The Story of America

{rescued from the drafts folder, many many years late.}

[I just noticed that this is the first I’ve written since the night of Trump’s victory in the election.  There’s something in that.]

A few days ago I came across an article (I’ve since lost the link  😐 ) saying that the Left will continue losing until it learns to tell better stories.  That resonated with me, pro and con.  It’s hard to argue that, for the past three decades or so, the Right has told a reasonably consistent and electorally effective story: America is mankind’s last, best hope (they would say) but it’s imperiled by enemies foreign (first the Soviets, then briefly drug kingpins, now comfortably Islamic terrorists) and domestic (globalist patronizing elites boosted by morally-deficient entertainment cadres).  Failure to conform risks the greatness that is America and will lead to the common man being enslaved by faceless bureaucrats who value woodland vermin over real people and who seek to tear down what is wonderful in order to hand everything over to lazy, immoral people who are not the right kind of people.

In contrast to that, the proponents of the Left offer… what?  Is there any competing narrative that can rally the troops (so to speak) and, more importantly, inspire the unaffiliated to align themselves on this side of the aisle?

I recognize that humans are story-telling creatures and that the power of a strong narrative can change the course of history, though I remain wary of the errors that befall when one mistakes “a story” for history.  (That’s a worthwhile topic for its own post, and it would consume quite some space, I suspect.)  I think I agree with the basic premise, that for 30 years or so, the conservative movement has outplayed the liberals in America in putting forth a cogent story, and that part of its unquestioned success stems from the logistic advantage of a media arm that could push a single, coherent narrative.  The Right has tapped and laid claim to charged words and hallowed themes like “patriotism”, “freedom”, and even “America” (as an ideal).

Perhaps this is unanswered because the Left, at least in this country, has almost never been other than a loose association of people pursuing ends that, while not quite in opposition, have never quite jelled.  We celebrate “diversity”, and that almost necessarily implies a certain dispersal of energy and emotion.  If your unifying factor is that people should not be boxed into set categories, than it’s hard to enforce any sort of ideological purity — and (I would argue) that’s a good thing, even if it does mean that liberals labor under a constraint not binding the other side.  (What is the antonym for “fellow traveler”, anyway?)