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A perpetual state of Republican rebranding

When a major political party launches five rebranding initiatives in four years, it lacks leadership, direction, and purpose.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus talks with members of the press after speaking at the National Press Club on March 18, 2013.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus delivered a speech at the George Washington University yesterday, tackling a familiar challenge.

Republicans will unveil a rebranding effort Thursday aimed at changing its image as a political party focused solely on obstructing President Barack Obama's agenda to instead a champion of ideas and action. [...] Despite the predictions by nonpartisan political handicappers of GOP electoral success in November, there is an acknowledgment within the party that it needs to do a better job convincing voters that its objective is greater than just derailing Obama's agenda.

We'll get to the substance of Priebus' pitch in a moment, but before we do, let's not brush past the obvious too quickly: for the love of all that is good in the world, are Republicans really pursuing another "rebranding effort"?
Note the subtlety of the Associated Press' report: "Priebus' speech is not the party's first rebranding effort this cycle."
That's true; it's not. Shortly after the 2012 elections, in which Republicans struggled badly, Priebus' launched a massive rebranding campaign, which his party promptly ignored. Indeed, for the most part, GOP lawmakers did pretty much the opposite of what the Republican National Committee had planned.
But that rebranding initiative, dubbed the "Growth and Opportunity Project," was just the latest in a long series of related efforts. Remember the "Young Guns" rebranding campaign? How about the "Cut and Grow" rebranding campaign? And the "America Speaking Out" rebranding campaign?
My personal favorite was the "National Council for a New America" rebranding campaign, in which party leaders vowed to go outside the Beltway; they held one event in a D.C.-area pizza parlor; and the initiative evaporated soon after.
And yet, here's Priebus trying once again. Not to put too fine a point on this, but when a major political party launches five rebranding initiatives in four years, it gives the impression of being hopelessly lost, lacking in leadership, direction, and purpose.
Of course, there's also Priebus' speech itself.

Pushing back against criticism that the GOP had become defined entirely by opposition to President Obama, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus released a list of 11 "Principles for American Renewal" that he said would guide the GOP agenda should it gain control of government. "People know what we're against," Priebus said in a speech at George Washington University. "I want to talk about the things that we're for."

In theory, that sounds delightful, but in practice, what Priebus wants is a stale agenda of vague and discredited ideas, many of which have been considered and rejected: a radically dangerous constitutional amendment on balanced budgets, a Republican-friendly version of health care reform that the party can't identify, and school vouchers to help privatize America's system of public education, among other things. There were 11 provisions in all, none of which were substantive or interesting.
Ed Kilgore concluded that Priebus' new plan is "pretty perfunctory at best, and more than likely meant to be mentioned rather than read." Mocking Priebus' message, Kilgore added, "Hey, look, conservative critics, look, pundits, we got eleven—not just ten, but eleven -- principles to show what we'll do other than shriek about Obama and Benghazi! and the IRS and Secular Socialism every day! It goes up to eleven!"