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Friday, December 9, 2016

Could Republicans make the government run more like the app store on your smartphone?

That’s the suggestion that Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) offered during Saturday’s weekly Republican address.

“Just imagine if instead of mandating things for you to do, your government became a platform, just like your iPhone, enabling you to create a happier, safer, more prosperous life,” Alexander said.

“Republicans want to enable and empower you,” he later added. “We want to be the iPhone party. We believe government ought to be a platform that gives you opportunity and freedom to create a happier, more prosperous, and safer life.”

The Tennessee Republican’s desire to associate his party with Apple’s successful, pioneering brand is straightforward enough. But unfortunately for Alexander, the rest of his speech unintentionally highlighted the GOP’s continued inability to innovate.

From his opening lines — in which Alexander glowingly cites former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s book, Breakout — it’s apparent that the veteran politician isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel. Among other policies, Alexander suggests reviving House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) 2012 JOBS Act, repealing the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, expanding school vouchers, and eliminating the minimum wage (“Democrats want to mandate fixed wages and more lawsuits while Republicans want to allow more flexibility for working parents, enabling them to attend soccer games and piano recitals,” the senator insists).

Unsurprisingly, the senator saved his biggest shots for the Affordable Care Act and the overreaching nanny government.

“Health care provides the most glaring difference between Republican enablers and Democrat mandators. Too often, Obamacare cancels the policy you want to keep and tells you what policy to buy, even if it costs more and restricts your choices of doctors and hospitals,” Alexander said. “Republicans believe that freedom and more choices will empower you to find a policy that fits your needs and your budget.”

He later urged voters to “just imagine the Internal Revenue code, the Food and Drug Administration, or the Labor Department enabling you rather than ordering you around.”

In short: If you loved the Romney/Ryan platform, and wish the FDA weren’t so pushy about safeguarding your food, then the Republican Party is for you!

Perhaps a 73-year-old, twice-failed presidential candidate is not the best messenger for the GOP’s new “Think Different” message.

In fairness to Alexander, his clunky tech metaphor is far from the worst effort to rebrand the GOP (in fact, it’s not even the worst this week — that honor goes to Nevada state assemblyman Ira Hansen, who insisted that the way to win young voters is to embrace the party’s “Pat Robertson wing”). But it seems unlikely to help Republicans reach the forward-thinking voters whom they are presumably targeting with this Apple-themed repositioning.

If Republicans actually want to expand their tent and attract new voters, they already have several decent roadmaps on how to do so. Reports such as the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” and the College National Republican Commitee’s “Grand Old Party for A Brand-New Generation,” while flawed, at least attempt to confront the GOP’s serious demographic challenges. But as they have proven over and over again, Republicans are either unwilling or unable to reconsider their platform, or even moderate their often-extreme rhetoric.

When Apple debuted the latest edition of the iPhone, it unveiled a new slogan to go along with it: “Progress is a beautiful thing.” Republicans like Senator Alexander would be wise to heed Apple’s advice before trying to co-opt its identity.

Photo: Mark Mathosian via Flickr

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