Narrative Dissonance

7 09 2008

On Wednesday, Peggy Noon railed against the presumed ineffectiveness of promoting narratives as a campaign device for Republican candidates running for high office in her opinion piece in the WSJ by saying:

I don’t like the idea of The Narrative. I think it is … a barnyard epithet. And, oddly enough, it is something that Republicans are not very good at, because it’s not where they live, it’s not what they’re about, it’s too fancy. To the extent the McCain campaign was thinking in these terms, I don’t like that either. I do like Mrs. Palin, because I like the things she espouses. And because, frankly, I met her once and liked her. I suspect, as I say further in here, that her candidacy will be either dramatically successful or a dramatically not; it won’t be something in between.

Not something they are good at? Not where they live? To fancy? That’s a little hard to believe. In 2000, the Bush campaign pushed a narrative of the then-Governor Bush as a one time lost soul who felt so out of place among the country club elites and overshadowed by his father’s achievements he tried to drink his sense of inadequacies away only to be redeemed by the power and grace of evangelical Christianity. All of which resonated very well with the Republican base and many other religious folk who felt that W. knew family values and understood them best.

Even David Frum recently gave a nod to the success of such narrative spinning on his blog at the NRO:

George W. Bush had very slight executive experience before becoming president. His views were not well known. He won the nomination exactly in the same way that Palin has won the hearts of so many conservatives: by sending cultural cues to convince them that he was one of them, understood them, sympathized with them. So that made everything else irrelevant in 2000 – as it seems again to be doing in 2008. [snip] But he lacked other important aspects of leadership which is how we got into the mess from which he needed to rescue the country and himself.

Amen to that.

To me, this is not only proof that not all Republicans think alike, but also some are a lot more honest with themselves than others, at least on certain topics. That said, on most days I’d rather read Peggy Noonan’s sweeping insights packaged in her crisp prose than sift through David Frum’s endless banter and pontification.

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