Politically, Barack Obama managed to pull something off with health care reform that no one had been able to do thus far. This is an achievement.
Unfortunately, it is a brand-damaging achievement. To push through this landmark legislation, the president had to align himself so closely to the Democrats that his image as an outside “change bringer” is virtually ruined.
Fact is, Obama has now cast his lot with the Democratic old guard, and the Republicans are now positioned as the hardened opposition. Forget all about bipartisanship. Even if it were possible before, that window has closed now. (With their talk of repealing the legislation, the Republicans are signaling that they risk becoming the party of “no,” which isn’t good for them either — but it’s easier to fix than Obama’s problem.)
From a marketing perspective, the fundamental problem for the president is that by turning to the old guard Democrats, he has turned his back on significant segments of his Target Market. Fiscally conservative Independents and Democrats, as well as the many crossover Republicans who voted him into office, are not seeing the man they voted for occupying the presidency. They’re not seeing Candidate Obama in President Obama. This is political bait-and-switch, and it alienates a wide swath of those who were supporters of Candidate Obama.
Bottom line, the die has been cast. Obama and the Democrats are joined at the hip. What’s next?
President Obama needs to put the pedal to the metal if he wants to have a chance of re-election in 2012. This means that he might as well start pushing every piece of partisan legislation he can, because he won’t be getting his reputation as a new kind of politician back anytime soon. He can only hope that the legislation he passes (Wall Street regulation, immigration, etc.) works and makes those Target Markets he’s done such a good job of alienating happy again.
And, remember, things are always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.
John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and president of the Marketing Department of America who markets his own services as The Marketing Doctor. He is a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum and the author of a new book "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."