The Palin Brand
December 7, 2009
Contributed By Ted Belman
David Frum, not my favourite neocon, recently published What the Tories Have to Teach Us in Commentary Magazine. In it, he notes that the Conservative Party in the UK, after suffering a massive defeat twelve years ago, turned its fortunes around and is now expected to return to power next year.
The turning point for Britain's Conservative party may have been a single slide in a PowerPoint presentation delivered at the party conference after the 2005 election defeat. Party chairman Francis Maude showed attendees the results of an opinion survey on immigration. When the Conservative position on immigration was described to a sample group, almost two-thirds approved. But when that same position was presented to a new sample group as the position of the Conservative party, support dropped by half. Perfectly good policy ideas were fatally tainted by association with a despised political organization. So British Conservatives set out to "detoxify" themselves—to put a more appealing face on their ideas and message.
As one architect of the detoxification put it to me: "What you talk about matters perhaps as much as what you say." While upholding your principles, align your priorities with the priorities of the country at large.
Politicians who substitute their own priorities for voter priorities leave voters wondering: Whom do these guys really work for?
In one important case in point, Frum notes how forever the Tories have been against the National Health Care System but never did anything about. So why attack it when the public supports it? The Tories switched gears and embraced it and declared themselves "the party of the NHS." So successful were they, that the electorate now looks to them, not Labour, to protect the NHS.
Thus, "Labour's most decisive advantage had been snatched away—and the way was fully cleared for Tories to return to government."
The lessons according to Frum: "Volunteer to do what you will be forced by political necessity to do anyway."
Next it is important to pick a new leader: "The leader you want is someone who appeals to the voters you need to gain, not the voters you already have."
So what can the GOP learn from this? It must rebrand itself by lowering the volume on issues such as abortion, guns and gay marriage and by emphasizing values that most people care about without sacrificing its principles. Then pick a leader a leader the Independents will vote for. Since no such leader will be formally selected until the primaries in 2012, the GOP should be emulating Sarah Palin in the meantime.
After resigning as Governor of Alaska, Palin announced her intention to campaign "on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation." No surprise there. In Alaska she had a reputation of being issue oriented. She often made alliances with Democrats. She also took on the Republican "old boys' network."
The GOP has been trying to decide whether to be more moderate (liberal) or more conservative. This debate took real form in the Congressional election in a district in upstate New York. The GOP selected as its candidate a very liberal Scozzafava over conservative Hoffman. Hoffman entered the race as an Independent. True to her words, Sarah Palin came out in support of the conservative rather than the Republican and she was joined by conservatives from all over the country. As a result he almost got elected.
Chris Stirewall, political editor for the Washington Examiner in Conservative Revolt good news for Republicans, said that Hoffman "offered an authentic, passionate vision of his party's core principles and did it in a way that didn't make moderates uncomfortable."
The good news, according to him, was that the conservatives are likely to take over the party.
Sarah Palin represents common sense values that independents can rally to. She eschews the Party and its brand and embraces the people and their values.
So what are these values?
1. Energy; "Drill, baby, drill", "Exploit all the above."