gay, good for you. If you want to end your own life and need the help of your doctor to do so, that doesn’t impact me even a little bit. Live your life and stop telling me how I should live mine.

        That’s how I was raised. Anything else you’d like to know about me you can look up.

      • Tom Haviland

        Ms Anderson:

        Thanks for clearing up what I believe in. I wasn’t totally sure.