There have been many caves of sorts in America over the past few decades. Consumers of NPR, CNN and MSNBC are in one cave. Consumers of conservative talk radio and Fox News are in another. The elites casting the shadows used to be called the "Gang of 500” by ABC News’s “The Note.” On the right it was “The Borg,” an analogy for the evil mass drawn from “Star Trek” villainy. Slowly, the vast majority of those in the taste-making, influence-distributing, always-chattering classes morphed in recent years into one great Narrative. Hashtags have gone the way of BuzzFeed lists but #TheNarrative would have been a grand entry in the lists: The Gang of 5,000 and their wannabe imitators.
“The Narrative,” very much at work this very day, describes the almost physical force that the initiated attempt to impose on American political discourse. President Trump is the Shiva of the Narrative, the great destroyer of the conceit that a few thousand people in Manhattan, the Beltway, Silicon Valley and Hollywood can shape the political moment. Almost exactly four years ago, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan delivered a verdict on the politics of the age that remains without equal: The “unprotected” were rising up against the protected. They did indeed, and Trump was elected. In the years since, the Great Disrupter has not disappointed, bringing his wrecking ball to every conceit of the elite.
Meanwhile, the activists of both left and right have had it with the elites in their caves — the 500, the Borg and, now, the Narrative — trying to frame reality.
For at least the past year, the Narrative has tried to anoint former vice president Joe Biden as “the one” who would strike down Trump after, first, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and, then, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) failed. But in the wake of the New Hampshire primary, the Narrative has endured another blow. Conservative political analyst Michael Barone, who has forgotten more about American politics than many of the self-anointed at the heart of the Narrative ever knew, bluntly declared on Wednesday morning about Biden’s campaign: “It’s over.” Barone delivered the same verdict on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
The Narrative seeks a defensible line with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and the #NeverTrump movement has never given up on getting the center-right back in its cave. Former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, for a brief moment, thought to try to break out of the Narrative with a wholly unheard-of strategy of talking candidly, calmly and repeatedly with everyone, but then he gave up and is treading water now as a result — not gaining the lead that could have been his. Former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg is going to try to buy a replacement for the Narrative, and that’s going to fail as well.
The rejection of the Narrative doesn’t have the drama of a long-repressed people breaking free, as, for example, happened in the Arab Spring, but there’s plenty of exhaustion and anger at being told how to frame issues and conflicts. People in America want a showdown — one that is long overdue — between the force that is socialism (often called progressivism in an attempt to gain a rhetorical advantage, but Americans’ growing political savvy has made that dodge increasingly ineffectual) and the wild side that is freedom: freedom to speak, think, build, profit and generally do whatever one wants that isn’t illegal.
Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders is the main event. Everything else is an undercard. The Narrative doesn’t want a showdown. Showdowns produce winners, if only for a time. And winners mean irrelevance for the people who nudge and exclude, who influence and attempt to exploit.
A winner means vindication and a mandate for Trump or an invitation to actually try out socialism here in the United States. Such a knockdown would bring some catharsis at least for a time.
So let’s have at it. The nearly 6 million Americans who watch cable news on any given day want it. The more than 25 million listening to NPR or Rush Limbaugh or anyone in between want it. The serial posters about politics on Facebook want it. The Narrative doesn’t. Let’s hope the Narrative gets crushed.