The Silent Majority needs small victories to find its voice.
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All of which leaves us… well, where, exactly?
Well, first, it means that in terms of approach, Paul Ryan might be on the right track in urging a marriage of well-chosen aggressiveness with a little bit of prudence. It also means that conservatives need to relearn the art of telling a narrative, which was one of Ronald Reagan’s greatest strengths. (Credit to Fred Barnes, by the way, for highlighting both of these ideas in recent articles.) A narrative is needed not just to persuade the undecided or to change minds about policies — although both goals are, of course, tremendously important — but also to give allies a sense of how and why things can get better. The “Real Americans” (a moniker used only as a convenient shorthand) aren’t paying rapt attention to politics, which makes it all the more necessary for them to hear, in those times when they do pay attention, that there is a believable counter-narrative to the lies of leftist inevitability peddled by the establishment media.
The soul-sapping feeling of deep unease I’ve described here in the hinterlands can be lightened, and reversed, only if somebody tells an alternative story that resonates with everyday lives.
Dr. Ben Carson did some of that the other day, which is why he suddenly is such a cause célèbre on the right that some are ludicrously suggesting that he run for president. The calls for a Carson presidency, without any other background in statesmanship or large organizations or politics, are a sign of just how deep the desperation has become.
(By all means find a serious office for Dr. Carson to target; but when was it ever a conservative idea to think somebody should start at the top?)
The lesson from Dr. Carson, though, is that few of our elected leaders have this sense of narrative, and that even fewer marry the narrative with solid principles and with the sense of how to weigh means against achievable ends. Mike Pence of Indiana has some narrative abilities; so does another Indianan, Mitch Daniels. Almost nobody in Washington, however, seems to boast those skills.
The unease in Real America won’t start to lift until a significant elected leader on the right starts using narrative skills to achieve small but clear victories. Despair is a real enemy, and right now it’s not an unreasonable feeling for Real America to have.
Not unreasonable — but not irreversible, either. Winning begets winning. People who want to be left alone are more likely to make time for politics if they think it might actually do some good.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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