With the next round of Democratic presidential candidate debates that are scheduled for next week, Americans will not hear a discussion of ideas and proposals to solve the nation’s problems, although that should be the purpose of any serious debate.
But today, debate means theater. It means posturing. Candidates must capitalize on every gesture and emotion. Above all, the coming debates must not be about ideas; they must be about leftist narratives.
A leftist narrative is an explanation of events in society, and is usually based on some real problems that can be fit into the artificial framework of a class struggle conflict. It involves “systemic” structures and institutions of oppression that force people to suffer or rebel. A narrative calls for radical changes that will overturn those systems of oppression that make impossible any real advance. Narratives are directed against people with more who have advantages over those with less. They do not mention God or find solutions in the practice of Christian virtue.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Thus, it is not hard to predict what will happen in the next debates. They will be a jumble of these narratives. They won’t even be a clash of narratives, which would certainly make them more interesting. All the candidates will parrot the same jumble of narratives. The only difference between one and the nineteen others will be who can out-narrative the other by taking the jumble to greater extremes.
A Jumble of Narratives
These narratives are familiar to most Americans.
Whenever the abortion issue is raised, for example, the candidates will default into repeating the worn-out “sexist” narrative. They will talk of oppressed women who do not have access to “reproductive rights” and career opportunities. These women are victims of structures dominated by men and religion which have long suppressed them.
Whenever an African-American or Hispanic problem arises, the “racist” narrative kicks in. It is never about fixing concrete injustices that may exist. Narratives are abstract attacks on systems, attitudes, and structures that feed the story of oppression that is applied to all society, regardless of the facts.
The Wall Street narrative targets big business, and pharmaceutical and oil companies that profit off the sweat of the people or harm the environment. Such oppression demands structural changes and super-taxation to put an end to the injustices.
The same theme can be found in so many issues. The “homophobic” narrative will target anyone who questions ever so slightly the LGBTQ+ agenda. The poor oppressed student narrative applies to those who freely signed loan agreements and must now have their debts forgiven. Medicare for all must overcome the structures of healthcare interests that want to profit from the poor’s misfortune.
Above all, the poor illegal immigrants are the victims of a system that hates them and wants them out. The dramatic effect of debating this one is multiplied if the candidate can speak a little Spanish (even badly).
The debates will be a jumble of these narratives.
The Advantages of Marxist Narratives
The advantage of using these narratives in these debates is that they are abstract and predetermined. Such is the genius of identity politics. They put people in neat little compartments out of which neither oppressor nor oppressed can get out. A Hispanic woman will always be a victim of systemic discrimination, and no amount of wealth will take her out of victimhood. A liberal white man will always be the holder of “white privilege,” no matter how many times he confesses his sins in public.
Narratives work because they are retroactive and have no context. They cannot be fixed. People can be blamed for the deeds of their ancestors, over which they have no control. People are born oppressors and oppressed. A member of any minority must feel the oppression of the past that is built into present systems. No matter how hard he works, a businessman is prosperous because he benefits from past iniquities.
No one can escape the narrative categories. Those who deny the narratives only confirm their “crimes.” Those who embrace narratives can never give enough to make things right. In this sense, narratives are useful because they dispense with the messy facts. One need not prove anything. One must only repeat like a mantra the narrative that can never be wrong.
Calling Upon Nonexistent Communities
Liberals benefit from narratives because they save them from the work of organizing those whom they claim to represent. A narrative allows them to speak in the name of all those in their categories without their consent.
In his book, The Demon of Democracy, Polish author Ryszard Legutko notes how the left uses the term “women,” for example, as “an abstract concept that does not denote any actual existing community, but only an imagined collective made an object of political worship among feminist organizations and their allies.”
The left creates the feminist woman, bound together in an imaginary sisterhood that sets the standard of what a woman is supposed to be. Woe unto any real-life, anti-abortion woman who dares to challenge this stereotype. She risks being made into a nonwoman.
Likewise, the left can call upon non-existent “communities” that validate their narratives. It will call forth an abstract Hispanic “community,” concocted outside the real world of most Hispanics. It will conjure up an LGBT+ “community” that does not physically exist but is created by powerful lobby groups that promote its cause.
Calling Forth Opposing Movements
Along with nonexistent communities, opposing groups can also be called forth to control both sides of the narratives. Thus, the debates will be full of references to unnamed “populists,” “millionaires and billionaires,” and special interest groups that are made to assume the role of oppressor.
Thus, white supremacist groups (curiously not called communities) can be expanded to represent all those who support, for example, the rule of law and commonsense immigration procedures. Judging from New York Times editorials, these ineffectual fringe groups speak in the name of the overwhelming majority of American whites who, in reality, have no contact or sympathy whatsoever with them.
Why Narratives Work
Leftist narratives work especially in times of decadence and decay. They find favor when real communities come apart and leave people without representation or the means to act. Narratives work when pleasure and gratification rule.
The narrative’s predetermined categories take from people the heavy onus of personal responsibility for their actions. If all can be explained by structural, systemic, or societal forces beyond one’s control, then there can be no sin or guilt. All can be blamed on others. In predetermined systems, people have no free will. Things need not be based on reality.
Indeed, the irrational desire to be liberated from the obligations attached to free will is nothing new. Superstition, esoteric philosophies, and fatalistic religions all form justifying narratives that enslave fallen humanity to unbridled passions and irresponsibility.
Breaking the Narratives
The narratives can be broken when people refuse to fit into the mold, assume responsibility for their actions, and step up to the plate in the practice of heroic virtue. Narratives must be challenged by refusing to debate inside their false premises.
It was the coming of Christ and the establishment of his Church that freed humanity from false narratives. The Church introduced the only true narrative of redemption which liberated humanity from the chains of sin. Christians could progress because they took responsibility for their actions by exercising free will and striving toward sanctity. Christian charity overflowed and bridged the conflicts that could have given rise to class conflict. These true Christian narratives make sense because they find their end in God, thus endowing people with dignity and purpose.
Facing a society that is coming apart, the coming debates will resolve little. Indeed, outside of God, nothing makes sense. The present polarization and political chaos will continue within the left’s jumble of narratives.
Editor’s note: Pictured above are the Democratic presidential candidates New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio (L-R), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), former housing secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) who took part in the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019, in Miami, Florida. (Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)