Six faces of the GOP’s toxic brand

By Myra Adams – The Hill contributor


Reposted from The Hill – April 20, 2023

The concept of branding is central to the long-term foundational identity of products, corporations, interest groups, teams, celebrities and organizations. Traditionally, it took a decade to establish a positive image built on consumer trust and product satisfaction. However, in the social media era, branding growth or decline has accelerated (See Bud Light for a warp-speed unraveling.)

Now consider the Republican brand for the 2024 presidential cycle. Voters’ perceptions of what the party stands for are based on coverage or exposure to Republican officials who generate the most media attention. By that metric, the Grand Old Party’s modern brand is toxic to at least half the electorate.

The six names discussed below currently define the GOP’s brand with their alleged connection to actions and behaviors not generally tolerated by voters or other officeholders before 2016. The list includes indictments (current or pending), media stunts, hypocrisy, perpetrating fake voter fraud, lies and financial scandals.

Democrats (and some Republicans) will exploit the vulnerability of these “toxic six” GOP brand ambassadors, especially among battleground state voters.

Former President Donald J. Trump

If the Republican brand were a solar system, Trump would be the sun. He has transformed the GOP into the “Trumplican Party,” where he rules with the power of fear — nullifying Ronald Reagan’s long-respected 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

With his red-hot renewable energy that fuels the MAGA movement, Trump appears unstoppable to win the GOP’s 2024 nomination (after shredding all norms of presidential behavior, boundaries and traditions), even attempting to smash the Constitution’s laws of succession on Jan. 6, 2021.

Yet, back in January 2016, Republican leaders were aware of the passionate, unorthodox brand they were about to buy when Trump proudly stated, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Nevertheless, the GOP establishment eventually embraced him, knowing Trump’s braggadocio heralded a narcissistic chaos candidate who was likely to lose — but amazingly won in 2016. That brings us to today’s vengeful one-term former president, twice impeached, first to be indicted, as the GOP’s most popular brand.

Recently, when Trump was asked, if convicted, would he leave the presidential race, he responded, “‘No, I’d never drop — it’s not my thing. I wouldn’t do it.’” Cue the cheers from his loyal MAGA base, where Trump’s carefully crafted, blended brand is “hero-rockstar-victim.”

Eventually, Trump’s success birthed a pliable wanna-be-star who thrives on outrageous statements and media antics to grow her brand.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene 

Known as MTG, the 49-year-old Georgian from a solidly red district won her first reelection in 2022 with 65.9 percent voter support. After Republicans won the House, MTG’s alliance with Trump was instrumental in crowning Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Invigorated by majority power, MTG is the female face of the “I can do and say anything” wing of the party. For example, she generated media attention by showing up and equating Trump’s New York City arraignment with the persecution of Jesus just before Easter week. And when MTG defended Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, who allegedly leaked secret documents, she enjoyed being lambasted by other Republicans and a former CIA director.

For now, MTG and Trump are the Republican branded “Faces of the Party,” with no one to stop them except general election voters. Even if Trump loses in 2024, MTG has a glorious future because she is his MAGA heir — a beloved fundraising media magnet but toxic outside her bubble.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Without the support of Trump and MTG, McCarthy would not be House Speaker — his dream job dramatically won after four days on the 15th ballot. But, since McCarthy is beholden to the “Faces of the Party,” their toxicity circulates through his bloodstream.

Most famously, McCarthy can never escape his Jan. 6, 2021-related behavior. When the Capitol was under siege, he begged and screamed at Trump for help. Then on Jan. 10, McCarthy was recorded saying, “I had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable.” But on Jan. 28, 2021, McCarthy met with the former president at Mar-a-Lago, soliciting Trump’s support to win back the House with him as Speaker. They met again in July 2021.

Today, McCarthy must govern like a House Speaker to avert a potential financial crisis by raising the debt limit and passing a federal budget. However, governing and compromising conflicts with McCarthy’s likely operating equation: Party power first, country second = toxic GOP brand.

Rep. George Santos

At age 33, Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) is so comically, financially and ethically challenged that no scriptwriter could imagine this congressman. Still, he serves in McCarthy’s House, poorly reflecting on the Speaker, who needs his reliable vote. Santos, a poster child for “honesty is overrated,” recently announced his reelection bid, delighting Democrats. So, expect the Trump, MTG, McCarthy and Santos squad to star in a 2024 ad campaign, “Why comedy writers vote Republican.”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Has Associate Justice Clarence Thomas become the Supreme Court’s version of George Santos after stunning revelations about Thomas’s ethically and financially problematic non-disclosures spanning decades? But his seat remains safe because, since 1991, Thomas’s voting record has made him the darling of conservatives — the reason Republicans defend him, while others express outrage and demand answers or his resignation.

Meanwhile, Thomas threatens the court’s integrity and the reputation of this hallowed institution — the pinnacle of our government’s third co-equal branch. For Democrats, Justice Thomas (Trump’s favorite judge) is the gift that keeps on giving, and, similar to Santos, Thomas highlights the GOP’s failure to police its own in exchange for reliable votes.

Sen. Lindsey Graham

The “ultimate flip-flopper” best describes Graham’s relationship with Trump, ranging from hatemore hatecheerleadergolfing buddy, “enough is enough, count me out,”  golfing buddy confidantbreak-ups and Trump money beggar. Graham, a role model for gaining power but losing all credibility, is a comical, toxic-Trump front man who will rebrand tomorrow. Republican rebranding, meanwhile, could take decades.

Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.


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