Thursday, April 30, 2009

GOP Rebranding Initiative: Sweet, Sweet Elevator Music

The GOP's launched a rebranding initiative today called the "National Council for a New America." The title doesn't quite have the connotative kick of a "Contract with America," but as far as I can figure, that's precisely the point.

Eric Cantor's website carries NCNA's virgin press release, which in turn carries a "Blueprint for our Conversation with America." The Blueprint sets forth the following uncontroversial, unimpeachable positions (nondivisive issues only, please):
Economy: Real Solutions for Economic Recovery

As the country battles through the worst economic crisis in a generation, we must remain focused on the foundations and institutions that have made us the most prosperous people in the world and the ideas that create jobs and grow our economy. At the same time, we must learn from the mistakes that led to the current crisis and to prevent similar situations from ever occurring again.

Healthcare: Building a 21st Century, Patient-Centered System

No one doubts that our nation’s health care system is in need of reform, but we must strike the right balance that builds on what works and fixes what is broken. All Americans deserve access to high-quality, affordable care. But such coverage cannot come at the expense of their ability to choose their own doctor and have access to the right care, at the right time, in the right setting without waiting in line while sick. In addition, we must continue to focus on the innovation and science that have resulted in thousands of treatments and cures for life-threatening or debilitating diseases while allowing America to remain the leader in research and development worldwide.

Education: Preparing Our Children to Succeed

A high-quality education should not be dependent upon a parent’s income or address. All of America’s children deserve an education that will prepare them for the opportunities and the challenges that await them in the global economy. Yet today, thousands of American children, especially in our inner cities, receive a substandard education or find post-secondary education unaffordable. We must return power from Washington to parents and well-paid teachers who know what’s best for our children.

Energy: Solutions for Energy Independence

American families and businesses cannot afford an energy policy where we are held hostage by foreign oil cartels and dictators. As a nation, we can no longer send billions of dollars overseas each year, often to countries that help fund our enemies. We must implement a comprehensive energy policy that includes traditional fuels, alternative energy, and conservation resulting in affordable, reliable domestic energy. Such a policy will stabilize costs for families and businesses while at the same time creating much-needed jobs here at home.

National Security: Defending American Liberty and Freedom

The threats posed to our nation are more varied and evolving more than perhaps at any other time in our history. Modern communications, technology and the proliferation of weapons of all types have empowered our enemies and those who support them. Our national security policy must reflect these realities while allowing us to maintain technological superiority, support the most well-trained and well-equipped military in the world and have the intelligence capabilities to uncover and prevent attacks before they occur.

If you actually managed — as I did (he writes, proudly) — to get through all that insufferable blandness, you might find yourself rather encouraged. A list of national objectives, written at this pleasing-to-everyone level of generality, could as easily have issued verbatim from the White House Communications Office. And that's hardly a fault, given the purpose of this document and the purported mission of NCNA, which is to start an all-inclusive dialogue with the American people.

Surely this is only a first step, a lay-the-groundwork document, and the details are yet to come. But what's astonishing (and pleasing) about this press release is that it's obviously written for general appeal. Oh, it's elevator music, for sure, but that's the beauty of it. There's none of that characteristically Republican (these days) exclusivity in it. There's no attempt to alienate or demonize certain constituencies. No "RINO" accusations, no test oaths or calls to display ideological purity on pain of a tongue-lashing from an AM radio host. By reciting these uncontroversial values, they've started with the biggest tent imaginable — anyone and anything (at least in theory) is in play.

Can it be that the GOP has finally turned a corner? Has the party leadership finally realized that the pandering to the religious right, the Know-Nothing populism, the philosophy of opposition for its own sake are only marginalizing a once-great national institution? One can only hope so. As much as I believe this country desperately needed a President like Barack Obama, I am convinced that it needs as well a credible, serious, thoughtful Republican Party.

The proof will be in the pudding, of course: although it's inoffensive, elevator music ultimately becomes inaudible, when it's played long enough. There will come a part, after this conversation happens, when the NCNA GOP will have to abandon its blandness and develop a signature sound. Some folks will tune in, and others will tune out. But if this conversation really does happen, and the party leadership does as it promises and really engages in dialogue with all of America — and not just Dobson, Limbaugh and Hannity — well, we may hear a new and less grating tune from the party of Abraham Lincoln. One can hope, anyway.

Oh, and Nancy: they all hate you — the reasonable Republicans and "radical right-wingers" alike would be happy to destroy their own party just to spite you. So pipe down and let them do their thing and figure it out themselves.

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