What Is the Democratic Story?

Choosing between a focus on race or class is the wrong choice to begin with.

.. There’s a lot of discussion about how far left the Democratic Party should go these days. Is it destroying its electoral chances when its members call for a single-payer health plan or abolishing ICE?

That’s an important question, but the most important question is what story is the Democratic Party telling?

.. As Alasdair MacIntyre argued many years ago, you can’t know what to do unless you know what story you are a part of. Story is more important than policies.

.. The story Donald Trump tells is that we good-hearted, decent people of Middle America have been betrayed by stupid elites who screw us and been threatened by foreigners who are out to get us.

.. Back in the 1980s, the Democrats told two different stories. One was the compassion story associated with Mario Cuomo and Ted Kennedy: Too many Americans are poor, marginalized and left behind. We must care for our brothers and sisters because we are all one family.

.. The other was the brainpower/meritocracy story associated with Gary Hart and later the New Democrats: Americans are masters at innovation. We must use our best minds to come up with innovative plans to solve our problems and head into a new technological century.

I don’t hear those two stories much anymore. The Democrats are emphasizing fighting grit these days, not compassion or technocratic expertise.

Today’s Democrats tell two other stories.

  1. The first is the traditional socialist story associated with Bernie Sanders: America is rived by the class conflict. The bankers and the oligarchs are exploiting the middles. We need a fighter who will go out and battle concentrated economic power.
  2. The second is the multicultural story: American history has been marked by systems of oppression. Those who have been oppressed — women, African-Americans, Latinos — need to stand together and fight for justice.

.. Racial justice socialism seems to be the story of the contemporary left. This story effectively paints Trump as the villain on all fronts, and Democrats do face the distinct problem of how to run against a bully like Trump. But is it good politics for the entire Democratic Party to embrace it?

.. no national Democrat has ever fully embraced this story successfully. In fact, Democrats like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama went to great lengths to assure people they were not embracing this story.

  • .. They did because Americans trust business more than the state, so socialism has never played well.
  • They did it because if you throw race into your economic arguments you end up turning off potential allies in swing states like Wisconsin, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
  • They did it because if you throw economics into your race arguments you end up dividing your coalitions on those issues.

In brief, Democrats have stayed away from this narrative because the long hoped-for alliance between oppressed racial minorities and the oppressed white working class has never materialized, and it looks very far from materializing now.

.. for 100 years, Democrats have tended to win with youthful optimism and not anger and indignation.

.. The Democrats who have won nationally almost all ran on generational change — on tired old America versus the possibilities of new America:

  • F.D.R.’s New Deal,
  • J.F.K.’s New Frontier,
  • Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century and
  • Obama’s hope and change.

If I had to advise on a Democratic narrative I’d start with three premises:

  1. First, by 2020 everybody will be exhausted by the climate of negativism and hostility.
  2. Second, the core long-term fear is American decline; are we losing our mojo?
  3. Third, communities and nations don’t come together when they talk about their problems; they come together when they do something on behalf of their children.

Maybe the right narrative could be rebuilding social mobility for the young: America is failing its future. We need to rally around each other to build the families, communities, schools, training systems and other structures to make sure the next generation surpasses this one. People are doing this at the local level, and we need a series of unifying projects to make national progress.

.. This story pushes people toward reconciliation. It is future-oriented.

Ben Brafman, the Last of the Big-Time Defense Attorneys

his skills, especially as a cross-examiner, soon earned him a more élite class of alleged miscreant.

.. His clients have included Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund; Plaxico Burress, the New York Giant; Dinesh D’Souza, the right-wing political scold; and (briefly) Michael Jackson. The latest beneficiary of his advocacy was Martin Shkreli, otherwise known as, Brafman told me, “the most hated man in the world.”

.. “I’ve had cases about murder and dismemberment, and jurors could say they could be fair. I never saw hostility like this to a defendant.”

.. Like the best trial lawyers, Brafman is a storyteller, who tries to turn his cases into narratives that jurors will read his way.

.. “The narrative has to fit, has to be consistent with the truth, so that the jury knows you’re not making up stuff,” Brafman said.

.. So I sort of promised myself I will never try this kind of case in the summer again. But I’ve got no problem for the rest of the year. What else am I going to do?”

The 3 Most Powerful Ways To Change People Who Don’t Want To Change

Here are the three most important pitfalls and success factors we’ve discovered. Our research shows that these three elements can make you and your loved ones ten times more likely to succeed.

Mistake #1: We attack people with information.

We assume that, if the person only knew what we knew, they’d change. The problem is, often they already know what we know, plus more.

.. Solution: People need to examine their own narrative.

When you’re trying to influence people who need motivation, but not information, don’t offer more information.  Instead, work to create a safe environment where they can explore motivations they already have. People need to re-examine their narrative, especially any self-defeating or clever stories they are telling themselves to justify the status quo.

  1. “What is it that makes you even consider changing?”
  2. “If things worked out exactly the way you want, what would be different?
  3. “What are the pluses and minuses of changing or not changing?”
  4. “If this change were easy, would you want to make it? What makes it hard?”

Mistake #2: We fail to see why we’re stuck.

Getting someone to make a commitment to change is not the same as getting them to actually change.  The problem is that people overestimate the power of their own willpower. They fail to see the risks in front of them. So, they put their heart and soul into an effort, but it’s not enough. They are tripped up by obstacles they never anticipated.

We need to recognize the hidden influences around us, the influences that are keeping us stuck. Once we see them, we can deal with them. We group influences into six sources: three that motivate and three that enable.

  1. Personal Motivation ..
  2. Social Motivation .. 
  3. Structural Motivation ..
  4. Personal Ability ..
  5. Social Ability ..
  6. Structural Ability ..

Most stubborn problems persist because of unseen or overlooked influences that are keeping us stuck. Once we see them, we can change them. However, if we don’t change them, we’ll remain stuck.

.. Another mistake is to have favorite solutions, and to use them in isolation. For example, we assume carrots and sticks will solve every problem, or that training or technology will. As a result, we create one-sided solutions that address only a few of the obstacles that are keeping us stuck.

The Philosophical Assault on Trumpism

Establishment Republicans have tried five ways to defeat or control Donald Trump, and they have all failed. Jeb Bush tried to outlast Trump, and let him destroy himself. That failed. Marco Rubio and others tried to denounceTrump by attacking his character. That failed. Reince Priebus tried to co-opt Trump to make him a more normal Republican. That failed.

Paul Ryan tried to use Trump; Congress would pass Republican legislation and Trump would just sign it. That failed. Mitch McConnell tried to outmaneuver Trump and Trumpism by containing his power and reach. In the Senate race in Alabama last week and everywhere else, that has failed.

.. The Bob Corkers of the party are leaving while the Roy Moores are ascending.

.. The only way to beat Trump is to beat him philosophically. Right now the populists have a story to tell the country about what’s gone wrong. It’s a coherent story, which they tell with great conviction. The regular Republicans have no story, no conviction and no argument.

.. The Trump story is that good honest Americans are being screwed by aliens. Regular Americans are being oppressed by a snobbish elite that rigs the game in its favor. White Americans are being invaded by immigrants who take their wealth and divide their culture. Normal Americans are threatened by an Islamic radicalism that murders their children.

This is a tribal story. The tribe needs a strong warrior in a hostile world. We need to build walls to keep out illegals, erect barriers to hold off foreign threats, wage endless war on the globalist elites.

.. Somebody is going to have to arise to point out that this is a deeply wrong and un-American story. The whole point of America is that we are not a tribe. We are a universal nation, founded on universal principles

.. The core American idea is not the fortress, it’s the frontier. First, we thrived by exploring a physical frontier during the migration west, and now we explore technological, scientific, social and human frontiers.

.. From Jonathan Edwards to Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln to Frederick Douglass, Americans have always admired those who made themselves anew. They have generally welcomed immigrants who live this script and fortify this dynamism.

.. The original Republicans were not for or against government, they were for government that sparked mobility; they were against government that enervated ambition.

.. Today, the main enemy is not aliens; it’s division — between rich and poor, white and black, educated and less educated, right and left.

.. Trumpist populists want to widen the divisions and rearrange the fences. They want to turn us into an old, settled and fearful nation.

.. with entitlement reform that spends less on the affluent elderly and more on the enterprising young families

.. this striving American dream is still lurking in every heart. It’s waiting for somebody who has the guts to say

  • no to tribe, yes to universal nation,
  • no to fences, yes to the frontier,
  • no to closed, and yes to the open future,
  • no to the fear-driven homogeneity of the old continent and yes to the diverse hopefulness of the new one.