Friday, December 13, 2013


I think there's real friction in the GOP right now. I don't think John Boehner's outburst this week was utterly fake. And yet I don't see any actual downside for the GOP in this skirmish. The party just seems to be reestablishing its "mainstream" brand, now that its "tea party" brand is losing popularity outside certain market segments.

You understand the concept of brand proliferation, right?
... in brand proliferation, ... the firm has several brands in the same product/product category....

Brand proliferation can help expand the market as well as the company's market share in the category. It can also increase the company's clout at the retail level by offering variety....

If different brands are designed to deliver different benefits to different segments of markets, it can restrict competition among brands.... To avoid cannibalization completely is often impossible. It is not essential either, but one has to be sure whether a net incremental benefit that justifies the additional cost and complexity accrues by adding one more brand....
John Boehner and Paul Ryan did a fine job this week of reintroducing "mainstream GOP" as a brand. This is an appealing product to a lot of traditional Republicans, as well as to the swing-voter market niche.

The "tea party" brand has lost some appeal among traditional Republicans, but this civil war will actually increase Brand Tea Party's appeal in certain market segments where it remains popular. Those voters will be motivated to turn out for tea party candidates because they're angry once again at the mainstreamers, and want to destroy them.

In some districts and states, this brand competition is going to result in a Brand Tea Party candidate beating a Brand Mainstream candidate. Elsewhere, now that Brand Mainstream has been rejuvenated, mainstream candidates will win more swing votes and will take votes away from Brand Democrat.

But once the Brand Tea Party loyalists have elected a certain number of members of Congress and the Brand Mainstream loyalists have elected others, they're all going to count as Republicans on the party's bottom line. These folks may fight in primaries, but they're going to be one party when the dust settles and it's time to determine who has majorities in the House and Senate.

Ed Kilgore is right:
... this whole "war" between Boehner and "the groups" is pretty much inside baseball, and about Boehner's role as Republican tactician rather than any deep matter of ideology or principle.
Everyone in the GOP has the same basic goals, either out of passionate commitment or pragmatic group solidarity, as Kilgore has written:
... conservative activists ... are perfectly happy accepting an unprincipled "pragmatist" who is totally in their thrall via highly public litmus test signatures and specific commitment to future action. By the time he went down to defeat in 2012, Mitt Romney was an absolute prisoner to the very forces in his party who trusted him least. The same thing happened to "maverick" John McCain in 2008; by the end of his campaign, he was basically a figurehead on a ticket led emotionally and ideologically by Sarah Palin.

My iron conviction is that if Mitt Romney had won last year and Republicans had retaken the Senate, we'd be well into a reign of fire and blood characterized by instant reconciliation-enabled enactment of the Ryan Budget, the total destruction of the Affordable Care Act, and for added measure, a "nuclear option" more thoroughgoing that that recently imposed by Senate Democrats.
During the presidential campaigns, the previously more-or-less moderate McCain and Romney couldn't conceal their rebranding. After the October government shutdown, the entire party had that problem, including Boehner, who seems distinct from the tea party types now but has been "totally in their thrall" for quite some time. But the old mainstream brand is back. The GOP's task now is to make sure that the public doesn't recognize that the two GOP brands contain almost exactly the same ingredients.


Victor said...

The GOP (Group of Psychopaths) v. The Tea Party:
Both are dogs that will bite ordinary people in the ass if they decide to vote for them - but only one has rabies.

So, you can run around the rest of your life, bleeding, with half an ass-cheek missing - or die quickly, with one ass-cheek intact, but barking at the moon and frothing at the mouth.

aimai said...

I couldn't agree more. Brand proliferation is a very important concept here and I think its basically correct. We are going to see segmentation of the Republican brand with leadership returning to people who can run a functioning, if destructive, government and who the money guys think can win elections. In the run up to the next election cycle we will see the money guys pouring money into races backing the "sane" Republicans against the tea party and probably trying to figure out a different way to engergize the base which doesn't give the base the impression that they call the shots.

However: it remains to be seen how easy it is to do that. Or what the knock on effect of it is. Even if, say, Boehner can hold off some votes until after the deadline to file, so that incumbent house members feel safe taking some hard votes (or, hell, any votes) that doesn't mean that those house member will be able to turn out the voters for the general election. Something may (one hopes) be lost in terms of party loyalty and voter excitement.

We'll see.

aimai said...

I also want to point out that the rubber is going to hit the road on the tea party's ability to self fund very early. Both Mitch McConnell's primary opponent and John Cornyns are, in effect, broke and don't have anything in the bank to fight the primary. Money isn't everything in politics at all, but it counts for a lot. In the end I doubt these guys prevent either SEnator from sweeping back into their jobs. Unless they so bloody them in the primary that they end up losing to the dem in the general. Thats a possibility, I suppose, for McConnell but not for Cornyn.