Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Narrative

Drew Westen's NYT essay on Obama's need to tell a story to sell his program has drawn a lot of flack from people like Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Chait, both of whom miss the point - utterly miss the point - in my opinion.
No, a few Presidential speeches are not going to persuade the NRA to give up guns or fundamentalists to endorse gay marriage. What they can do is rally and consolidate support for ideas that are already popular - healthcare for all, programs to provide jobs, using taxes as well as cutbacks to reduce deficits, curbing the power of the banks and hedge funds. Surveys show these ideas are significantly more popular than the Republican alternatives - or non alternatives - but they lack a well placed advocate.
The President would have a powerful megaphone if he would advocate for these programs, but with the exception of his insipid advocacy for health care ("bend the cost curve"), he doesn't.
The President's power to create popular sentiment is very limited, but his power to shape and harness it is potentially great.