Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Talking Points Tuesday: The Four Narratives

Here's a recommended diary over at the dailyKOS by one jedc. It is an account of a speech given by Robert Reich at the London School of Economics. The speech had two parts, the first being a discussion of what we can see in Bush's second term while the second was a discussion of partisan politics. It is this later part which I'd like to quote:

What came next was quite an interesting idea.  Reich described four narratives that every successful campaign must have.  They are:

HOPEFUL narratives

  • Rags-to-riches
  • People coming together (think Frank Capra)
FEARFUL narratives
  • Mob at the gates
  • Rot at the top

Essentially, Bush had narratives for each of these four boxes.  From the top: the "ownership society", faith-based issues, terrorism, and liberal elites.

Reich discussed how the "Rot at the top" narrative has changed in the last 30-40 years.  It used to be the rot at the top of businesses.  Then it became the rot within government and Washington.  But now that the Republicans have control over the entire government they have managed to shift this narrative to rot of elites, specifically the "godlessness" of the liberal elites.

So what the hell does Robert Reich think Democrats should do?  DEMOCRATS MUST TELL THEIR OWN TRUE AND COMPELLING STORIES.  True and compelling narratives CAN get through the filters, even right-wing media filters.  And once a narrative is laid out for the American people, the policy ideas the candidate has can be truly understood.

The Four Narratives is a good model for developing talking points and it is a good suggestion that they be told through individual stories. Our challenge in the coming months will be for liberals to develop these narratives, find the stories that express them and then spread them far and wide.

Here are some suggestions just off the top of my head:

HOPEFUL narratives

  • Rags-to-riches - Stories about people overcoming their troubles through the help of liberal programs.
  • People coming together (think Frank Capra) - Stories of liberals organizing to achieve liberal goals (think unions).
FEARFUL narratives
  • Mob at the gates - Stories about radical right-wingers imposing their morally elite views on the rest of the country (think Teri Shiavo).
  • Rot at the top - Stories about corruption in the Republican controlled government (think Tom DeLay) and corporate boardrooms (think Enron).


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