An unidentified 11-year-old girl logs into Facebook on her iPhone at her home in Palo Alto, Calif. in 2012.
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

The ‘iPhone party’?

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) delivered his party’s weekly address on Saturday and introduced an interesting political frame.
“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 as he pushed for school vouchers and Medicaid block grants. […]
“Republicans want to enable and empower you,” Alexander said. “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.”
Alexander went on to tell his audience, “Imagine your government as your iPhone,” adding, “Just imagine the Internal Revenue code, the Food and Drug Administration, or the Labor Department enabling you rather than ordering you around.”
As a practical matter, I’m not sure who the senator’s target audience is intended to be. If we were to ask 1,000 randomly selected Americans how many of them routinely feel as if the FDA and Labor Department “order them around,” I suspect the number would be pretty tiny. In fact, I imagine for most folks, the FDA is largely in the background, looking after the safety of our food and medicine, but never actually telling us what to do.
Regardless, I’m intrigued by the Republicans’ willingness to become “the iPhone party.” People like smart phones, and “empowering” people certainly sounds nice, so if the GOP is gearing up for Rebranding Campaign Version 6.0, maybe this effort will resonate more than the others.
Or maybe not.
If you watch all of Alexander’s address, you’ll notice that this is actually just the same old pitch with a new label. The senator talked about privatizing education, freeing Wall Street of pesky safeguards created after the 2008 crash, and dismantling the Affordable Care Act, so Americans can once again enjoy the “freedom” that comes with lacking access to medical care.
There was also this gem:
“[G]overnment as an enabler was a good idea long before anyone imagined the Internet. In 1944, the G.I. Bill enabled World War II veterans to attend a college of their choice – helping them become the greatest generation.
“Today, half our college students have federal grants or loans that follow them to the colleges of their choice, enabling them to buy the surest ticket to a better life and job.”
Yes, but if Alexander sees this as a positive, then Republicans are well on their way towards becoming the anti-iPhone party – in 2012, the Republicans’ presidential ticket ran on a platform of slashing Pell Grants, cutting college tax credits, and reintroducing the loan-system middleman so that banks are rewarded instead of students.
For that matter, the very idea of a political party becoming “the iPhone party” would seem to be built on the notion of innovation, but Republican budget priorities called for deep cuts to science, technology, and research and development.
Complicating matters further, a variety of entrepreneurs have wanted to start new businesses but couldn’t due to “job lock” – they couldn’t give up the health care coverage that came with a job they didn’t want. The Affordable Care Act ends job lock and empowers those entrepreneurs, but Republicans still hope to destroy the ACA.
The idea of an “iPhone party” isn’t bad, but Alexander’s pitch may need an upgrade.