Friday, July 14, 2006

Telling the right story.

I recently listened to linguist Geoffrey Nunberg talk about political narrative This was a long segment on FORUM, KQED, San Francisco. If you want to listen to it all, it is a 23 m-byte MP3 file. But, I listened live, and then downloaded it so that I can listen again.

Nunberg is the author of a recen book, "Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism Into A Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show." That is why Liberals are now so afraid of the L-word that they call themselves progressives.

Nunbers makes two key points. The Republicans have gotten the story down to such a simple tale that even such a bland, boring, non-personality as Bill Frist can tell it well. Maybe the best characterization of the story comes from a simple quote from George W. Bush: "I am glad to be here in middle America where people still respect simple values."

Progressives, I mean Liberals, like to get angry at and make fun of Bush. He has been elected twice. As the host on Forums state, Liberals in Wisconsin made fun of Tommy Thompson, and he was elected four times. That line from Bush is a divisive statement, that positions a member of the oil rich, East Coast elite as just one of the boys down at the drug store.

On the other hand, Clinton had a different narrative. "I am tired of seeing people who work hard and play be the rules get the shaft." Simple, easy to understand, and you knew whatever came next, he was on your side.

I would suggest that all Green Party activists, especially our candidates, listen to Nunberg's session, or go read his book. I think that we have lost our narrative in a plethora of programs.

We should be for the middle class trying to make it as a homeowner while corporations get big subsidies.

We should be for the small businessman trying to keep his business going and pay his workers a fair wage in the face of increasing health insurance costs.

We should not allow the right to turn ecological policy into a property rights issue, because air and water and all those creatures don't know where my property ends your property starts.

This is not a matter of "framing" the debate correctly. It is a matter of knowing what story you are telling. The Green story is a wonderful one. Just start telling it.


Anonymous said...

I always sum up the Green Party as standing for the regular voter instead of the large donor.

I think that's a winning political argument, and has the side benefit of being true.

Nice blog. In the shadow of huge, allegedly-liberal networks like Daily Kos and Atrios maintaining a strict and oppressive "Dems only" rule (even if that Dem is far, far, far from any conception of liberal or progressive), it's important for Greens to carve out a niche of their own in the blogosphere.

I'm adding you to my list of favorites.

Patrick Meighan
Los Angeles Greens

Wes said...

Thanks. I agree with you on Daily Kos. I thinkthat they over-rate the power of the Internet to do more than allow a group of people who already agree with each other find more ways to exclude everyone else. Sort of a Balkanization of the Internet.