Overthinking the obvious and focusing on the artifice and myth of politics is a problem for all political professionals, including Republicans. Sarah Palin was out there this week trying to impose her own narrative: that she’s all roguey and mavericky and she’d win if she ran, but she’s not sure the presidency—”the title”—wouldn’t dull her special magic. It was like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard.” She’s still big, it’s the presidency that got small.
But this is mostly a problem for the Democratic Party at the national level, and has been since the 1980s. It reflects a disdain for the American people—they need their little stories—and it springs from an inability to understand the Reagan era. Democrats looked at him and the speeches and the crowds and balloons and thought: “I get it, politics is now all show biz.” Because they couldn’t take Reagan’s views and philosophy seriously, they couldn’t believe anyone else could, either. So they explained him through a story. The story was that Reagan’s success was due not to decisions and their outcomes but to a narrative. The narrative was “Morning in America”: Everything’s good, everyone’s happy.
Democrats vowed to create their own narratives, their own stories.
Here’s the problem: There is no story. At the end of the day, there is only reality. Things work or they don’t. When they work, people notice, and say it.
Would the next president like a story? Here’s one. America was anxious, and feared it was losing the air of opportunity that had allowed it to be what it was—expansive, generous, future-trusting. It was losing faith in its establishments and institutions. And someone came out of that need who led—who was wise and courageous and began to turn the ship around. And we saved our country, and that way saved the world.
There’s a narrative for you, the only one that matters. Go be a hero of that story. It will get around. It will bubble up.