Between Good Narrative And Good Governance

By David Lewis

There is a chasm between good narrative and good governance.

Barack Obama had a story to tell, about himself, when he ran for president in 2008. That personal narrative, along with a war-weary electorate, devotional support from media elites and the winds of economic collapse at his back, served to get him elected. But good narrative will take you only so far.

Now that he’s been President of the United States for nearly six years, Mr. Obama cannot simply rely on storytelling, much as he’d like to. As president, one must govern. This involves negotiating with one’s political opposition, much as Reagan, Clinton and other presidents have done, simply in order to get something accomplished. For that Mr. Obama is most poorly equipped. He has not, for example, sought congressional authorization to drop bombs in Libya, Syria or Iraq — something George W. Bush did before initiating hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama treats congressional Republicans as ‘the enemy,’ instead of like potential partners in addressing America’s domestic and international challenges. He has refused to step into true governance, for fear of getting his shoes dirty. Instead, his approach has been to hop via Air Force One from stump to stump, giving ‘event speeches’ full of campaign-style castigation and bromides, designed to tear down his perceived enemies and build up himself. Hoping that somehow, with still loyal media elites protecting him, he can overcome the harsh laws of economics and the body politic – otherwise known as ‘reality.’

That’s not governance. It’s propaganda. And it’s no way to run a country.


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