Feature

Joe the Plumber: Republican poster boy?

The importance of the GOP's message, and its messenger

Joe the Plumber has “become a poster boy for conservatism,” said Patrick Ruffini in The Next Right. First John McCain “milked” Joe Wurzelbacher’s story, now conservatives have made him a war correspondent and an unofficial spokesman for the right’s politics. No wonder most Americans think the Republican Party is “unserious and ungrounded.”

Joe the Plumber gimmickry is part of the problem, said Daniel Larison in The American Conservative. But the really dangerous thing is assuming, as Ruffini does, that Republicans are the natural governing party. It’s not enough to simply “show up and push all the right pseudo-populist buttons”—the movement and the party need to better understand and address the problems of working Americans.

You’re both right, said Ross Douthat in The Atlantic. “The Right has a messaging problem, yes—but it also has a message problem. It could be America's natural governing party, sure,” but not without a “renovated agenda.” To move forward, conservatives need to start feuding about what that agenda should be.

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