As the Republican Party works to ‘re-brand” itself, some high-profile Minnesota members seem to be testing a new messaging strategy that relies on a familiar marketing approach: Sex sells.
During the 1980s, and then again earlier this decade when Republicans were in power, they targeted their issues and their rhetoric to align with the self-named Moral Majority. Of course, that label implied that Democrats were the immoral minority. Now today, with the Democrats in control in Minnesota and in Washington, the GOP can regard them as the immoral majority or infidels.
Particularly these days, a good quote has a lot of value in the media-are-dying, legislative-deadline-is-looming world we live in. And with the GOP trying to find relevance and new ideas after a few rough months, a well-timed, well-worded quote has never been more important.
As a result, vivid metaphors have been flying from GOP quotemeisters on all sorts of topics: torture, gambling and, most of all, sex.
The succession of sound bites started at a Minnesota Chamber breakfast a couple of Fridays ago, when Minority Leader Rep. Marty Seifert (the master of the one-liner, or so he thinks) equated taxes with waterboarding. It was an uncomfortable moment for the uber-insider crowd of lobbyists and media in attendance — and if it doesn’t work in that setting, it’s not going to play in Pequot Lakes.
Seifert’s missing the mark, though, hasn’t prevented other Republicans in Minnesota from trying to come up with memorable lines.
And Minnesota appears to be the test market in seeing if sex will sell as part of the new GOP branding effort.
Leading the assault has been Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has continued her strategy of using sexual innuendo as a selling point for the conservative message.
At Saturday’s annual Jason Lewis rally for tax cuts, Bachmann tried to randy up the crowd. First, she made a flirtatious pass at KTLK show host Chris Baker as a “handsome hunk of man.” Then, she carried on by comparing federal spending to an “orgy” and saying that the government had “spent its wad.” The racy talk all came from the same woman who was “hot for god” during her 2004 election campaign.
Locally, the strategy is being used in the Minnesota House, where the debate over a primary seat-belt law led Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, to imply that Minnesota was selling itself to the federal government, or in his words: “I don’t think we should be prostituting ourselves for federal money.”
The state is selling its values for federal money? And a primary seatbelt law is immoral? Taking money from the federal government in exchange for passing a law meant to protect the public something is the equivalent of the world’s oldest profession?
A little bit of sexual hyperbole perhaps.
All of this talk comes on the heels of the national gathering led by Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Activists gathered for a weekend circle-think about the future of the Republican Party and a re-branding effort.
Romney did his part by testing the sexual dynamics within the GOP by suggesting that vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska made Time magazine’s list of 100 most influential people for her looks, not her influence.
“But was that the issue on the most beautiful people, or the most influential people?” Romney asked.
One Minnesota Republican, Rep. Pat Garafalo of Farmington, seems to have missed the memo when he sponsored a bill defending citizens’ rights to gamble on the Internet and collect their winnings — all, of course, in the privacy of their homes. Garafalo equated the efforts of Gov. Pawlenty’s Department of Public Safety to stop online poker players with communism.
While noting that he wasn’t condoning online gambling, Garafolo said, “I have serious concerns about government banning access to websites. This is the kind of thing they do in communist China, not the United States of America.”
Garafolo is right on that score, but that said, some of the YouTube clips and GOP quips that are circulating make me grimace about what my young children might hear next from the GOP quote machine.
The new Democratic talking point might be: Republicans say the darndest things.