Who Is Framing the Narrative in the Political Debate?

Everyone acknowledges that this is not an ordinary election cycle. Almost as confusing as the campaign events are the explanations of those trying to explain why so many bizarre things are happening. Everyone has a take on the political carnival.

Everything seems to be a confused mess. However, if one observes closely, a narrative has emerged both on the right and the left that is now dominating the debate.

The narrative builds upon the all too apparent fact that there is great discontent and polarization inside the country. No one contests this conclusion. However, the framing of the narrative is turning everything upside down.

The narrative presents the scenario of two poles. The first pole is made up of those who are well-off, successful, and educated. They live in healthy families, and in good neighborhoods with excellent schools, which isolates and buffers them from the rest of America. They have benefited disproportionally from the anemic growth in the economy over the years.

On the other side is an underclass composed of those who are poor, uneducated, and neglected. They live in broken families, and in poor neighborhoods with horrible schools. They are joined by blue-collar workers who have lost jobs to immigrants and outsourcing to places like China. They live on the margins of society and are isolated from the other pole.

The two sides share little in common save an increasing animosity. This never-the-twain-shall-meet narrative can be found in Charles Murray’s compelling book, Coming Apart, or in Robert Putnam’s Our Kids. Pundits and columnists repeat and echo versions of this portrayal in diverse media.

The final component of the narrative is a broken “establishment” that cannot address the concerns of the underclass. Big government bureaucrats and global managerial elites are simply too far removed from ordinary people to identify with them anymore. People with pitchforks (and iPhones) in hand are called upon to overthrow “establishment” candidates and replace them with outsiders who will change the system and truly represent the people.

These two components combine to form a carefully choreographed narrative that is hardly new. It undeniably resembles a neo-Marxist rehash of class struggle theory. The new narrative merely pits the latte-drinking “haves” against the macro-and-micro-aggressed “have-nots.”

One cannot deny that real problems like immigration, outsourcing, and unresponsive elites exist. However, like all Marxisant narratives, it is a distorted portrayal of reality. These narratives always build upon legitimate grievances and frustrations. But they also reduce everything to economic terms and treat man as an economic being, a mere cog in a machine called modern society.

Indeed, this narrative does not correspond to the facts since a person is much more than just an economic unit of production. Moreover, even the two poles do not match reality since anti-establishment candidates are attracting people from all demographics and income levels. Something much deeper lies behind the current malaise that defies the have/have-not dialectic.

That is why another narrative should be proposed.

This narrative is also not new, but comes from a concept of man that dates back to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. It holds that economics is not the most important human field. Man does not live by bread alone, but has another side that is spiritual and superior. This superior side is what makes every person unique and establishes his dignity. It gives rise to moral acts that govern those political, social, cultural, and religious activities that tower above mere economics.

The proposed narrative to explain the present electoral cycle would not be based on the battle of the haves versus the have-nots. Rather it holds there is a universal moral crisis that is devastating all society. It is not just polarizing but shattering the nation and its economy into a thousand pieces.

Contrary to the abysmal gulf of the other narrative, the “establishment” and the underclasses are victims of the same affliction -- each in varying degrees and manifestations. Both are driven by a terrible and frenetic intemperance where everyone must have everything instantly and effortlessly. This leads them both to great debt and unrestraint. Both groupings see their families being destroyed through divorce and general breakdown. All share in the immoral movies, fashions, drugs, and promiscuity that recognize no class and ravage a social fiber where people no longer pray. Structures across the board are crumbling whether they be governments, families, institutions, or customs.

What must be urgently addressed is the rot of this social decadence that is weighing heavily upon the nation. It will soon have great economic consequences that will shake the nation to its very foundations. That is why it is important that the narrative be changed.

The narrative that should govern the debate should be one of unity, not division. It should be directed at the moral problems of this universal crisis, not against fellow Americans. The surviving ramparts of the nation’s moral establishment should be fortified, not torn down. People need to return to God as the center of our lives, not the federal government. These are the issues that few dare to mention in the present political circus, but they lie deep within the souls of so many Americans who grieve for the nation.

John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.

Everyone acknowledges that this is not an ordinary election cycle. Almost as confusing as the campaign events are the explanations of those trying to explain why so many bizarre things are happening. Everyone has a take on the political carnival.

Everything seems to be a confused mess. However, if one observes closely, a narrative has emerged both on the right and the left that is now dominating the debate.

The narrative builds upon the all too apparent fact that there is great discontent and polarization inside the country. No one contests this conclusion. However, the framing of the narrative is turning everything upside down.

The narrative presents the scenario of two poles. The first pole is made up of those who are well-off, successful, and educated. They live in healthy families, and in good neighborhoods with excellent schools, which isolates and buffers them from the rest of America. They have benefited disproportionally from the anemic growth in the economy over the years.

On the other side is an underclass composed of those who are poor, uneducated, and neglected. They live in broken families, and in poor neighborhoods with horrible schools. They are joined by blue-collar workers who have lost jobs to immigrants and outsourcing to places like China. They live on the margins of society and are isolated from the other pole.

The two sides share little in common save an increasing animosity. This never-the-twain-shall-meet narrative can be found in Charles Murray’s compelling book, Coming Apart, or in Robert Putnam’s Our Kids. Pundits and columnists repeat and echo versions of this portrayal in diverse media.

The final component of the narrative is a broken “establishment” that cannot address the concerns of the underclass. Big government bureaucrats and global managerial elites are simply too far removed from ordinary people to identify with them anymore. People with pitchforks (and iPhones) in hand are called upon to overthrow “establishment” candidates and replace them with outsiders who will change the system and truly represent the people.

These two components combine to form a carefully choreographed narrative that is hardly new. It undeniably resembles a neo-Marxist rehash of class struggle theory. The new narrative merely pits the latte-drinking “haves” against the macro-and-micro-aggressed “have-nots.”

One cannot deny that real problems like immigration, outsourcing, and unresponsive elites exist. However, like all Marxisant narratives, it is a distorted portrayal of reality. These narratives always build upon legitimate grievances and frustrations. But they also reduce everything to economic terms and treat man as an economic being, a mere cog in a machine called modern society.

Indeed, this narrative does not correspond to the facts since a person is much more than just an economic unit of production. Moreover, even the two poles do not match reality since anti-establishment candidates are attracting people from all demographics and income levels. Something much deeper lies behind the current malaise that defies the have/have-not dialectic.

That is why another narrative should be proposed.

This narrative is also not new, but comes from a concept of man that dates back to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. It holds that economics is not the most important human field. Man does not live by bread alone, but has another side that is spiritual and superior. This superior side is what makes every person unique and establishes his dignity. It gives rise to moral acts that govern those political, social, cultural, and religious activities that tower above mere economics.

The proposed narrative to explain the present electoral cycle would not be based on the battle of the haves versus the have-nots. Rather it holds there is a universal moral crisis that is devastating all society. It is not just polarizing but shattering the nation and its economy into a thousand pieces.

Contrary to the abysmal gulf of the other narrative, the “establishment” and the underclasses are victims of the same affliction -- each in varying degrees and manifestations. Both are driven by a terrible and frenetic intemperance where everyone must have everything instantly and effortlessly. This leads them both to great debt and unrestraint. Both groupings see their families being destroyed through divorce and general breakdown. All share in the immoral movies, fashions, drugs, and promiscuity that recognize no class and ravage a social fiber where people no longer pray. Structures across the board are crumbling whether they be governments, families, institutions, or customs.

What must be urgently addressed is the rot of this social decadence that is weighing heavily upon the nation. It will soon have great economic consequences that will shake the nation to its very foundations. That is why it is important that the narrative be changed.

The narrative that should govern the debate should be one of unity, not division. It should be directed at the moral problems of this universal crisis, not against fellow Americans. The surviving ramparts of the nation’s moral establishment should be fortified, not torn down. People need to return to God as the center of our lives, not the federal government. These are the issues that few dare to mention in the present political circus, but they lie deep within the souls of so many Americans who grieve for the nation.

John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker, and author of the book Return to Order, as well as the author of hundreds of published articles. He lives in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania where he is the vice president of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property.