The Clash of Narratives

Jim’s TeaHouse – Where No Narratives Clash

A thesis can be put forward that political narratives have a relationship to the degree of division or unity in the nation. Perhaps the best indicator of America’s division/unity temperature is represented by the historic statistics from Presidential elections showing popular and electoral votes. The charts go back to George Washington, who by the way, obtained all of the popular and electoral votes. Also important for determining the degreee of unity of division in the nation are what the party majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.

The thesis continues that greater division in the nation is shown by close contests between both popular and electoral votes in President elections and split control of Congress. At the same time, more unity in the nation is shown more by lopsided results in Presidential elections and solid control of Congress under an administration.

Do the various percentages between division and unity in America (as evidenced by Presidential elections going back to George Washington) have an effect on political campaigns and the resulting narratives (stories) of these campaigns? This might make a good thesis for a graduate student but something we’re simply interested in suggesting here rather than exploring.

Presidential Elections in American History


And, if so, does greater division or unity between political parties influence the types, modes, qualities, images, content and symbolism of political narratives? Does a political narrative in a greatly divided nation possess the same qualities as a narrative in a more unified nation?

As we’ve shown in previous works, the American political system is based on the two paradoxical founding symbols of America in Equality and Freedom. Not only are they different words but also opposite symbols. As we’ve shown, the Equality ideal of America is part of the Feminine archetype while the Freedom ideal of America is part of the Masculine archetype. It was one of the greatest clashes in symbols at the founding of a nation. Few nations have this type of clash between the grand Masculine and Feminine archetypes upon their founding as nations.

The clash of these two grand symbols of America are represented in the Republican and Democratic Parties. In effect, presidential wins by the Republicans represent ascendance of the Masculine symbol in American history while ascendance of the Feminine symbol is represented by presidential wins of the Democratic Party. The closer Presidential elections are in popular and electoral votes, the more in opposition are these two symbols. The less close presidential elections result from the symbols not being in such close opposition.

Moon Over a Mountain … An Eternal Symbol

Charles R. Kesler, Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College and editor of the Claremont Review of Books, notes that modern American poitics has been divided. As Kesler notes, “Since 1968, the norm in America has been divided government: the people have more often preferred to split control of the national government between the Democrats and the Republicans rather than entrust it to one party.” It is a change from American politics before 1968. Kesler continues, “Prior to 1968, Americans would almost always (the exceptions proved the rule) entrust the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Presidency to the same party in each election. They would occasionally change the party, but still they would vote for a party to run the government. Not so for the last 50 years. And neither President Obama nor President Trump, so far, has persuaded the American electorate to embrace his party as their national representative, worthy of long-term patriotic allegiance.”

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Are different scripts and political narratives required for divided nations as opposed to unified nations? For example, in the interesting political chart above you will not see tossed about in social media much today. It shows in color the percentages of Republicans (Red) and Democrats (Blue) winning Presidential elections in America back to the Green time of George Washington. There is the interesting “interference” with the two parties by the Orange line in the charts above. Besides being a fascinating visual display of American historical data, it shows some important cycles in the dynamics of American symbolism.

As a symbologist, I view the above data in terms of the symbolism battle in American between Equality and Freedom. Both are founding symbols of America. They are paradoxical because there is only one that can be a founding symbol. Yet they both have equal status are the founding of America: the ideas of equality and freedom. Such opposite words to anyone who briefly considers this.

I suggest that the battle between the Masculine and Feminine forces in America have played themselves out in Presidential elections. For this reason, viewing and analyzing their results, can be very informative for looking at the dynamics of how the two grand American symbols – Equality and Freedom – have moved across American history over the years.

Right now, in late October 2018, the two symbols are in their greatest opposition in history.

(The above is a section from a book in progress)

One thought on “The Clash of Narratives

  1. Good one. I would add that there is also a dynamic to this – yin and yang rotating. We are now in a yang ascendant time with yin rising. Maximum symbolic tension. When does symbolism turn to action? We shall see…………….

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