Last week my friend Lee Habeeb, a columnist for National Review, penned an article in which he made a persuasive argument for storytelling. Citing the power of stories to capture the cultural imagination, Habeeb examines the messaging machine that is the political left in this country, and what it means for their surge in the polls as well as pop culture. It’s no real secret that most Americans are inundated with media from a million different directions; from iTunes to talk radio to movies, television and the blogosphere, there are few moments of our day when we aren’t exposed to media. The combination of the secular progressives’ ability to convey their beliefs through story, combined with the prevalence of media in our culture, is what has enabled their rise to the mainstream – to the majority.
The power of ideas is captured and conveyed in story, not in philosophical abstracts or political platitudes. The worldview that prevails in story will prevail at the polls, as was demonstrated on November 6th of this year. It was not, however, the power of liberal storytelling confined to this year that won the race of 2012, but the decades of stories that were used to shift the cultural consciousness. The secular progressive media march has continued uninterrupted for nearly five decades now, with the only major reversal being the presidency of Ronald Wilson Reagan who was, himself, a masterful storyteller. Reagan’s greatest gift was the ability to mainstream conservative concepts, and he learned it from the same Hollywood that has lifted liberalism from fringe to forefront. While President Obama and his allies have certainly won the messaging war since 2008, they have yet to accomplish the feat of President Reagan – who carried 49 states in the 1984 presidential election.
Since Ronald Reagan, however, conservative storytelling has largely ceased to exist. Most conservative candidates have run on Reagan’s legacy instead of casting a bold vision for the future. If we are to win the battle of ideas, in order to win the future for freedom, then we must recapture the imagination of the American people. This cannot be done by whining, lecturing or lamenting, but by recasting our conservative convictions. We must rebrand, not abandon our core message of faith, freedom and free-markets for all Americans. We must tell the story of freedom, and make it mainstream in the American mind again.
We will start in on “Common Cents” by answering a recent animated mini-movie narrated by Ed Asner. Asner is Hollywood elite, and a self-proclaimed socialist who’s proud of it. He and the California Federation of Teachers (a division of mega-union AFL- CIO) have teamed up to make a cartoon that extols the virtues of what is, effectively, communism. The film is called “Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale,” and it is targeted to kids, likely those who will sit at desks in classrooms occupied (no pun intended) by the union member at the chalkboard. This movie is vulgar, anti-capitalistic and, indeed, anti-American, but it has a creative storyline, excellent animation and a powerful narrative that makes it a story that can capture the minds of young Americans. This kind of propaganda is dangerous and deceitful, and we cannot let it pass unanswered.
In the next several weeks, “Common Cents” and our Palmetto Conservative Alliance Foundation will release a response to this video that I dub “Communism gone cartoon,” and set a precedent of answering story-for-story. Let’s reclaim America’s future by telling America’s story.