Mullen | Big Fat Cynics: Rebranding Utah republicans'come on, take the Kool-Aid | Miscellaneous | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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News » Miscellaneous

Mullen | Big Fat Cynics: Rebranding Utah republicans'come on, take the Kool-Aid

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Item: The Utah Republican Party, still limping from its big loss on school vouchers and a series of very public political gaffes, has launched a quarter-million-dollar public relations blitz to help “rebrand” itself for voters. The campaign turns on word play crafted from the last four letters in “Republican”—that’s “

I can

,” for the thickheaded among you.

 You know, you get used to people calling you a “cynic” when you work for a newspaper. People who make a living covering the news take constant criticism for reporting the negative. We tear down, but seldom build up—or so the charge typically goes. More than a few e-mails I’ve read over the years start out like this:

Oh,

you are so cynical.

But how would those same e-mailers size up the motives of Utah Republican Party Chairman Stan Lockhart, who last week explained reasons for the PR campaign to

The Salt Lake Tribune: “We just want to get buyin from Republicans, so as we go out to the general voter, all of us in the party are moving forward with a cohesive message to the voters in the state.”

You can take the words “buy in” literally. Lockhart says the 250 grand for the rebranding project will come from the governor on down. Incumbents Jon Huntsman Jr. and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, for instance, have war chests bulging with cash and tepid Democratic competition. Why wouldn’t they throw some money toward the party Kool-Aid? And Lockhart hasn’t overlooked lobbyists in this ploy—they’ll be expected to cough up some dough for the shiny, happy GOP.

Item: The “I can” campaign is the work of Salt Lake City marketing firm Riester. It will include lapel buttons, billboards, direct mail and possibly TV and radio spots. Look for erstwhile GOP leaders like Provo’s Sen. Curt Bramble and House Speaker Greg Curtis to show up at meet ’n’ greets sporting buttons with pithy “I can” slogans. “

I can

dream big,” reads one. “

I can

start my dream business,” reads another. “

I can

pay less taxes,” reads one badge (though it takes a liberal, I guess, to point out the slogan is a tad grammatically flawed. It should be “

I can

pay fewer taxes,” or “

I can

pay less in taxes.”)

And finally there’s this one: “

I can

eat sushi.” LOL! (But don’t hold your breath for this one: “

I can

drink Cabernet.”)

If the state’s Republicans are so awash in extra cash they can afford to spit-shine their increasingly tarnished image, so be it. Bramble says the party’s message “has been lost in the static.” By presenting itself as little more than a brand of basketball shoes or a can of Diet Coke, the GOP is betting on the masses’ stupidity or short memories. And that’s cynical.

The static Bramble references is something party bosses would rather you just forget—as in, pay no attention to that crass dolt Chris Buttars spewing “ugly black baby” comments behind the curtain. And, as for that party-led decision to cram private school vouchers down your throats, even when you screamed your opposition? Well, that is so

yesterday, people. How about we get your buy-in: “

I can steamroll Utah majority opinion and continue to win elections.”

Item: Bramble says Republicans simply can’t count on the press to tell the good things his party is up to. “There is this apparent lack of objectivity” among the media, he told the Tribune

. As state Senate Majority Leader, Bramble must take up the burden himself in disseminating the real message to the masses. It’s the only way, he says, to communicate “the rest of the story.” He says his party has brought the people more highways and record spending on behalf of public education.

Record education spending is true all right—and easily accomplished when your state consistently ranks at the bottom in per-pupil spending. A new report by the nonpartisan Utah Foundation shows that in 2005-2006, this state had the highest number of students per teacher in the country—22.1. The national average is 15.7. The report also reveals—again—that Utah spends the least per student among all states and Washington, D.C. Even when we compare our spending to states that are comparable in poverty rates and racial and ethnic composition, we end up dead last. Teachers are paid $1,819 per student less than any other state, while tending to the largest classes in the nation.

Mere distractions, says a cynical GOP. Stick with us. You keep churning out the kids to pack our classrooms, and we’ll find a way to keep you from paying your way. We’ll shift a few costs around in the state tax system, then tell you we’re chipping away at sales tax on food. We will continue to clamor about “local control,” then stomp on school districts and micromanage their practices. We will continue to monitor your sex lives and your reproductive choices. And payday lenders? We love those guys.

Item: We will continue to do all of this because we are the newly polished, rebranded Utah Republican Party. Say it: “

I can

screw you, and you won’t even know it.”