If we are really honest with ourselves we know that issues are not really the most important things that people vote on. Yes, we will give lip service to the "issues" and how important they are for us, but the very fact that the country voted for Bush over Kerry turns back this notion quite soundly. To be honestly, it should have never even been that close to steal as with Gore if it was all about the issues.
No, most people who vote, vote on the power of the person they are voting on. Whether they trust them. Whether they think the person can protect them. Whether or not they are totally going to screw them over or only partially. How much money they are making while this person is running. And most importantly that person's personal narrative and the archtype it represent.
Which is why I believe if Barack Obama makes it to the GE, he will have one of the most powerful presidental narratives that have been seen in years, if not decades.
Back in 2007, Paul Waldman wrote an article in The American Prospect on campaign narratives. It was a very good article but the part that stuck out to me was this:
Successful presidential candidate stories have three parts. Part one of the story describes the state of the country and its government, clearly defining what is wrong. Part two describes the place the candidate wants to take us, the better day being promised. Part three explains why the candidate is the one and only person who can deliver us from where we are to that better day.
All sucessful president's have a sucessful narrative and play into certain archtypes of what a leader should be. The more a candidate fits into a leadership narrative, the better they do. They more they hone a great story, the more they win.
Bill Clinton was the Horatio Alger story come to life in his campaign. Reagan was the Grandfather from the past reminding us of how the country was great once and could be great again. FDR was the Great Man who would lead the way to a new season. JFK was the King of Camelot, someone who renewed the electorate to dream again in the face of a new world.
Which brings me to Barack Obama and his narrative. For many years, Democratic contenders have tried to get that Excalibur from the rock of JFK's Presidential Camelot. Many have wanted to wield the sword that JFK had that made him seem somewhat invinsible. Bill Clinton showed that picture of him shaking JFK's hand in his youth all throughout his candidancy to just touch Camelot. The only person close to getting the Excalibur out of the stone was Bobby and he died before he could wield it. It was the Holy Grail of Demcratic hopefuls, to hold that power in the imagination of the nation. To be heir to the legacy in much the same way Republicans fall on their swords to be Reagan.
Barack Obama's story literally begins with the Kennedy's.Jonathan Alter story about why Caroline Kennedy endorsed Obama has her many reasons, but the one that is less well known is the story of how her father helped bring Barack Obama Sr. to America.
One intriguing element of Obama's family history that resonated with Caroline was a long-buried story that was brought to her attention last summer. It drove home for her how history replays itself, how two generations of two families—separated by distance, culture and wealth—can intersect in strange and wonderful ways, and how people have no idea that their good deeds may come back to them someday....
Their son, born the following year, arrived in the United States Senate in early 2005 and found that the antique desk he had been assigned on the Senate floor had once belonged to JFK, whose initials were carved inside. Obama learned only recently how his father's dream of studying in the United States had been fulfilled. A "young senator from Massachusetts" made an effort, Obama told the crowd at American University. "And because he did, I stand before you today."
Now really, that's straight out of Hollywood. Barack Obama literally would not be here if it wasn't for JFK and him standing up for something he believed in and the American dream. And it makes Kennedy endorsement all the more touching and special and at the same time plays into the narrative of being heir of Camelot. There was a reason why that moment overshadowed the State of the Union, why the press was so choked up over it. Obama had pulled Excalibur from the rock after many men and women with more exprience had tried and failed.
Obama's archtype is the Prince of Camelot and in Part 2 I'll explain why that is the winning formula for November.