Ed Driscoll

Trickle-Down Narratives

I’ve given Peggy Noonan plenty of grief for her rubedom in the fall of 2008. But she’s spot-on in her latest piece on how utterly condescending Obama sounds when he claims, as he did in a recent interview with Charlie Rose, “The mistake of my first couple of years was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. But, you know, the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism.”

In response, Noonan writes, “I am certain the president has no idea how patronizing he sounds. His job is to tell us a story? And then get our blankie and put us to sleep?”

When he says “a story” he means “the narrative,” but he can’t use that term because every hack in politics and every journalist they spin uses it and believes in it.

We’ve written of this before but it needs repeating. The American people will not listen to a narrative, they will not sit still for a story. They do not listen passively as seemingly eloquent people in Washington spin tales of their own derring-do.

The American people tell you the narrative. They look at the facts produced by your leadership, make a judgment and sum it up. The summation is spoken—the story told—at a million barbecues in a million back yards.

The narrative on the president right now is: He’s not a bad guy, but it hasn’t worked.

Some people will vote for him anyway, some won’t. But all, actually, know it hasn’t worked. That’s the narrative.

To get that wrong—that the American summation comes from the bottom up and not the top down—is a big mistake. It means you don’t know you’ve got to change some facts, as opposed to some words.

But of course — Obama viewers himself as a king ruling his subjects, not a man whom the voters have temporarily elected. (Which arguably isn’t as bad as some of his more devoted — read: crazed — followers in the MSM. Recall all of the “Obama is God,” “Obama is the mythical Lightworker” rhetoric in 2008 and 2009.) But since so much of modern liberalism boils down to the Lakoffian notion that the ideas are flawless — we just have to find the proper way (via the magic words and/or the right storyteller) to sell them to the American people — the administration is incapable of changing how it proceeds.