Michael Wolraich's picture

    Tell Us a Story, Mr. President

    "You'll notice a pattern in all stories: There are three kinds of characters: heroes, villains and there but for the grace of God go I." -- Glenn Beck

    Barack Obama had a story once. He spoke of hope and change, of restoring a distant government tainted by partisan infighting and corporate influence to the people it was meant to serve. But we have not heard that story since November 2008.

    It is not uncommon for presidents to change their stories after assuming office, either because the practice of governing demands adaptation or because they only said what they said to get elected.

    George W. Bush, for instance, ran for office as a "uniter" and a businessman who would restore efficiency to a bloated government; he quickly proved himself to be anything but.

    No matter, the tragic events of 9/11 soon presented him with a far more potent narrative: The swaggering avenger who delivers swift justice against bearded terrorists, mustachioed tyrants and irritating French people.

    Read the full story at CNN.com



    Genghis, very well put. I would like to make the distinction between the story and the villains and heroes,etc., employed to tell the story.

    The Republicans have two of the basic story types already in place.

    1. We are the strangers come to town to clean the place up and throw out the evil sheriff.(Gardner's version of " a stranger comes to town".)

    2. We are going to go on a journey back to Mayberry, when everything in the world was right, and we were all white." (The essential story-type, "the journey", per Shaw and others.)

    Obama needs to construct the two opposing stories.
    "These strangers do not wish us well, we will fight them and send them packing"

    "We are going on a journey to a society where.."fill in the blanks. Personally I think a part of the story should be how the rich are willing to make sacrifices so that we can all make the journey together, successfully.  

    As far as the President is concerned he needs to keep his stories "short".

    I love this, Genghis. Maybe my favourite thing you've done. YES, the need for a story. YES, the damn fool abandoned his storyline - which would've been incredibly powerful, if continued. 

    The only NO, is to the storyline you floated. Not in its substance, so much as its terms. Any storyline that's gonna grab, especially in America, has to have movement. It can't be positioned at the edge of something, teetering, for very long - we've got to jump across or race away. If we're building a bridge, it has to be because we're going somewhere. Like Oxy Mora said, a journey. And bloody Obama HAD that. He was drawing on that sense of movement every time he quoted the great voices from the past, and somehow, the black white thing made him appear to EMBODY a new stage on the journey.

    And then... well, he came out as a banker.

    But YES again to the fact that he can grow, that he gets another act. Like I said 2 years ago, I'd vote for him because of who he can BECOME. That he might BECOME the leader needed by the times. Fingers crossed.

    Thanks, quinn. I agree with you that my story needs a somewhere. I'm just not sure where somewhere is. Nor, I think, are many liberals these days. One thing that I'll say for the right wing, they know where their somewhere is. Granted, their somewhere is grotesque and delusional, but it's somewhere.

    Story telling is not Obama's problem, action is. I think that Obama had talked a good presidency and hasn't been able to deliver on it. Now without Congress he may have missed his chance for good. This is a situation that a "natural" politician like Clinton could handle, but that someone so lacking in emotional intelligence: empathy and warmth, as Obama is may not be able to surmount.

    Obama couldn't deliver because he doesn''t know how. My problem with Obama has always been that I saw nothing in his beautiful story that led me to believe he could manage anything: as far as I can see Obama never even managed a Boy Scout troop before entering the White House. And just like with the Tea Party candidates, his lack of experience was seen as a virtue not as a defect.

    Again, Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas practically since he got out of college, he was very experienced in building and running teams and in solving endless problems of governance. Being a governor of a state or a mayor of a large city or even serving for many years in the Senate, gives some idea of a person's management skills and political footwork, without so much story telling needed. There is a "record" not a story. Observed from a distance Americans have become increasingly obsessed with story telling to the detriment of action. Why not elect Aaron Sorkin president?

    David, we can talk for two years on Obama's mistakes. Some of them are inexcusable. But if there is anyone who has the intelligence to adjust to new circumstances, it is he. And now he has the motivation to change. I'm much more optimistic about him than you are, maybe it'll be like a romance ended badly, I hope not.

    As to "story" and "action", I don't think any enterprising person in our world of media and hype can operate without a story. In  fact, you need both story and action. And I think story is predictive.

    In Obama's case, they have the narrative against him already. I liked your phrase, what was it "other darkness", something like that, sorry maybe it wasn't you--anyway, that's their story next time,. he's the stranger, the guy from "away". If he doesn't present the counter narrative he has already lost the next election.  And as Genghis pointed out, it's o.k. to change the story.

    Also, IMO, it is time for Obama to shorten his stories and find an Appalachian voice, cadence,pace. not policy wonking long winded, you know, it's like this and if you do this stories.

    There are different kinds of intelligence. Political intelligence is not the same as analytical intelligence. Politics is an art, a talent, a knack, a supreme instinct for the moment. I keep returning to Bill Clinton, because he is so naturally gifted, he is a "pure" political animal. Obama isn't, without his teleprompter he is lost. I get the feeling that he is distinctly "un-gifted" with people, distant without much empathy... I wonder how he ever got into all of this in the first place. Most people who shine in politics have been "working rooms" since they were in high school, they are gregarious, touchy feely... Even miserable Bush knew enough to climb up on a pile of rubble, grab a bullhorn and put his arm around a fireman.

    Right. Not much empathy,and guarded, as one might suspect. Not to belabor the point, but political? This guy beat the Clintons and became the first black President.

    But again, the topic, the story. Clinton tells a good story. Cadence. Timing. I thought the two of them in Florida at one one last rallies was a classic and I wish I had a clip of it. Obama should study Clinton's appeal to those with Appalachian heritage. IMO it has a lot to do with the "ear" for speech. For example, Kerry's speech drove me nuts--and Obama has a lot of that policy wonk gobbledy gook. You gotta have the iambic, or is it gimmick?

    I've never seen someone more talented than Bill Clinton at translating wonk stuff into vernacular. It's like he's already searching for the translation the minute he starts thinking about a problem, it's the way his brain works, he translates it for himself first. Obama doesn't do that at all, his brain seems way ahead of his speech, he's often still searching for the words to explain what he's thinking while he's answering a question. I suspect writing things out helps him, and that syncs with the fact that he helped write his own campaign speeches. Bill Clinton famously doesn't stick to his written speeches, sometimes to his detriment regarding length.

    I once wrote a parody of Obama buying an ice cream cone:

    Salesperson: What kind of ice cream would you like Mr. President?

    POTUS: Er, uh, what kind, er type, ah varieties of uh, er, cone, ah, uh er, ice cream, have you got, er do you sell?

    SP: Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and tuttifrutti

    PT: Uh, well, ah, er, emmm, I favor, er am uh in favor of uh,er,um diversity, so maybe tuttifrutti.

    SP: So that's one tuttifrutti?

    PT: Oh, er, umm, no, maybe er, ah vanilla.

    I find this inability to speak on his feet amazing.

    I hate to interrupt when David is so clearly enjoying his Obama-bashing, but does anyone remember this:

    President Obama's appearance Friday before the GOP House Issues Conference in Baltimore was supposed to be behind closed doors, with only a pool reporter to capture their exchanges. But the House Republicans decided early Friday to invite in all reporters, and the result made for a gripping political exchange, with the Republicans posing tough questions of Obama, and the president giving as good as he got.

    The link has transcripts of Obama essentially lecturing the Republican caucus with no notes and no teleprompters. Obviously impressed reporters compared it to speaking before Parliament (and I don't mean Funkadelic). If you want to say he isn't as warm and folksy as Clinton, that's one thing, but read those transcripts and tell me whether the man can speak on his feet or not. I know AMan sounds good on the radio, but when was the last time any of you stood before a hostile audience, kept your composure and rattled off pages and pages of facts?

    All rooty.


    Thanks for that. I also liked the incident when the Presidential Seal fell from the podium.  Quick response, and humor as well.

    Also his cool during the McCain debates when McCain tried to unnerve him by circling around in back of him. Well, it worked for George Bush when he crossed the line toward Gore during a debate, and Gore didn't handle it well.

    Oxy, that is. Was having some trouble there.

    Thanks Oxy. My point was not so much Obama's ability to tell a story in person but the general communication strategy of the administration. Obama and his staff all have talking points that they happily share with the press, but whether told eloquently or haltingly, they have not been communicating any overarching narrative.

    Yes, a lot of levels here. I could be wrong but it seems that the "we're the new guys in town and we're going to throw the bad Sheriff out" is a pretty encompassing narrative from the opposition and one that needs a counter punch at that level. Anyway, we will have to go to war with the narrative he gives us, not the one we wish we had.  

    Genghis, what I think is that the Republicans are working at an archetype story level--we're the new guys here, come to throw the evil sheriff out-- and Obama needs to respond at the archetype level. Otherwise the opposition's story, or narrative, becomes entrenched and can be, arguably, predictive. IOW, I think the archetype story is the compelling level. Actually O'Connell and the tea rabble have just handed Obama the high ground: "Now if you've come to town to fix things, we'll work with you. But if you've come here to tear the place down, we'll fight you."  Just spitballin'.


    This Clinton nostaliga has grown tiresome.  You do understand that, for all his good ole boy charm (which, being from the rural Midwest myself, I found utterly phony and annoying as hell), the most significant things Clinton got done are mostly contributing to the mess that Obama is having to deal with now, and may prevent his presidency from attaining whatever greatness it had the potential to realize, don't you?

    So, tell me, David, what did Bill Clinton, the "pure political animal" with the "supreme instinct for the moment" accomplish that couldn't have been accomplished by a run-of-the mill moderate Republican?  

    I would add that Democrats suffered greater midterm losses under Clinton than under Obama.

    Yes, the Senate being so important. I keep thinking about how much harder 2012 would be without Ky, NV, Co. and Wa. having been held in this midterm.


    Thanks for catching that. Sorry, meant WV. I contributed to both races so I must still be doing wishful thinking about Conway. Man that Aqua Bhudda thing backfired. 

    I am not a big Clinton fan, I find him very corrupt, not as corrupt as Tony Blair, but very, very, corrupt. The Mark Rich pardon was really jumping the shark. I am only saying that he is an enormously talented natural politician... and Obama appears to be totally lost without teleprompters and "handlers"... all of which were loaned him by mayor Daley. I've always had the feeling he was an empty suit and I took enormous shit over at TPM during the primaries and the campaign for saying so.

    So how was an empty suit able to, "give as good as he got" with a roomful of Republicans?

    I suppose you haven't noticed how many Republican empty suits there are... but at the heart of the Obama phenomenon was always a desperate need to believe. It reminds me of those moments in American history, when people sold everything they had and went and sat in a field waiting for the world to come to an end.... In these cases the morning after is always painful

    So to support your contention that Obama is an empty suit, you are enlarging the number of empty suits to include the leading Republican politicians and presumably anyone else that Obama can handle in a debate. You're just sitting in a field too, saying I told you so, and waiting for Obama to leave office. Which is essentially what Rush Limbaugh did for the entire eight years that Clinton was in office, and is doing now with Obama in office. Maybe EIB has a place for you somewhere.

    What I see are opportunities lost, precious ones that may never return.

    Another nebulous non-answer.

    Do not agree with Seaton Obama is "is distinctly "un-gifted" with people, distant without much empathy", he is very good off the teleprompter and has the time for people, he remembers names, he is a 'get along with people' kind of person.

    He was a 'community organizer', the Republicans are more like MAFIA dons, who work the community for all they can get.

    What Obama does not have is the ruthlessness and political jujitsu to go after those who oppose him, like Ted Kennedy used to do on the Senate floor. That is why the Republicans can so easily take advantage of him. He needs to, for instance, point out that it was he who got the money out of BP for the businesses in the Gulf, while the Republicans were at the same time apologizing to BP, saying 'accidents happen' no 'extortion' from a corporation!

    He needs to, but probably won't, realize that the GOP does not want to be 'civil' or 'honest' and work to solve the problems this country faces, they will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to even put the nations problems on their radar. The GOP wants to slit his throat, give him concrete boots and sink him to the bottom of the Potomac. The GOP is 1st, 2nd and 3rd about politics, all politics, they think the economy will solve itself, and their tax cutting, values BS never changes. They are not civil and not honest, except with the big money players who back them.

    The fact is the GOP would just as soon serve him as the main course at the little dinner get together that Obama has scheduled for later this month. These guys are like hungry sharks with the taste of blood. Obama needs to know that story.

    As a new member here I have enjoyed this and many of your other posts. I agree, he'll need to be an infighter. Gentility is a weakness in this environment. But what I was going to ask is, given the realities you mention, what do you think is the short overarching narrative that connects the dots--both a definition of these "sharks" and something that speaks to his base as well as independents? 

    Thanks, glad you have appreciated my posts. At some point very soon, Obama needs to show that he is decisive and tough, for instance he should have let the DADT decision stand as Pelosi and 24 Democratic Senators advised him to do at the time. It would already be forgotten if he did, and his base would at least know he fulfilled this campaign promise, and I believe a lot of valuable and effective people this country needs would know they could keep wearing the uniform.

    He needs to distinguish himself from Republicans, for instance by getting at least one significant concession out of the GOP on the Bush tax cuts vis a vis the very highest incomes, and stick with it, explaining clearly in press conferences that we have a deficit and 2 wars, and that he is doing this for the country, and so 'your grandchildren' aren't stuck with paying the bill. He needs to come up with some tough regulations on Wall Street and Hedge Funds and their manager's incomes, and/or look for illegal activity and go for prosecutions, and point out that the GOP is trying to weaken the laws just passed on the financial industry, and also weaken the regulations being made for those laws. He has to repeat this stuff to the nation over and over, and make the GOP mad as hell. Wherever he can he has to display the confidence of a President, that he will prevail on issues that he believes are critical.

    At this point bipartisanship clearly is not going to accomplish anything for Obama or the country. The GOP's sole goal is to regain the White House.  He and the Democrats need to constantly remind the public what they have done, that it was done for the people, and that the GOP fought every step and is still fighting him with the same irresponsible proposals and policies of GWB. Obviously, Obama is not going to get new programs pushed through, but he should get vocal and exude some anger about what Boehner and Co. will try to do over the next year to contrast himself with them.  It will be good for him and the country. If he just meets with GOP leaders and does what they are happy with, as if they are all distinguished honorable members of some Harvard faculty committee, he will be toast in 2012.

    Thanks NCD. I highly doubt that after the past two years, Obama has any naivity about Republicans. I agree that he should take a harder line, but I don't think the fact that he hasn't is because of any misperception of his opponents. I would guess that he has an aversion to ruthless tactics, though that's speculation.

    I'm a bit late to the game here, and haven't read the comments yet, but I will say that I read the entire post at CNN today on my lunch hour and was blown away by it.  I'll eventually catch up with my thoughts and comment further but just wanted to say, Genghis, that this is one of your best.



    Thanks, Lis. I've lost perspective on my own writing, if I ever had it. I can't really tell what's good. This post feels true to me, so I think that it's good for that reason, but it also feels a little hollow--like politics is all about symbols and not about action. I think that some commenters over at CNN reacted negatively to it for that reason, and this article didn't take off like my last one. On the other hand, many of the commenters over there are...well...let's just say they're not dagbloggers.

    I don't sense anything hollow.  I sense a need for fireside chats, but brought up to date and up to speed.  You worded it perfectly.  CNN readers are an odd lot, and I avoid them at all costs, but I wouldn't pay them much heed, if I were you, unless you want to be Jack Cafferty's replacement someday.  Hee.



    I liked the one who called you shrill--he or she is obviously no fan of gender stereotypes! And I agree with that particular commenter that you have a long (LONG) way to go if you want to become the left-wing Glenn Beck. Foot in mouth

    Well, I was just curious ... so I parused the comments over there. Geez.

    Fortunately, I think CNN scores by quantity not quality, so I think you probably nailed it in terms of their "buzz factor". Way more comments than any other randomly selected articles in the section. Nicely done.


    Thanks. Facebook recs probably offer a better measure of "buzz." My post got a respectable 87 so far, not the best but not the worst. I was a little spoiled by my first article, which was on the front page and had 2300 recs. This is small potatoes by comparison, but I think that the front page promotion was a rare exception (and reflected people's political passions rather than the quality of the writing). Anyway, it's fun. I hope that I get to keep writing for them. I like that I can get a big audience over there but come back to dag for the intelligent discussion.

    First and foremost. Congratulations on the CNN placement! Right on!!!!

    But sadly, to me your story was not one that is particularly compelling. The narrative feels like Obama's typical "can't we just get along" with superimposed CGI special effects. And as with Obama's narrative, there is no real villain that can actually be vanquished - you are still fighting an abstract.

    I propose setting up the conflict as a question weather we are going to PROTECT and, dare I say, even expand benefits for America's embattled Main Street (and elderly, both current and future) or are we going to continue to protect the greed and excesses of those who don't even want to pay taxes while they live off the fat of the land and their countrymen starve. Are we going to lose our way chasing the phantom fears of deficits in the midst of crisis or are we going to embrace investment in our great Nation and move forward to a bright economic future that will allow us to banish the specter once and for all?

    Austerity for me and a return to taxation parity for thee isn't the sort of thing to stir passion in anyone's loins - regardless the snazzed-up presentation. There is no way out of this. It is indeed a class war. We can't fix what is wrong in America unless the top 1% lose, and lose big. Any other narrative is a delusion.


    Good points, KGB, but the top 1% have an influence that hits the rest of us everywhere.  Attacking them without humbling and shaming them first with rhetoric will not work. 

    Add to that the Rand Paul meme (Ayn Rand meme, if you will) that we NEED the f*ckers, and that asking them to share makes us socialists. 

    How would you, if you were in Obama's shoes, handle the wording, the message?


    Especially given THIS crap: 


    It's easy to say those voters don't count, they don't represent real values, etc etc, but those voters are out there watching every move the Dems make.  Quite obviously.

    So how would you walk the fine line that makes Independents want to back the Left vs. the Right?


    I certainly won't say those voters don't count. But I will say their actions are being misinterpeted. The first mistake (of many) is the assertion that they actually voted *for* anything (although unknowingly it seems on a deep read). Love Cesca, but he's too deeply invested and it's skewing his point of view ... that was really more an "abandon hope all ye who enter" post than an analysis of voting dynamics.

    I did a mega-rant on my view as an independent over on Oxy's "Time to move on" thread expressing what I think would attract us back. A bit dramatic, but heartfelt.

    I thought it was a great rant, and learned something from it.

    Well, maybe my verbiage wasn't up to par, but the basic essence of this bit in my comment was intended to shame as well as frame the conflict:

    "Are we going to PROTECT benefits for America's embattled Main Street and elderly, or are we going to continue to protect the greed and excesses of those who don't even want to pay taxes while they live off the fat of the land and their countrymen starve?"

    I think given professional treatment and hammered home that would take off like wild fire. Those *are* the villains of our day. Be fearless and call them on it. Make every penny they spend an assault on democracy. Every attempt to cut social services an attempt to kill the elderly and infirmed. The GOP has given you the blueprint. Just fill the correct villains and policies in the correct blanks and use the bully pulpit of the presidency to hammer it home.

    And it can't be overstated: Rand Paul is a twit. Everyone knows he's a twit. Ignore "him" and stay on the message. It's not THAT hard. Hell, Palin just ignored the questions and answered ones she wished had been asked in a national debate ... nobody batted an eye.

    Occasionally mix in the sub-narrative ridiculing a deficit fetish (which polls show nobody really cares about) as an unpatriotic lack of faith in America being a good investment and you've got a winning combo IMO. I don't think one can ever win on the "deficit issue" by cutting the deficit because deficits are also an abstract which can't realistically be eliminated in the short term. Shy of total elimination, any effort spent actually reducing them is effort wasted politically. They should only be used to taunt the GOP when they want to give another handout to their corporate buddies and increase the deficit - using the hypocrisy hook - while ridiculing the underlying objective mercilessly.

    That would be REALLY hard to message around and would make the corporate powers spend a good portion of their resources on defense instead of unobstructed offense like we saw in the last election. There is only so much air time.

    I got you now.  And yes, I saw the rant just now too.  I agree, for the most part.  BTW, I tried to send you a personal message tonight, via Dag's "contact" feature, but you must've disabled it?  No biggie.  I can be reached via my secondary email at LisB indahouse at gmail if you ever want to discuss what I was going to discuss with you.  :)  How's that for cryptic?


    Hmmm, I didn't think it was disabled ... but it *is* kind of linked to a "circular filing cabinet" address used for site registrations that I usually only check/use when I lose my login information somewhere and such, so this was probably for the best. You could be waiting a looong time if I wasn't expecting something there. (PS. tried to email you ... if it didn't work, lemme know).

    Related: Oooooh crap. Hey! Genghis? Just got your email ... there was more significance to the "for a more reliable response" bit in my message than you might imagine. Embarassed

    Actually, the villain is supposed to be Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and company--the demagogues and dividers.

    I'm not saying that it's the only story, but you really don't think that the tale of reason vanquishing blind hatred is a good story? I personally find it very compelling, but maybe that's just me.


    The villain is war.  Spending too much on wars that make no sense.  Spending too much on Defense.  Spending too much on Xe a/k/a Cheney's Halliburton a/k/a Blackwater a/k/a whatever other names they go by.

    Maybe it's time to bring back "Make Love Not War".  Personally, I don't know why or how in hell that message ever died.


    Thoughtprovoking blog. I read it, and loved it, but like others wasn't convinced by your final proposal for a substantial narrative. I dropped back in to see what others were suggesting, and it all seems pretty thin gruel, no? Are we all so lost, we don't even know what we want from this presidency, in what direction we imagine and wish it to flow? One suggestion I was mulling over was the idea that he should rip off the Tea Party's preferred narrative: he ought to pilfer their 'taking back our country' line. He ought to just readjust it a bit - it's not about taking back our country from the evil big government, but rather taking back our country from the Big corporate cartel. He's already taken a couple of swings at it - in his SOTU swipe at the Supreme court, in his on and off populism on the banks, the health insurers, in the recent campaign against the Chamber of Commerce.

    It is also a nice fit with the limits of his power now. Look, lets get serious - nothing, at least nothing good, is coming out of Congress for the next two years. All the action will be in foreign policy and in the regulatory agencies. He should pick some fights through HHS, through the SEC, have the DOJ come down hard on the anti-trust front, pump up the labor department, throw out GEithner and use Treasury to push for a harsh interpretation of the FinReg legislation. All of it, tied together with a nice F*ck-the-corps bow...

    Just an idea.

    Obey, I really think this is on the right track. I don't think it is inconsistent with some compromises to ensure job growth.

    Hi Oxy- if by 'compromises' you mean legislation, I don't think it is inconsistent so much as I think that legislation just won't happen. Anything that creates jobs at this point is a bad thing for the GOP, at least as far as I understand their state of mind. Of course I may be wrong, but ... I doubt it.


    The trouble with corporations as villains is that they're so damn impersonal these days. It's not like the old days of the evil robber barons. We're dealing with profit-fueled bureaucracies. They make me think of the movie, Brazil.

    Well, aren't some of the best movie villains the invisible ones - the shark in jaws you don't see until towards the end, the shooter in Phone Booth, whoever Pacino was chasing in Insomnia, and who the hell ran Spector in the old James Bonds anyway... ?

    I'm not sure you agree with this aspect Genghis, but I think if you put many of these corporate leaders in front of a camera, they'll be seen to be fairly grotesque. You just have to put them under pressure, not have them there to kiss their asses. Like buddy from BP. They're not all slick, controlled PR machines.

    I'd go after the ones we shovelled money at, who then spent huge amounts... on themselves. i.e. Finance first. Tell a story about how Americans were willing to contribute to make sure these firms weren't driven under during the crisis, but that now that they were functioning, it was time to pay their fair share.

    Then commit to spending the funds collected to pay to put Americans back to work, dollar for dollar. Or to keep people in their houses, etc. (Always been a fan of earmarked dollars.)

    I think you are spot on, Quinn. These hedge fund managers and the wealthy elite running these corporations are not sympathetic characters, as a rule. And they are sufficiently insulated from the hoi polloi that they are completely out of touch with middle class reality. In a word, they are inflammatory sound bites just waiting to be recorded for all to see. We should do all we can to give them the opportunity by calling them out on their nonsense with an insistence that they defend themselves and their tax cuts, and bonuses, and their exporting of jobs, and their "entitlements" (social, political, and financial), and... (See my comments below)

    Agreed.  And we have to show America just how much we're spending on the damn war effort, and on Defense.  And ask them what they'd rather pay for.  Infrastructure, or more defense contracts.


    Obama has a great story to tell: "The thirty year experiment in Trickle-Down Reaganomics has failed!"

    He can point out that - contrary to the popular meme that neither side is willing to compromise - the Dems have consistently compromised over these last thirty years in effort to modify, but not obstruct, this experiment in a top-ordered economic system that has failed the American people. He can then point out that the Dems have compromised to the point of themselves being compromised, surrendering their defense of economic justice for the middle class and the poor in an attempt to make this experiment work.

    He can point out the statistics that show wealth aggregating upwards in unprecedented fashion over these last thirty years. He can show how the tax rates have shifted onto the backs of the American people and away from the privileged elite. He can show how a "business-friendly government" has relaxed regulation or failed to administer regulations altogether in ways that have directly led to the deaths of the roustabouts on the Deepwater Horizon and the miners in West Virginia. And he can show very directly how this economic experiment led directly to our present economic crisis. (For openers, it's pretty much obvious in retrospect that you can't maintain a consumer-driven economy if you continually rob the worker-consumers of their income and their wealth by moving their jobs overseas and trashing the value of their biggest financial asset, their homes.)

    He can then point out that every effort that has been made to fix this failure has been met by an insistence that we must continue more of the same policies that got us into trouble in the first place. A Keynesian stimulus? No, sayeth the Repubs, unless you include more tax cuts for the rich. A mortgage cramdown? No, sayeth the Repubs. Far better to just give the money to the banks and let them decide what to do with it. When that doesn't work? Well, sayeth the GOP, just give the banks more money and pass out another $700 billion in tax cuts to the wealthy.

    The President needs to address the American people with a sense of urgency. He needs to at last declare that the Dems are ready to stick a fork in Reaganomics as the bloated carcass of unsustainable greed and corruption that it is. And he will sound the alarm that we need to get moving on this quickly and forcefully, before the "anonymous contributors" purchase any more elections for their wholly owned subsidiary, the GOP. 

    This election left me feeling as though we are on the verge of being "relieved" of our responsibilities that attend self-governance to instead be delivered to the feet of Wall Street and the corporations. To the victor goes the spoils, I reckon, but we don't have to like it. Obama has a story to tell, alright. And it needs to be told in certain terms that, at last, we are prepared to stand up and fight. Reaganomics has failed, and the American people are suffering because of it. There is an alternative. Let the GOP cling to their failed policies. Let them continue as the party representing the interests of those who remain untouched by - and even profit from! - the disastrous policies that have caused such pain and misery for most Americans. And let the Dems lead the charge to restore sanity in our economics and lead us out of this mess. Let the Dems be the party that tells the wealthy and their GOP minions to "Get the fuck outta' the way! It's time to try something different, and this time we're going to put the interests and the financial stability of the American people first."

    Great post. Obama has a great story to tell--so get the hell out of India, get back up on that podium and show some fight.

    Also, I apologize for being so faux pedantic on the subject of narrative, I barely survived American Studies, but is there a way to put all of this in a sentence or two? I really like, "Get the fuck outta' the way", seriously, he has the godammed high ground, it's time to use it.

    I like it. It's not quite as simple as mine, but I think that blaming economic problems on Reaganomics would be an effective message. Republicans have more or less disowned GW, but Reagan's views represents the core of the their economic ideology. Presenting Reaganomics as a failed experiment embraces Republicans adoration for Reagan, and turns it on its head. Time to move on.

    (But to what?)

    In answer to the question "To what?" I would respond in part with the following:

    Our foreign trade policy must be refigured into an opportunity to export Liberty to others throughout the world rather than exploiting the "human resources" and other resources in other countries for sole purpose of fattening corporate profits. Announce a new initiative wherein our Commerce Department works closely with the State Department to encourage the offshore growth and development of our business sector. But refocus these economic efforts toward developing the economies in these "host countries." The present practice too often represents neo-colonial exploitation of others to lessen the production costs of goods and services targeted for the U.S. consumer. Our present trade policies are not sustainable, nor do they serve the interests of economic justice here or abroad. Instead, they threaten to undermine over a century's worth of effort to arrive at reasonable labor and environmental protections in this country in favor of pursuing the lowest common denominator available in the developing countries.

    At its essence, the difference in policies might best be outlined in the notion that "If you choose to make Ford's in Transylvania, then sell them to the Transylvanians." In other words, use the development of the economy in other countries to strengthen the ability of those workers to participate as consumers. It is the way in which the U'S. economy was built, and should serve as a model for growth elsewhere.

    As you point out, Reagan's views represent the core of the Republican economic ideology. What isn't fully understood is that it has also been the core philosophy that has driven our economics for over thirty years. For all the talk about "lack of compromise" in our politics, I would point out that the Dems have consistently compromised their labor-oriented principles these last thirty years in effort to make this system work. NAFTA is only one example. Our consistent leadership in the G20 and GATT are other areas where Dems have participated with an obeisance to the general principles that insist we all benefit from top-loaded economic initiatives. If the corporations are happy, we're all happy. 

    We now see that the system has failed. We are producing products offshore that no longer have a market because the American consumer can't afford to purchase them. We are dead in the water with no wind at our backs. We need a whole new direction.

    This ain't for the weak and the weary to pursue, but the times are sufficiently challenging to require a major new initiative that sets a whole lot of "Common Wisdom" on its head. And it puts to the test the commitment of those who now spout platitudes about "looking forward rather than back."

    There is so much more to consider once we genuinely look for an alternative to the failed Reaganomics. Dare I say a whole book or books could be written to document the numerous ways we can understand this failure, beginning with the incredible shift of wealth into the hands of so few people at the top with a resultant decimation of Main Street and our middle class/working poor. We need to then explore the complexities of pursuing a new direction, being careful to challenge present assumptions. (e.g. The "health" of our economy is not best measured by the Dow Index, but rather by the relative wealth of all our people.) 

    Anyway, enough for now. But suffice to say that I anticipate need for a virtual revolution in economic thinking if we ever hope to get out from under the presently painful circumstances confronted by all but the wealthiest participants in this economy. And it begins by someone (hopefully in leadership within the Dem Party) standing tall to declare that "The Emperor has no clothes."

    Drew Westen's The Political Brain (2007) was interesting and entertaining, I thought, on narrative in politics, and still, after 3 whole years, highly pertinent.  Whether one likes his suggestions or not.  He has interesting things to say in analyzing actual speeches of both successful and unsuccessful candidates.   

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