Here’s my thing: McConnell was talking to National Review. He’s probably modulating his message to what he (rightly or wrongly) thinks our readers want to hear. Frankly, I wish there were more of this in the Republican Party. Lots more.
The plasticity of the Democratic Party — its ability to say different and often contradictory things to different groups — is its genius. Joe Biden told rural Democrats that Barry wasn’t coming for his Beretta and now he’s assuring urban elites that he’s coming for ours. It isn’t just that Biden is a lying politician — that’s banal — it’s that he understands there are different “truths” suitable for different audiences. After all, Biden knew then just as he knows now that gun bans are a non-starter.
The kernel of truth in David Brooks’ longing last week for a “Second GOP” that can tell its story in non-anti-government terms to middle-of-the-road suburbanites is that The Republican Party has to become a lot less monolithic. I had the occasion to look at the informational packets a friend was sending out to solicit business for his public relations firm. There were several versions. Each offered the same bundle of services and emphasized the same core competencies etc. etc., but they looked and sounded different, brilliantly exploiting design elements and writing styles that would appeal to different classes of client, from stodgy corporations to artsy-fartsy celebrities. Mitch McConnell — and the Republican Party — should emulate this. They should have a brochure for wingers like us, and another brochure for northeastern Republicans with libertarian sympathies, another for rust-belt union men and women drifting from the Democratic reservation, and so on. Offer the same set of core Republican competencies — strong on defense! lower taxes! pro-free-enterprise! — but differently emphasized and explicated for different groups.
I am in general skeptical of the Republican Party’s ability to radically change its fortunes by “rebranding” (and I have a piece on this coming out tomorrow), but insofar as it is possible and desirable, this is the sort of thing that could work.