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Live by the narrative, die by the narrative
Posted by: Billy Hollis on Thursday, December 11, 2008

I haven’t posted in a while. Besides being busy, my reaction to the presidential campaign vacillated between boredom and puzzlement that in a country of 300,000,000, our two candidates for president were both so bad.

I didn’t fear Obama the way some others did (and do). I consider him a possible second term for Jimmy Carter, and I don’t think McCain would have been substantially better.

The GOP apparently has a death wish. If McCain had somehow been elected and presided over the next few messy years, considering his Bushian comfort with big, intrusive government, he might well have delivered the coup de grace. Small though the chance may be, at least Obama might motivate the GOP to regain some principles and spine. McQ’s advice is intended to push them in that direction. We’ll see if they take it. Granted the odds don’t look good, but any chance is better than none.

I take comfort is some small silver linings in the outcomes from this campaign. For example, I’m now past the point of arguing with anyone who somehow still thinks the press isn’t quite biased to the left. Given the evidence, it would be too much like arguing with a young-earth creationist.

However, that doesn’t mean I think the press is incapable of going after Democrats. It’s just that the bar for them to do so is a lot higher. Hot Rod Blagojevich has cleared that bar with room to spare. So, just as with the odious Eliot Spitzer, he’s now fair game.

I'm as jaded about the whole scandal as McQ, but it does have some interesting aspects for Obama.

Don't get me wrong - I'm certainly fine with seeing Blagojevich get Spitzerized. I’ve expressed in the comments my opinion that the corruption we see is only the tip of the iceberg. Many politicians are not nearly as greedy, mendacious, or foolish as Blago. Lots of them quietly go about their minor graft, exchanging favors that ensure their long term financial health, be it inside or outside public office. Some get so comfortable that they start to feel invulnerable, and seeing the Blagos and Spitzers so abruptly taken out of the game hopefully gives them pause that restrains some of their worst impulses towards corruption and abuse of office.

(As I had to clarify in the comments, my opinion that minor graft and corruption are widespread does not mean I think all politicians engage in it. I just believe that given the river of money that pours through government, and the lack of a market feedback mechanism to control inefficiencies, inevitably incentives arise that encourage corruption, and a fair percentage of public office holders lack the moral center to resist those incentives.)

But Blago is just another corrupt Chicago pol, and there are dozens more where he came from. By all means, take him down, and encourage the others to keep their heads down for a while. But fundamentally, to me it’s not that interesting a scandal, and if Blago resigns and does a deal to minimize his punishment, it could die down as quickly as the Spitzer thing did.

The more interesting aspect to me by far is what this could do to Obama. I have no idea what might come out of this whole thing. I'd like to think Obama is too smart to get caught indulging in the worst excesses of Chicago machine politics. However, it’s clear that he’s not above questionable actions. Having those poor sods kicked off the ballot against him is beyond playing hardball. It’s sleazy machine politics.

Given Obama’s tenure in the belly of the Chicago beast, there are likely to be at least some peripheral connections from him to some of the players in the scandal. It already looks possible that he might have fibbed about his staff consulting with Blago concerning the Senate seat. Even if those discussions were perfectly above board, that doesn’t look good.

If we get a steady drip-drip of connections from the whole thing to Obama, or if various players make even false allegations concerning Obama’s involvement, then we might start getting into the establishment of a “narrative”. For those who don’t follow the foolishness of leftist post-modernism, narrative is based on the idea that, since there’s no absolute truth and pretty much everyone’s opinions are equal valuable and relevant, getting a point of view across requires construction of a simple, conceptual story. Whether or not the story is completely true is beside the point, because these folks are not buying into the Enlightenment concept of “truth” anyway.

This post-modern concept has come to permeate politics and media. Today’s political consultants spend most of their involvement with the media attempting to control the narrative on candidates and issues. Facts aren’t really that important; it’s the narrative that counts. If you want a textbook example, the way the media and the political opposition dealt with Sarah Palin is a very good one. As one post-election research project showed, the facts did not have much to do with what became popular perception of Palin.

Journalists are fine with this. They’re pretty steeped in post-modernist concepts , not necessarily through actual study, but indirectly through post-modern influence in various parts of academia.

Once a narrative becomes established, by reflex journalists don’t want to resist it. That’s not surprising. Pushing back against a narrative is hard work, and risks getting on the outs with the rest of the herd.

But no one controls the narrative. It’s an emergent property of the journalistic and political game. It’s impossible to reliably predict what the narrative on an issue will turn out to be.

In the case of Obama’s involvement with Blago, enough peripheral connections, white lies, and false accusations could easily add up to the narrative that he’s just as deep into sleaze and corruption as the next Chicago pol. Heck, it might even be true, though that’s not necessary for the narrative to become established.

If that happens, I can’t say I’ll feel too sorry for the guy. His entire campaign felt like a con game to me, as he used his willing accomplices in the media to deflect just about anything about him that was the least bit negative. This left him with a larger-than-life “Lightworker” reputation that was transparently fake, especially considering that he came out of the Chicago machine.

If Obama gets mired in irrelevancies and scandal, that has good and bad points. It could divert attention from such important work as management of foreign affairs, though whether Obama and Hillary are any good at that remains to be seen. On the good side, it would be that much harder for him to push stupidities such as universal healthcare and misguided, ineffective, and counter-productive environmental programs. If that happens, it will easily be the best effects of Blago’s corruption.

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Previous Comments to this Post 

Obama has already issued several lies - really, nobody in his team had ANY discussions with the Gov? How did Blago know who Obama wanted in that case? How did he know what Obama was and was not willing to give him for it?

I hope Fitzgerald takes those lies and manages to burn someone. Rahm would be fun. But any minor functionary for any minor offense would do. Because if Bush is a monster because of Scooter Libby, them Obama is a monster for his staff’s actions.

Turnabout and such.

I love it.

Here’s the narrative: What applied to Bush will be made to apply to the Lightworker.

Choke on it if you don’t like it
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Conservatives will be better off with Obama then with McCain, or at least no worse off. They both had the same plans for American, but McCain lied about his plans to get conservatives to vote for him.
Written By: shunha7878
URL: http://
Great post. I am also of the opinion that GOP and others need to play this narrative Barney Frank/Dodd with Fannie Mae etc.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://

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