‘Stand With Rand’ CPAC t-shirts show Paul understands the importance of ‘design’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The HuffPost’s Same Stein tweeted out this photo of a t-shirt being given out by Sen. Rand Paul’s team at CPAC today. It’s a small thing, but I think it’s indicative of a team “gets” it.

Giving away t-shirts is hardly brilliant (some might even say it’s pandering), but what makes this shirt work is the design. I don’t want to make too much out this, but I think this is symbolic of something larger.

In recent years, liberals have dominated design (does anyone think the McCain or Romney  logos were better than Obama’s? Good design matters. It’s not the only thing, but it is certainly a component of a brand — of a message.

In his excellent book, “A Whole New Mind,” author Dan Pink discusses the six essential “senses” we will need to have to be successful in the future. Number one on his list is “design.” Image matters. Aesthetics matter.

“In the conceptual age,” Pink writes, “It’s no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that is merely functional. Today, it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging.”

Consumers of products know this intuitively, and so do voters. Sadly, too many Republicans are living in the advertising dark ages (let’s blame the consultants here.) Give Paul credit for creating something that doesn’t look like it came from a typical campaign vendor.

To be sure, while almost everyone appreciates good design, one imagines this is especially appealing to young people who don’t necessarily fit into your father’s Republican Party. Conservatism can be buttoned-down and boring. But young people like romance and revolution, and Rand Paul (in many ways, aside from a symbolic graphic) — is giving it to them.

This, of course, has a negative side. Youth can be exploited by propaganda. And there is a “cult of youth” mentality, whereby Americans wrongly attribute wisdom or insight to young voters (as Jonah Goldberg has noted, “Young people tend to be stupid.”)

On the other hand, Reagan owned the youth vote, and one imagines Republicans can’t write-off the next generation — especially when the debt ought to be an issue that resonates with this cohort.

In any event, Paul’s appeal transcends t-shirt logos (though the imagery reinforces the brand.) Over at PolicyMic, he addressed Millenialls yesterday, noting that one of his colleagues had accused him of filibustering fore some “libertarian kids in their dorm rooms.”

 Paul’s filibuster was narrowly defined (about using drones to kill American citizens on American soil), but judging by the reactons of politicians like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, as well as pundits like Bill Kristol, it is clear that he hit a nerve.

“[W]e do need a Republican Party that addresses the concerns of young people,” he continued. “We need a different kind of GOP, a party that speaks to the rising generation, who may have unique interests and concerns.”

If people decide they really want a radically “different kind of GOP,” Paul seems more than ready to give it to them.