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The Power of the Liberal Narrative Essay

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Trudging through the mountains of facts, studies, and opinions relevant to social and political issues creates a daunting task for political strategists, leaving them to decide what information is relevant and essential for the voting public to know, in order to rally the voters to support a certain candidate. However, these mountains of facts and opinions can turn off voters, and scare away many potential supporters, forcing political strategists to also engage the emotional lives of the populace: enter the role of cultural narratives- tales of adventure, sacrifice, defeat, and victory grabbing hold of the emotional lives of the audience, and as George Lakoff points out, “…politics is about the narratives of our culture and our circumstances make available to all of us to live” (35). The key to the liberal narrative is empathy; not solely feeling empathy, but acting on this empathy. George W. Bush and his campaign staff knew this and employed it very successfully in the 2000 election with his slogan “the compassionate conservative.” And while John Kerry and the Democratic Party may have forgotten this essential point of politics, Hollywood remembers vividly the formula of the classic liberal narrative and this has led to the creation of many films which are the quintessence of the liberal tale.
The liberal narrative existed in the heyday of the Hollywood silver screen, and no better example exists than John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath. Ford’s classic tale, based on John Steinbeck’s novel of the same title, immediately begins its liberal narrative. Early in the film when Henry Fonda’s character Tom Joad asks a truck driver for a ride, which is not allowed by the driver’s boss indicated by a sticker saying “no riders allowed/inst...


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...to their feet. The liberal narrative is a staple in achieving political victory; and if someone wants to learn how to successfully create one, he or she need look no further than these films. They contain the heart and soul of the liberal campaign; and if the liberals create more films of this breed and of this caliber, there is no telling how much their support will grow.



Works Cited

12 Angry Men. Dir. Sidney Lumet. Prod. Henry Fonda and Reginald Rose. By Reginald Rose and Kenyon Hopkins. Perf. Henry Fonda. United Artists Corp., 1956.
Erin Brockovich. Dir. Steven Soderbergh. By Susannah Grant. Perf. Julia Roberts. Jersey Films, 2000.
The Grapes of Wrath. Dir. John Ford. Perf. Henry Fonda. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1940.
Lakoff, George. The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century Politics With an 18th-Century Brain. New York: Viking, 2008. Print.



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