It’s Ain’t the Steak, It’s the Sizzle

If you want another sign that the divisions affecting the Republican Party are about everything other than ideology, note the line Chris Christie–presumably the “pragmatic” savior of the GOP from the Tea Party hordes–is testing out on the invisible primary trail, per this report from WaPo’s Aaron Blake:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), in a speech in Vermont this week, said the Republican Party’s problems are about its candidates, not its party.

“There are some people running around the country right now saying that our party has a problem with its brand, that we’re not relating to folks,” Christie said Tuesday, according to video of a private event obtained by WPTZ-TV. “It’s not our party’s problem, it’s our candidates’ problem.”

Christie added: “There is nothing that is wrong with the Vermont Republican Party that cannot be fixed by an outstanding Republican candidate for governor, for United States Senate or anything else.”

The message here is as old as Eurocommunism’s “Communism With a Human Face,” and as new as yesterday’s ad meeting for a consumer product that’s struggling with sales. It’s the eternal siren song of marketing over product development, of image over reality, of “sizzle” over “steak.” You don’t have to change your product (i.e., your ideology), Christie is suggesting. You just need a better salesman. It’s the only pitch that is likely to work for him, but it’s far from the “civil war” or “struggle for the soul of the party” that so many pundits are eagerly discussing.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.