Just when the GOP has the most demographically diverse and qualified group of presidential candidates ever to revitalize its brand, it also has Donald Trump. He is the antithesis of a revitalized GOP and is amplifying the negative and false stereotypes of the party such as it being for the rich, whites and that it is anti-immigrant and racist. Rather than being a process of justifying conservatism, the GOP presidential primary has been about competing personalities. This should be like a job interview not a reality TV show. Meanwhile, with all the attention on Trump, the Democrat Party has made their presidential nomination process a coronation of an un-accomplished and ethically challenged candidate under the guise of it being a symbolic primary.
The GOP still has serious brand perception issues and demographic challenges that threaten its ability to win presidential elections. That’s why it is baffling to see so many in the GOP and conservative pundits rally around and prop up Trump after his disparaging and inarticulate remarks during his campaign launch on Mexicans while he was trying to make a point about border security. In a single breath and a broad stroke, not only did Mr. Trump insult Mexicans he marginalized a large section of Latino voters and legal immigrants. More recently and probably more outrageous, he has called for a ban on admitting Muslim immigrants into the US. With the help of the media, he has made himself the face of the GOP. Having Mr. Trump as the face of the GOP now does not help the brand and inadvertently is the biggest asset in helping to elect the Democrat party's presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton as president in November.
Mr. Trump’s grandiosity has left little room for substance. Does anyone really think that a President Trump would build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it? His tax policy plans still lacks specifics but are still dominated with the repetitive lines that evoke that he will just make things better. His protectionist and big government regulatory approach to dictate where and how global companies operate, distances from the normal conservative approach of promoting the conditions to make America conducive for investment and growth. Conservatives who have condemned his remarks have been wise to do so. The GOP often loses elections and the moral case on an issue because it squanders political capital on the wrong way in framing a message or on the wrong messenger. It is counter productive to think that the messenger who gets the most attention by being divisive and stoking anger will make the best argument to win majority support on an issue. An argument is not won merely on the intention of its delivery, but how it is actually articulated in order to be accepted as being valid. In other words, it is not what is said, but how it is said that determines if a message will win over or alienate support. The GOP and conservatives need to support better communicators if they want to win elections. Donald Trump is not one of them. The GOP also needs to choose a presidential candidate who cannot only justify conservatism, but can also lead to unify different factions of the political arena to get constructive things done. A polarizing figure is not guaranteed to have the supermajorities necessary in Congress that aligns with his or her rhetoric.
There have been many constructive arguments for the need of a strong border security by members of the GOP and other current presidential candidates long before Trump’s remarks on immigration. The implications of the criminal and terrorist elements to our national security due to the lack of proper border security has been reinforced on many occasions and through multiple mediums. It is a mistake to think that the murder of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who was deported multiple times vindicates Mr. Trump. Rather it validates the GOP’s long held stance that immigration reform must begin with enforcing and reinforcing current immigration laws while implementing new laws to bolster border security. The GOP who now leads Congress should immediately lead on drafting and passing border security bills, and then challenge President Obama to sign them. Allowing Mr. Trump to lead the narrative will not help those efforts.
A revitalized GOP brand should be careful not to approach immigration only in the context of illegal immigration, rather it should argue how it believes immigration is actually good for America when it is done legally and adhere to the principles of free markets and rule of law. Three pillars could serve as the basis of a conservative immigration reform. They should be the rule of law, economic freedom and empowering the traditional immigration culture of ambition and assimilation, while pursuing the American dream. GOP contenders should also be prepared to offer practical answers as to what to do with the millions of illegals here. My recent paper, ‘Thoughts and Proposals From a Conservative Immigrant on Reforming Immigration’ includes specifics in this regard.
Mr.Trump continues to receive more coverage than all other GOP contenders combined. This alone means that the attention given to Mr. Trump is overshadowing key messages being made by other contenders that are vital to uplifting the GOP’s brand in order to win the presidency later this year. The GOP’s appeal to grow the party has been lacking in how it frames certain arguments to make a crucial point in marketing to Americans, ‘what this means to you as a benefit is…’ Most people vote ‘for’ something rather than ‘against’ something else. While so much focus has been on Donald Trump, GOP contenders who have been governors and droppped out such as, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker and Rick Perry, have articulating how the ‘Red State’ model using conservative policies have worked. Such policies have promoted economic freedom, low taxes, pro business environments, limited government, and labor reforms that have been working in their states to help economic growth, create jobs, lower cost of living, and keeping the fiscal house in order. They have respectively tried to justify that a Republican President could lead on the attributes of a Red State model and would bring these benefits to the rest of America.
Rick Perry who was the first to drop out of the race, went further than other candidates in using the ‘Red State model as an outreach to black Americans and other minorities to bolster the GOP as the party for everyone. His early speech on this important issue for the GOP would most likely have received more coverage had there not been wall-to-wall coverage of reactions to Donald Trumps remarks. This wasn't just a speech that promoted Mr. Perry, but conservatism and the GOP in general. The rest of candidates in the field would be wise to pick up Gov. Perry's mantle of why conservatism specifically promotes economic freedom for all. Areas of the country that are seen as better for economic opportunities and upward mobility for Blacks, Latinos, millennials and the middle class in general are increasingly states using the ‘Red State’ model. Gov. Walker who's conservative message was also crowded out by the attention to Mr. Trump was the second to drop out. It would be wise for the others in the race to pick up Gov. Walker's mantle of expressing why the impact of unions as powerful interest groups have had great negative effects on the middle class through higher taxes, public debt and loss of jobs due their collusion with the Democratic Party.
While corporations and big businesses are the first interest groups that comes to mind for many and fuels the argument for big government regulations, the symbiotic relationship between unions and liberal policies are greatly Un-reported as a key interest group that undermines economic growth and upward mobility. This also comes in the form of union's opposition to school choice for the poor and minorities. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who also dropped out the race made great strides in helping hundreds of poor and minority students get access to quality education though school choice despite opposition by the Obama Administration's Justice Department.
The success of the elements of the conservative model in states, is probably the most important attribute of a revitalized GOP brand to counter the identity politics and socialist populism driven model to be advocated by Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, and self-avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. A significant missed opportunity for the GOP has been that the attention being given to Donald Trump distracts from the current brand of the Democratic Party. This is not the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton or JFK anymore. Rather it is one more aligned to the European socialist model currently exemplified in Greece, Spain and Portugal. Hillary Clinton is no Bill Clinton, and Democrats are hoping most people won't be able to tell the difference. The GOP is currently in the best position to contrast political brands, but that message is overshadowed while it has Donald Trump as it's leading cheerleader, who is far from the quarterback they really need.
The leftist economic models the Democratic front runners advocate such as high taxes, high spending on entitlements, empowering labor union interest groups in return for votes, and redistribution have not only led to the present outcomes in Greece, but also Puerto Rico, Detroit, Baltimore and Chicago. The top 10 poorest cities in the country have been ran by Democrats for years. School choice which has proven to help poor children and minorities the most in getting a quality education and thus better economic opportunities, has repeatedly been opposed by liberals like NYC mayor Bill de Blasio and President Obama in order to appease unions even though they talk about reducing inequality. Also, millions of people left socialist countries to come to America to seek economic freedom, a key element of the GOP brand. However, the GOP has been slow to tap its silent base, the conservative immigrant who resonates with the values of economic freedom espoused by the GOP brand.
Despite the misconceptions of the Tea Party Movement as being racist, it has probably had the biggest effect in making the party more racially diverse and played an integral part in recruiting strong candidates. These include some seeking the presidential nomination such as Latino Senators Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz plus more minority members of Congress like Mia Love and Scott Walker and also state Governors like Nikki Haley in SC and Susanna Martinez in NM. However, Donald Trump’s endless controversial remarks will continue to alienate more prospective supporters of the GOP who otherwise share its values, and would in turn further damage a revitalized GOP brand.
GOP Senators such as Marco Rubio (who has a compelling positive vision for America’s role in the world for the 21st century), Rand Paul ( who has dropped out) and Ted Cruz have also supported the ‘Red State’ arguments and added their own plans on other issues such entitlement reform, national security, limited government and other issues. Non-politicians Dr. Ben Carson who came from a very poor background to become a world renowned neurosurgeon and former CEO Carly Fiorina who has left the stage went from being an office secretary to become CEO of Hewlett Packard, have also contributed positive visions as candidates based on conservative principles and their professional back grounds. Now even with a dwindling field there is still a star line up of candidates left. If the GOP brand on the road to selecting the eventual party’s Presidential nominee allows itself to be defined by the remarks of Donald Trump and a reality show campaign rather than justifying a conservative vision, the GOP would then rightfully have earned the moniker of being called the ‘stupid party’.