By: Barry C. Lynn (Democracy/Open Markets Institute)
Storytelling is the essence of politics. In stable times, politicians can spend their hours detailing how they plan to put a fatter chicken in every pot. But in hard times, they need to craft narratives to explain why the pot is empty, to restore hope for better days, and to enlist people in a march toward reform. An especially well-fashioned story can create an entirely new sense of community and possibility.
Today’s Democrats have many policies that would make people better off. And I’m not talking only about all the admirable ideas that glitter in the wreckage of the first reconciliation bill. The Biden White House especially has introduced smart answers to the challenges of the day, from the seizing up of supply chains to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What Democrats lack is a common story. And in these very dangerous times, that’s a big problem. Because absent a narrative able to explain and direct how people respond to the many grave crises we face, Democrats condemn themselves to playing supporting characters in other people’s dramas.
Sometimes it’s Donald Trump’s Big Steal. Sometimes the Republican Party’s medieval war on personal liberty. Sometimes Larry Summers’s fables about inflation. Sometimes just the headlines of the day. Worse, the fact that Democrats are so often on the wrong end of the marionette’s strings only reinforces the sense of hopelessness and confusion in our ranks and of chaos in the world around us.
There is a way out. And it’s one that does not require the rise of a once-in-a-century orator to lead us. It is simply to take to its logical conclusion what Democrats started in July of 2021 when President Biden revolutionized how we see and address concentrated economic power, in his Executive Order on Competition.
The fight against monopoly—or rather, for democracy, prosperity, equality, and true liberty—provides us with exactly the narrative we seek. It explains most of the many crises we face today and shows us how to fix them. It provides us with the simplest of moral crimes, of selfish people looting and breaking the foundations of a good economy and a good society. It engages everyone in the task of rebuilding. It provides a plot that leads not merely to a victory over deviltry, but to the redemption of the original promise of America.
The story of our fight against monopoly control and exploitation is also politically smart. It disrupts the narratives of the Republicans and of the monopolists themselves, resolves many of the tensions between the different wings of the Democratic Party, and reinforces the widening fights against voter suppression, fundamentalism, and the radical decrees of America’s new Court of the Inquisition on Capitol Hill. It’s a story we can tell in language that deeply moves most Americans. A story that transports us from a defensive stance of fighting to protect specific “rights” to an offensive posture of building a new liberty for all Americans and a far better world in which to live.
Most important, it’s a story that demands that we relearn how to dream, then empowers us to make our dreams come true…