I have to be honest here: Before I read After the Crack-Up, Lee Habeeb’s and Mike Leven’s article urging the Republican party to develop a strong and appealing narrative line, I’d heard of Lee Habeeb, because he’s published at NRO before, but I’d never heard of Michael Leven. I got curious about him, though, because I liked what I read. The article’s message harmonizes closely with what I’ve been urging here at the Bookworm Room when thinking about the 2014 and 2016 election cycles:
But if there is one thing conservatives can agree on post-election, it’s this: The dominance of the Left in the storytelling arena is making a difference at the polls. It’s impossible to measure, but anyone who doesn’t think it skews outcomes is living in an alternative universe.
The fact is, it’s easier to sell a political narrative to America when it comports with the cultural narrative we see and hear every day.
We’ve invested billions in our great think tanks but little in the task of translating that work into stories the average American will care about. Yes, we have Fox News and political talk radio — important outlets, but outlets that narrowcast to the conservative base and are driven by politics and opinion, not storytelling.
What we don’t have is an alternative to NPR. Or The Daily Show. Or 60 Minutes. Or The Charlie Rose Show. Or Frontline. Or Ken Burns. Content that doesn’t scream its politics at the audience but that lures America in with great storylines, not lectures.
Conservatives have a profound storytelling deficit, yet all we do is whine and complain about it. It’s part of our DNA, our whining about the culture, as if we’re incapable of reverse-engineering the Left’s success.
Please read the whole thing. I know we’re feeling disheartened now, but I’m certainly not ready to quit the fight, and Habeeb and Leven have set out a good strategy (or at least, one with which I agree).
A friend sent me a link to an interview with Michael Leven which revealed that Leven understands the importance of story-telling because he’s that rare thing: a true Renaissance man. He’s currently President and COO of Sands, in Las Vegas, a job description that might lead one to conclude that his world view is limited to local business concerns. That would be a very bad assumption to make. In fact, Leven is a fascinating man, with a classical education that, surprisingly, led him to a long work-history in the dynamically changing hospitality industry. He’s also a catholic reader in the old sense of the word, in that his interests are broad-ranging and he feeds his mind with a steady supply of good literature, biography and autobiography, and other non-fiction.
I don’t usually have the patience to sit still for 25 minute interviews (I read much more quickly than people talk), but I gladly stuck with this one. When it ended, I wished that I could have Leven as a guest at one of my dinner parties. (Although, as I told the friend who sent me the link, I’d have to figure out how to be a good listener, rather than an almost heroic talker if I wanted the benefit of his presence at my table.)