Right-wing talk about poverty, taxes, race, ecology, feminism, families, crime, education, multiculturalism – you name it – leads to a storytelling gap between Republicans and Democrats. Right-wing grievances, which Republicans assert repeatedly, add up to a grand narrative about, say, Judeo-Christian ethics, capitalist efficiency and governmental tyranny.
Meanwhile, Democrats may tell small stories that illuminate various policy issues. But left-wing people do not all tell the same tales, and the ones they do tell neither reinforce one another nor project a shared vision of where America is and what they propose to do about it.
The result, according to psychologist Drew Westen in “The Political Brain” (2007), is that “every Democrat who even talks with friends at the water cooler, has to reinvent what it means to be a Democrat, using his or her own words and concepts.”
Democrats aren’t necessarily incompetent because they fail to compose a signature narrative. Rather, liberalism is intrinsically opposed to storytelling, and there’s the rub.
Since the Enlightenment, liberals have — in the largest sense — evoked science, theory, and facts to release citizens from many traditional restraints, whereas conservatives have — generally speaking — promoted traditional truths they regard as fostering decency and stability in American life. In this division of labor, science seeks not stories but data and experiments, whereas traditions are affirmed in familiar tales