"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have"
Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, January 22, 2009

This Is Worth A Reprint

Today, Barack Obama became the 44th President on the back of an incredibly powerful story. Some of these storylines are true and unassailable: the historicity of the first African American President. Others are the work of an incredibly skilled campaign team and a candidate who mastered the literary realm (and indeed, used it as the basis of his political career) as Reagan mastered stagecraft. Watching TV today reminds me of an immutable truth of our politics: above all else, we as Americans love a good story.

Oddly, this dynamic does not wind up devaluing issues and policies as you expect it might. When radical policies like the biggest expansion of government since FDR can be cloaked in a tableau of hope, change, and history, they are much easier to get through. Good storytelling is the natural ally of those who would like to see bold public policies -- on both sides.

Again and again in American politics, certain themes recur. And certain storylines are more successful than others. I went back and looked at Presidential elections since 1960 -- generally considered to be the birth of modern Presidential politics -- to see which storylines worked and which didn't, and it's not hard to see why Obama's trifecta of youth, change, and hope -- represented here by optimism, is so powerful: they've won every time they've been tried.

Here are the overall themes. I tried to boil down each candidate to a maximum of two main narratives:

Year Winner Narratives Loser Narratives
1960 Kennedy (D) Youth, optimism Nixon (R) Continuity
1964 Johnson (D) Continuity, risk Goldwater (R) Opposition, integrity
1968 Nixon (R) Stability, experience Humphrey (D) Continuity
1972 Nixon (R) Continuity McGovern (D) Opposition
1976 Carter (D) Integrity Ford (R) Americana
1980 Reagan (R) Optimism, change Carter (D) Risk
1984 Reagan (R) Optimism, continuity Mondale (D) Opposition
1988 Bush (R) Continuity Dukakis (D) Competence, opposition
1992 Clinton (D) Change, party reform Bush (R) Service, risk
1996 Clinton (D) Continuity, optimism Dole (R) Service, integrity
2000 Bush (R) Integrity, party reform Gore (D) Intelligence, continuity
2004 Bush (R) Safety, continuity Kerry (D) Service, opposition
2008 Obama (D) Change, youth McCain (R) Service, party reform
Here are the overall standings:

Theme Won Lost Win %
Optimism 4 0   1.000
Change 3 0   1.000
Youth 2 0   1.000
Safety 1 0   1.000
Continuity 6 3    .667
Party reform 2 1    .667
Integrity 2 2    .500
Risk 1 2    .333
Americana 0 1    .000
Intelligence 0 1    .000
Opposition 0 4    .000
Service 0 4    .000


hermit thrush said...

where is this reprinted from? after all your recent aching and moaning about class, iv, i think the least you could do is provide a hyperlink to the original source when you cut-and-paste something.

EvilJam said...

Bloggers, I put all of us on one page. Well, most of us that read these pages. I prolly missed a few that I should have added. Anyway, it's at:
NNY Blogroll which is on Danger Democrat's site, but... no worries. Everyone is invited to use the page and the site.
Also added us a "Radio Talk Show" of sorts. Enjoy!

- Evil

Anonymous said...

That's a pretty interesting post, IV.

Hermit, did he say it was reprinted? It could have been an independent thought. People are allowed to have 'em.

Try it sometime.

Anonymous said...

Oooops, in the title.

Theres my ADD kicking in.
If only I could get a check for it.
Too old.

hermit thrush said...

it's been two days since iv made the original post, and still no attribution?

i'm afraid this reveals some rather classic piv hackery. if someone just started reading this blog in the past few days, they might think iv really cares about "class": s/he has recently used that as a launchpad to both laud bush and attack democrats. but the now-evident conclusion is that iv doesn't care a wit about class; it's just the latest bit of fuel for the partisan fire, hypocrisy be damned. i happen to think that when you copy someone else's work, true class would demand that you give credit to the author, and, when posting on the internet, a hyperlink. it's not like iv doesn't value getting hits here. and look, fair enough, maybe iv was in a rush when s/he first posted and forgot to include the link. we all make mistakes. but the omission was pointed out right away, and over 48 hours later there's still nothing! what else is there to conclude?

btw, the original article was written by patrick ruffini and is available here.

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