Republicans display an intuitive, dark talent for harnessing fear to drive the population to behave in ways that place more power in the hands of those at the very top.  By lighting flames of fear about foreigners in ways that the media respects, they concentrate power at the zenith of the American hierarchy.  The media reveres stories that create strong emotions.  The media loves stories that demand attention, not interpretation.  The media doesn’t like stories that make you think.

We’re deep into a shift where the dynamic is reversing.  In the genes of Democrats sleeps a fiery populist crying out for the rights of those at the bottom of the pyramid of power.  Those genes are starting to get re-engaged.  The media adores a story line where the many are together in a context far larger than any individual, a story that can bring in viewers over time.  The media likes war stories.  The media also likes stories about hard times.  No interpretation required.  No thinking required.

For those of us that want out of Iraq, the story line is turning in our direction.  The shift demands the government spend less money because hard times have arrived.  This story supports the ending of the war.  The media can only tell one story at a time.

Demands we leave Iraq become tied to the cost of our continued presence.  The new story focuses on how little we all have.  Scarcity and loss are the primary themes.  Tie the war to the treasure we are all losing, and our not being there becomes obvious to almost all.  No longer do we need protection from hostile foreigners as the Republicans suggest.  The story becomes about needing and offering aid and comfort from and for each other.

What does this shift mean for the Left?  Republicans are all about what serves America only.  The Democrats are about what serves America in the context of good relations with countries overseas.  The Left is divided between those with a very powerful domestic focus (minorities, labor, education, church) and those identifying with a far larger constituency (world hunger, global warming, disease, indigenous rights, Palestine).  The story shift in many ways unites this divided Left.  As the media and the culture focus on what we within our borders desperately need and crave, the two Left factions suddenly have a very powerful common interest as their constituencies overlap.

The story “It’s hard times, we are in this all together” now lends itself to a widening of the definition of “we.”  Both Left factions profit from the shift in identity.  Less money spent on weapons means Americans cause less distress overseas.  That’s money we can spend on the needy here.  Humbled by circumstance, we are more likely to form alliances with the humbled far away.  There will still be struggle over allocation of resources.  For example, unions will demand that jobs stay here.  Yet, people struggling overseas with circumstances more dire than our own will become a story that is part of the larger story of “We are in this all together.”

The 30s were about Americans working together to transcend hard times.  The 10s will be about humans working together to transcend hard times.  The shift is not incremental.  Not only will the Left be united, the Left will change.  Every young person sharing words and online resources with young people overseas is a part of this new Left.  National boundaries have already disappeared for the young.

These young people are paying less and less attention to the mainstream media as they focus on what emerges from the web and social networking.  The stories that drive the culture become less intrusive as our mainstream media instruments of distribution decline.  War stories, hard-time stories, in the background there is a new story, a story of a transformation as profound as the emergence of language 50,000 or more years ago.  The story is that humans are learning how to think.


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