We’re Good At White Papers. The Left Tells A Great Story

( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

Keeping with my recent theme of taking back the schools and The Angelic One’s culture post, I offer this latest installment.

I’ve been in advertising for 22 years. I worked for an agency that had a process called Brand Essence. Every agency has something similar, with a different name. What they all boil down to is a process of strategic thinking that marries the Rational with the Emotional.

Case in point: VW was selling less than 50,000 cars in North America in 1995, and was think of pulling out of the market all together. My agency was hired because of our ability to come up with the brand’s essence. “On the road of life there are passengers and there are drivers. Drivers wanted.”

Affordable German engineering. It was all about moving metal, but it was more because of the story behind the metal. The narrative that connected people to the Rational on an Emotional level. Everything we did was based on this basic storyline. And every story expanded on it. On an emotional level. After 10 years of telling this story sales were over 500,000 annually.

People will not buy products for rational reasons alone. They need an emotional reason to make the purchase. Even for a bar of soap. A brand’s essence is that emotional connection, and it is indeed a connection, that makes people feel comfortable with the rational reasons for making the purchase.

How does this apply to votes? Conservatives are great at, and focus solely on, “white papers”. The dry, rational reasons of why our policies are better for America. Data, history, circumstances generally prove us correct more often than not. But what we fail to do is make the emotional connection with voters in order to get them to feel comfortable with our “product”. In fact, we often do just the opposite. We speak in terms of spreadsheets and balance sheets and raw numbers. We wonder at the “stupidity” of those who can’t see what we see.

Progressives, on the other hand, can’t really defend their policies on empirical and fiscal levels. So they tell stories, they connect on an emotional level that makes it easier to accept their flawed rationality. They control all major storytelling outlets from news rooms to the TV in the living room to the big screen. From the theater to the galleries. Most importantly in the school room.

We’ve got to get better at telling the story of why our policies are right. We’ve got to translate the white papers into a narrative. We’ve got to connect the Rational with the Emotional.

There are very few Conservatives in this creative world. We need to dedicate ourselves to giving these few more platforms with which to tell our stories. For it is the emotional connection where elections are won and lost.

The following article make this point. It’s right on the money.


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.

“The universe is made up of stories, not atoms,” the poet Mariel Rukeyser once said. Stories, not facts, are the way people process information. Screenplays, plays, scripts, and stories are packed not with hard data but something more powerful and human: emotional data. That’s why we remember stories long after we’ve forgotten facts. Stories stir our souls.

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.

We don’t respect storytelling. We believe deep down in our hearts that if we just keep pounding away at America with our superior policy positions, and our superior arguments, we’ll win – that if we just educate the masses, they’ll vote with us.

We forget that most Americans get their education through stories. And most Americans don’t connect with the smartest person in the room, even if that person believes in the American experiment and the innate genius of the American people.

About TLCWeld

Chairman, Reading Republican Town Committee
Constitutional Conservative
As a son of NH, I choose to Live Free or Die

  • Karl Marx

    model. Habeeb and Leven nail it with this passage. The right needs to develop “Content that doesn’t scream its politics at the audience but that lures America in with great storylines, not lectures.”

  • You write, “Data, history, circumstances generally prove us correct more often than not.” Really? History proved conservatives “right” by their opposition to civil rights in the 60’s (I lump the conservative Dems who switch to the GOP over this issue).  And apparently the GOP love for data only pertains to data that fits their world view.  

    I could go on, but your suggestions that Conservatives fail because they are to smart for the average voter and Dems win because we tell better stories is all in the eyes of the beholder.  

    In fact, your post is a great example of ignoring the fact that the GOP “brand” is stained from driving us into the worse economic crisis since the great Depression and marched the country into the folly we call the Iraq war.  Yup, those are data points that Americans understand.  

  • edfactor

    Karl –

    OF course, there is no way to disagree with your premise. But what does it mean and what is the answer?

    So in my field, I face a similar problem. The best, most creative technology people are left-of-center-to-liberal. (Many are apolitical but dislike Republicans. Some are Republicans but are politically inactive.) For example, the way the Obama and Romney teams did technology was radically different, and the ORCA fail that made news is but a footnote in what really happened. (I may do a long post on this site about all that.)

    So I could say the same thing: We need more creative technology guys to build effective tools to reach voters and promote political ideas – as Obama’s people did.

    I think you and I are just touching two different parts of the same elephant.

    I believe that its the demographics of the Republican party and the corporations that serve them. It isn’t a lack of money. Surely, the profits and audience of Fox News and thousands of radio programs and thousands of political books and lots of small films (2016, Atlas Shrugged) and a few big films (Batman: The Dark Night Rises – a billion-dollar die-hard right-wing film where the 1% saves the 99% from itself) added together …isn’t nothing.

    The larger issue is that we have ignored and alienated college-educated suburban voters and young, culture-driven-and-culture-driving voters. The suburban types consume and fund culture while the young people create and consume it also. We hold poorly-attended RTC meetings at Applebees or the basement of an empty library handing out pieces of paper to older folks while they are standing around a food truck talking about making a new independent film on their iPhones. Game over, man.

    So NPR and PBS’s programs flatter and court the support of the suburban, college-educated crowd. (We keep attacking PBS funding for their kids to ensure they never become Republicans.) The Daily Show targets 18-35 year old social moderate/liberals that we don’t care about. (Someone tell the RNC there are very, very few socially conservative 25-year-olds.)

    But we are at work on our demographic targets: white men without college degrees between the ages of 35 and 55 and all senior citizens. We offer them a great deal.

    But with the exception of some religious and home-school communities and religious rock groups and think-tanks (as you say), we don’t have a lot of interesting content creation. It’s because it is hard to see that market when the powerful right-wing media ecosystem is so dominated by existing players. It’s like trying to see the stars when the sun is out. It’s there, but not noticeable. (As I have seen, try writing a Republican-oriented book that doesn’t work withing existing right-wing media channels. It’s a non-starter.)

    But there are examples of great storytelling out there. For example, I love to cite Veggie Tales – a wonderful series of character-driven animated stories for children that are absolutely, classically, conservative. Stuff like that exists. And what about fantastic storytelling like the education-reform movie, “Waiting for Superman”? What about the powerful documentary products from Two Million Minutes? So there is conservative storytelling. But it is hard to notice.

    However, I think the bigger answer is to figure out how we can create a conservative political message to appeal to young people and college-educated suburbanites. They are big drivers of the culture. If we get enough of them, we will get more “Waiting for Superman” efforts and maybe even a cool political TV show anchored by a right-wing Jon Stewart.

  • V

    …is the “fiscal cliff” “negotiations”…

    The fact that Boehner is still calling current tax rates a “tax cut” instead of pointing out that allowing these rates to expire is a Dem “tax increase” shows just how inept the GOP (or at least GOP leadership) really is.

    Americans may not vote for a tax cut, but they will rarely vote for a tax increase. Romney failed to get that message across during the election and Boehner is ensuring that the Republicans will be once again on the wrong side of the debate.

  • Maybe the Dems just have a better story?

  • BrocktonDave

    …but when does the MAGOP start to do it?  And how?  And who pays for it?

    I have seen some people do it on YouTube, like Rob Willington but he is only one person.

    So Karl, you worked in advertising, why don’t you help folks create a new message with viral marketing?

    Does it require an agency?

    If we do this, it has to be constant and not just during presidential elections.