McDonald’s feeds 68 million people a day, 88 percent of the WORLD population recognizes the Golden Arches, and 1 in 8 Americans has worked there during his lifetime.
Is McDonald’s a great restaurant? Not really. It wouldn’t be on most people’s Top 10. How many people have a favorite food that’s on its menu? Again, probably not many. Yet, it represents one of the greatest success stories in the history of business and the Republican Party can learn a lot from McDonald’s.
1) McDonald’s entire business is focused on doing things for its customers: McDonald’s doesn’t tell people they should eat there to help small business. It doesn’t tell its customer to eat McChicken sandwiches in order to make America a better place to live. It doesn’t explain why you need to show up every week so it can keep its fry cooks employed. Instead, its ads suggest you should come to McDonald’s because you’re hungry and it will do a great job of feeding you. As an extra added bonus, if you’re a parent, you can bring your kid and it will give him a toy and a place to play for an hour so you can relax for thirty minutes while your kid obsesses over the slide.
Ultimately, people vote for politicians because they want to MAKE THEIR LIFE BETTER. Sure, voters may also care about the Constitution, the country, and their kid’s future, but most of them are going to vote for the politician they believe will change their life for the better in some fashion — or at least not make it worse. So, what are Republicans going to offer? Will we cut the price of gas? Will we reduce energy costs? Will we stop crime in their area? Will we reduce their taxes? Will we save their health care? Principles and big themes matter, but ultimately, we’re going to win elections by the same way McDonald’s wins customers: by fulfilling the personal wants and needs of the voters.
2) McDonald’s delivers what it promises: Whether you go to a McDonald’s in Charlotte or Chicago, New Orleans or New York, Detroit or Dallas, you’re going to find the restaurant, the food, the menu and service is all basically the same. You don’t find moose heads on the walls in Alaska and a Big Mac isn’t actually a taco in Texas. McDonald’s may not be the best restaurant in the world, but you at least know what you’re getting.
Can we say the same thing about the Republican Party? Does it keep its promises to its constituents? Can you count on Republicans to fight for the core principles they stand for whether they’re in or out of power? Can conservatives trust Republican leaders to make a good faith effort to implement our agenda the way liberals can trust Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid to implement their agenda? No, we can’t and that lack of consistency is the biggest reason why Republicans sometimes seem to spend more time fighting each other than the Democrats.
3) Its advertising is focused on mass appeal: McDonald’s goes out of its way not to antagonize anyone because angry, upset people don’t buy hamburgers. McDonald’s doesn’t use controversial figures in its advertising, it tries to stay away from contentious issues and it wants to be about as threatening as a newborn kitten to anyone who could possibly eat at the restaurant chain.
In politics, there are too many Republicans in office who’ve forgotten this lesson. Instead of framing an issue in a way designed to bring as many voters as possible over to our side, they act as if they’re trying to get a gig as a fill-in talk radio host or columnist. Politicians should leave the bombastic language, highly controversial quips and potentially offensive comments to those of us who don’t have to run for office and focus on being the principled guy everyone would like to have a beer with at a ballgame.
4) Everybody knows what McDonald’s stands for: Why do people go to McDonald’s? Because they want reasonably good food that’s cheap and served in a timely manner. Is it healthy food? Not really, although McDonald’s added a salad to the menu so the one guy who wants to eat healthy can chow on that while his friends eat McNuggets. Does McDonald’s try to be everything to everyone? Over the years, it’s worked coffee, wraps and a few other things into the rotation, but ultimately people go there to get hamburgers in a hurry. That works for McDonald’s.
The GOP has a working formula, too. We’re the party of small, honest government, low taxes, law and order, and traditional American values. So, what happened when you read that list? Did you choke on some of those descriptions? Of course you did because all too often the GOP doesn’t explain its principles, promote its principles or most importantly, live up to its principles anymore. If Republican politicians aren’t willing to make the case for what they believe to the American people, who do they think is going to do it for them? Do they believe the New York Times is going to bend over backwards to fairly explain why they believe and what they believe about gay marriage, welfare or the minimum wage? The less Republicans tell people what we believe, the more opportunities Democrats have to do it for us and you can be sure that their explanation will center around Republicans hating people.
5) McDonald’s portrays itself as a fun, happy place for fun, happy people: McDonald’s ads feature young, cool, ludicrously happy, attractive people having the time of their lives eating delicious food while they’re served by courteous, likable wait staff. Is that true? Hell, no! No one is breaking into a joyous dance because a pimply faced teenager serves him a double cheeseburger that’s been sitting under heat lamps for 10 minutes. But, it’s the image McDonald’s pushes.
Barack Obama did the same thing. He’s about as cool and smooth as your great aunt who forgets to put her teeth in and serves you the same 12 year old bowl of hard candy every time you go to her house. The GOP’s rainbow Republican convention in 2012 and Ted Cruz’s Twitter comic making fun of Barack Obama show that we’re starting to figure this out. However, there’s a lot more to be done. How is the GOP portraying itself to minority groups? Are we seen as the out-of-it old person’s party or the young person’s party? Are we seen as technologically savvy and cutting edge or behind the times? Are we seen as the party that’s friendly to blacks, women, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, and gays? Sure, we MAY BE just as friendly as the Democrats, but is that our image? If the image doesn’t match up to the reality, then what steps are we going to take to change it? Maybe image SHOULDN’T MATTER, but in a world where the worst President in history has won two straight elections campaigning primarily on “hope and change” in 2008 and, “There’s a war on women,” in 2012, obviously it swings elections.