American politics: may the best story win

Photo by skeeze, via

Photo by skeeze, via

When the endless American election season got underway, I was absolutely certain Donald Trump would not even get out of the starting gate before being dumped. That was before it became clear the Republican party had so completely lost its bearings it couldn’t come up with a candidate who gave a fig about people and planet, let alone politics.

With New Hampshire having delivered Trump crowing rights, I’ve been giving even more thought than usual to storytelling. So much of it is going on, and so much of it is making me crazy.

Viewed purely as storytelling, the presidential election is a fascinating contest to see which story has the greatest appeal to the voting public. The Republicans are all about fear, anger, hatred, and big business. That story has always sold well. Think of the Romans and their gladiatorial spectacles, the horrors of the Inquisition, the witch hunts of Salem, the pseudo news from Fox, the dire warnings of the American gun lobby. Republican debate rhetoric harkens back to every demagogue who’s ever walked the earth. If their story wins, America’s in deep doo-doo.

In the Democratic camp, Clinton was promoting a cautious, status-quo, slightly-right-of-center story. Then along came social-democrat Bernie Sanders, a guy old enough to retire comfortably, passionate enough to keep working until his last breath. His success with young people who are widely assumed to have little interest in politics has forced Clinton to tweak her story and call for a more progressive tale than she really represents. The difference between the two of them is quantifiable, as you can read in a good piece in Salon. Sanders is progressive. Clinton occasionally flirts with it.

It’s all a matter of stories, and the whole world will be affected by the big story American embraces in November 2016. The best story for America and the world is one that embraces the environment, social equity, and compassion. May that be the winning story.

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