What's most impressive about Mr. Rove, however, is not his ruthlessness, it's his unshakable faith in the power of a story. The story he's stuck with, Iraq, is a loser, but he knows it won't lose at the polls if there's no story to counter it.
And so he tells it over and over, confident that the Democrats won't tell their own. And they don't — whether about Iraq or much else.
The question for the Democrats is less whether they tilt left, right or center, than whether they can find a stirring narrative that defines their views, not just the Republicans'.
What's needed, wrote Michael Tomasky in an influential American Prospect essay last fall, is a "big-picture case based on core principles.
Right, narrative is everything. Whatever your "facts" happen to be, if you have control over the narrative in which they are embedded, you control their import.
I'll tell you why the Democrats are so mysteriously unable to beat the Republicans, who couldn't be more vulnerable if they were cleaning drains in a prison shower: they have no story. They cannot have a story to rival the Repub's story, cause as repulsive as it is, the Repub's story is based on truth.
Here are the two party's narratives:
Republicans: We're rich bastards who don't give a damn about the poor or the common good, cause we can afford to buy our way out of the mess our single-minded pursuit of wealth and power creates (we'll filter our private air and water, hire private security firms, build walled communities, pay for private medical care, etc). We pretend to be Christians in order to give us some popular base, but all we really care about is power and money. If you support us, there's a chance you might get some of the booty we control.
Democrats: We're rich bastards who do sorta care about the poor and the common good, but not enough to get unruly when the other party rapes and pillages the environment, the Constitution or the above-mentioned working class. Truth is, we can afford to buy our own protection as well, so the plight of the working class is a bit of an abstraction to us, but it's an abstraction we find somewhat compelling. In other words, we're full of shit. Supporting us will get you nothing but well-intentioned platitudes.
This is why Clinton was compelling but Kerry wasn't. Clinton came from an alcoholic trailer park, while Kerry lives in castles. Without a credible hope of understanding poverty, no Democratic candidate has a chance.
Say what you will about the Repubs, their message makes sense. It has conviction. They're swashbuckling pirates with knives in their belts.
The Democrats are what? War heroes without the balls to directly confront a sniveling shithead like GWB? If John Kerry is so fucking brave, why didn't he throw that shit in GWB's face in the debates? Why did he defer to Bush's accusations without mentioning Bush's avoidance of national service, his drug use, his business failures, his father having bought him every opportunity he's ever had? Why didn't he go to the mat over the vote-stealing in Florida and Ohio?
I'll tell you why, because the Democrats are merely "representatives" of the working-class, while the Republicans are actual members of the class they represent.
That's the difference; the Republicans represent their friends and families while the Democrats represent people who work for them. And really, who's gonna risk their career and comfy life on an abstraction or an easily-replaced employee?
At this point, there's as much difference between the two American political parties as there is between cops and criminals in a place like Nigeria. In other words, none beyond the uniforms. Both of them are criminals, but they enact a simulacrum of struggle to distract the victims of their corrupt game.