Another Republican presidential campaign bites the dust, that of Wisconsin’s favorite governor Scott Walker. Cause of death? Weak idea branding.
The much-bemoaned ascent (and much-celebrated relative stagnation) of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has caused the punditry world, as well as his fellow candidates, to go into shallowness criticism overdrive: It’s a middle school popularity contest. People only like Trump because he’s an entertainer. His campaign has no substance. All the while ignoring the sad fact of the 2016 GOP presidential field at large: no one’s ideas have any substance.
Call it the sad state of affairs of the Republican party at large. Chalk it up to bad luck producing a field of mediocre candidates. No matter what’s to blame, the ideas presented by the GOP hopefuls quite frankly, well, suck. We need to get this country back to work through vague ideas of keeping business competitive and taxes low, without an overarching and consistent commitment to economic freedom and deregulation. Illegal immigration is a serious problem that must be dealt with by building a wall and otherwise being “tough on illegals,” without any coherent position on immigration law itself. Iran must be generically opposed, ISIS must me dealt with in some way, and Israel must be supported, with no examination of the role of U.S. interests in that region, and even less of a cohesive plan for the future. Mix and match slight rhetorical differences and maybe even the odd policy specific, and you have the entire GOP field pretty well covered.
Scott Walker’s claim to fame was the successful battle against organized labor in Wisconsin, consisting of an ideological commitment to worker choice, a specific legislative solution, and principled leadership in its implementation. When switching from the local theater to national politics, Walker failed to display any of these attributes, and instead blended right into the Republican mishmash of weak ideas and tired talking points, sinking to the bottom when competing with figures with a much more dynamic personality. Just like Rick Perry before him. The only one in that crowded presidential field to exhibit any fresh ideas has been Rand Paul, from the de-escalation of the drug war to a more reasonable and peace-based foreign policy, and even he has been suckered into softening his stances so as to appeal more to the Republican mainstream. A softening that could very well prove fatal to his campaign.
The lesson from the 2012 presidential campaign? Ideas matter. Ron Paul made an impressive (and lasting) showing running on fringe ideas, only to be shut out by party leaders. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney failed by exhibiting a distinct lack of principles. Unfortunately, this message seems lost in the 2016 GOP field. Four more years…?
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