Tonight, after I get home from work, and even in the face of some pretty tight new year resolutions, my family will be having pizza for dinner. And no, we will not be getting it from the fantastic little pizza shop about 200 yards from our front door; we’ll be getting it from Domino’s.
In truth, I’m a pizza snob. Some of the best I’ve ever had came from [the original] Ray’s in New York City and, surprisingly enough, a little joint named Peppino’s in Clemson, South Carolina. Throughout my life, whenever I moved into a new place, I’d stage an informal tournament between area shops. When we settled in Delaware County in 2004, we got lucky with a great one within striking distance with a four iron. Hence the need for the pretty tight new year resolutions.
Generally speaking, I’ve avoided the big pizza chains like the plague. They’re all the same, they all skimp on the good stuff, and frankly I’d rather support the neighborhood guy trying to put his kids through college. The other night, however, I caught a commercial for Domino’s Pizza. It looked like a shorter version of this:
I liked it. I was shocked, honestly. I’ve always tried to make it a personal practice to acknowledge when I’ve screwed the proverbial pooch in my own life, and I was impressed with the humility and accountability I was seeing from this giant pizza conglomerate, which last sought to attract new business by expanding their menu into chicken wings and toasted sandwiches. For me, a little accountability goes a long way.
Besides impressing me, the commercial made me hungry. Hence, again, the need for those pretty tight new year resolutions. It did not, however, make me think of politics. Imagine that.
The Domino’s Pizza commercial made Liberal Fascism author and National Review Online contributor Jonah Goldberg think of it, however, which could explain why he is both more successful and more svelte than I am. In a commentary released yesterday, Goldberg equates the come-to-Jesus moment experienced by the folks at Domino’s Pizza with what needs to happen within the Republican Party.
Republicans are a bit like the Democrats in 2006 and 2008. Americans were sick of Bush and the Republicans back then, so they threw their support behind the Democrats by default. The Democrats over-read this support as a sweeping mandate for their agenda. This has given the GOP an opportunity many Republicans feared just a year ago might not come for a generation.
Now comes the hard part: seizing the opportunity. If I were giving my two cents — and whaddya know? I am! — I’d tell the GOP to look not to Reagan in 1980 or Gingrich in 1994, as so many pundits suggest.
I’d look to Domino’s in 2010.
Obviously, the analogy to the GOP isn’t perfect. For example, last I checked, Domino’s didn’t get bogged down in an unpopular war.
But the GOP’s troubles over the last decade have a lot to do with the fact that Americans didn’t stop liking what the Republican Party is supposed to deliver. They stopped liking what the GOP actually delivered.
As a conservative who cares more about policies than partisan success, I would hate to see the GOP abandon conservative policies in order to be more popular. That would be like Domino’s listening to critics and then deciding to get into the Chinese food business. Indeed, by my lights, that’s what George W. Bush tried to do with his “compassionate conservatism.” He surrendered to liberal arguments about the role, size and scope of government on too many fronts.
And he’s right, though I’d like to toss the dough up in the air and expand the pizza analogy a little bit. If Domino’s truly wants to reinvent itself and come out of its six straight quarters of declining revenue as the pizza chain that delivers the best-tasting pizza, its inspiration should be the smaller neighborhood shops that folks like me frequent, and taking what those shops do well and doing that on a national level. The reason Peppino’s Pizza down in Clemson was so darned good–and presumably still is–is largely because of the sauce, which is painstakingly made from scratch a relatively short period of time before being spread onto dough, covered with cheese and baked in an oven. For Domino’s to have the exceptional product that Peppino’s puts out, it could adopt such a practice, or some incarnation of it. Of course, there are cost and supply concerns in doing that, but addressing those in the context of a political analogy would be spreading the dough and expanding that analogy to the point of breakage.
The point is, it’s one thing for the Republican Party to conjure up some humility and accountability and, like Domino’s Pizza, admit that they’ve screwed up and lost their way. It’s another thing to come out of the reinvention as the best option in the marketplace. Just as a truly committed Domino’s Pizza should draw its inspiration from what the corner pizza joints are doing right, if the GOP wants to emerge from a year of introspection and reinvention as the party of the future of a free America, it should draw its inspiration from what works in the small businesses and kitchen tables of mainstream America. Less government intervention. A borderline obsessive-compulsive drive to reduce costs. A balanced budget. When it comes to the Republican Party reinventing itself, sauce from a can or plastic bag isn’t going to cut it — the GOP must do the hard work, do what might not be convenient, and run away from the trappings of political convenience.
Tonight, I’ll know what we’ve gotten from Domino’s the second I sink my teeth into a slice. Holding themselves accountable for lost focus and prior problems is great, but if the pizza doesn’t taste good, I’m going back to the store on the corner next Friday. The Democrats held power in Washington, D.C. for decades, while the Republicans held sway for only twelve years. They lost their majority because they lost their way. And while America might be ready to give them another shot because, like Domino’s Pizza, they acknowledge previous failures, if what comes out of the oven eventually doesn’t bring smiles to the faces of normal, everyday Americans, any revitalization will be short lived.