A verbose, incoherent website that looks like a dog’s breakfast would typically be satirically funny — except that it is the website of the Republican Party. Attempting to define the platform, it does not convey a succinct and focused message, conflates values with initiatives, leads with its chin, dismisses all of Obamacare, omits critical content, and even offers us bad grammar. A visit to the GOP website section that addresses “Renewing American Values” is a nightmare for a branding expert or an instructor of the English language.
Values are often thought of as ideals that may inspire and enhance performance. Like a brand, they have emotional appeal and cause us to bond with the source. Successful companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies communicate their values to sell themselves to the public and seek the moral high ground.
Unfortunately, many of the “values” that the GOP seeks to renew are not values at all. Cleaning up the Internet, repealing Obamacare, reforming the FDA, achieving tort reform, and addressing rising college costs are worthy initiatives but they are not values. The website contains eighteen initiatives or objectives, and most are not values at all. It is a blur reminiscent of Habsburg Emperor Joseph II’s comment to young Mozart in the film Amadeus after he viewed an opera: “too many notes.” The only difference is that this website is not a work of genius.
A complete rewrite is called for that names those values associated with the GOP: freedom — of choice, markets, and ideas; the rule of law; limited government; fiscal integrity; personal responsibility; a just society; and a strong national defense. Those are values that may inspire the electorate, not the overwrought smorgasbord on the website.
There is also the issue of the GOP leading with its chin. In view of the domestic and foreign policy mess fashioned almost singlehandedly by President Obama, the lead item of the GOP is “preserving and protecting traditional marriage.” One would think that while this is important for some voters, other subjects could be articulated more prominently to restore the Republic, such as reducing the reach of government, living within our means, and restoring respect for America abroad. The Republican Party is well -known for its commitment to the institution of traditional marriage.
With regard to Obamacare, an intrusive act of overreach at odds with Republican values, there is indeed much to repeal. Yet the repeal of mandatory underwriting of pre-existing conditions, an integral part of Obamacare, would be the third rail for the GOP. Consequently, naming the repeal of Obamacare in its entirety is a bad idea.
Curiously, there is no mention of a strong defense as part of a values system. While Russia seeks to annex Ukraine, steps up aerial maneuvers near NATO countries, and announces its desire to conduct bomber patrols in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, and while China has become increasingly assertive with its military, the GOP seems focused on other things.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons also gets no billing — the Iranians may think the GOP was too busy fixing the Internet and the FDA and forgot about the centrifuges and nukes.
Although a pedantic observation, the architects of the GOP platform have demonstrated bad grammar. There is a lack of parallelism in their language because they lead with both participles and nouns in the naming of purported values: “preserving… adoption… ensuring… justice.” But fortunately for the GOP, the electorate is not heavy with branding experts and English professors.
Above the text that describes each purported value is the word “top,” suggesting that the GOP has eighteen top values or priorities in its platform. A Chinese philosopher might say that a party with many priorities has no priorities.
The GOP website should leave the reader with a concise and artful message. Instead we are served a giant tapestry of good things, presented so that no one can remember them. The platform needs a fix — verbosity is the enemy of an effective call to action.