Thursday, November 06, 2008

How Storytelling Moved a Nation

We are a story culture; I think we always have been. The Master Storyteller (that would be Jesus) knew this as the Bible tells us that "he only spoke in parables (stories)." People relate to them, they are persuaded by them and they are motivated by them.

Drew Westen, Ph.D., professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University wrote about how Obama was able to use the power of story to captivate a nation and win the Presidency. He writes:

And in the last few weeks of the campaign, Obama finally began to control the four stories that matter in an election:

1. the story you tell about your yourself (that he was the candidate of change, fleshing out what he meant by change);

2. the story you tell about your opponent (that McCain was four more years of Bush);

3. the story the other candidate is telling about himself (McCain the maverick, which Obama countered by citing McCain's proud proclamation that he had voted with Bush over 90 percent of the time and parrying, "That's not a maverick, that's a sidekick"); and

4. the story McCain was telling about Obama (that he lacked the experience and judgment to lead, which Obama countered with his steadiness in the face of the Wall Street meltdown and his strong, steady performances in the debates).

Elections are won by candidates who control those four stories and in so doing inspire the electorate and channel their fears (in this case, fears about the economy trumping all else).