Monday, 25 February 2008

She's lost control

Part of the reason Clinton is not winning is that her political narrative has been defined by everyone else. In a large sense, her "brand" is not her own.

When an advertiser or strategist is selling something, whether a product or a candidate, brand is important. Think of it as a little index card in the brain that conjures up one or two images that define what or who a product or person is.

The initial image of Hillary is not that she is not Barack Obama, but is part of Bill Clinton.

"The question for Hillary is, what can she put on that index card in voters' brains that is going to make a difference for her in the stretch?" wonders media strategist John Brabender, who makes his living branding candidates, mostly Republicans.

I think this comment highlights two interesting points. First, there are the linkages between a “brand” and a “narrative” or “story”. They are really just different aspects of what Salena Zito’s “little index card”. A story is the engine by a brand which is communicated and brought to life so that people can understand it, both on the rational and emotional levels. The Democratic primaries have reinforced the basic reality that a political narrative is not about listing off policies or values -- “I am a liberal etc.” It’s about marketing and branding and works when a candidate tells stories that engage with the emotions and expectations of the voters, so as to define him or herself. S/he must also embody those stories. Senator Obama has understood this. His next challenge, however, is to outweigh all the counter-stories.

The other is that Senator Clinton has not been an effective storyteller. This point was well made by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post ten days ago. It was also made by Stephen Denning – a sage of storytelling – last October!! He compared Senator Clinton, then the Democrats’ frontrunner with Al Gore, their nominee in 2000, and observed:

As a good student who does her homework and is articulate in debates, Hillary has not found a way to make herself likable. She has been unable to communicate what sort of a person she really is and what she really believes in.

Like Gore, Hillary generally makes her case through abstract arguments, discussing and analyzing problems and proposing solutions. This leaves an audience dazed rather than inspired. It fails to engage them at an emotional level. Like Gore in 2000, she tends to sound mechanistic and bureaucratic.

Although it’s possible that the Republicans will be so utterly divided and inept that Hillary may win anyway, don’t count on it.

The lesson of 2000 is that a presidential candidate who doesn’t how to connect with the electorate, is vulnerable and likely to squander the most powerful rational advantages. She may be defeated even by an improbable candidate with no national or international experience.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Reframing Barack Obama

The anti-Barack backlash has started.

Respected economic commentator Robert Samuelson laments the “Obama delusion”. He critiques Senator Obama’s policy planks and concludes:

[Obama] has run on the vague promise of "change," but on issue after issue --immigration, the economy, global warming -- he has offered boilerplate policiesthat evade the underlying causes of the stalemates. These issues remain contentious because they involve real conflicts or differences of opinion.

The contrast between his broad rhetoric and his narrow agenda is stark, and yet the press corps -- preoccupied with the political "horse race" -- has treated his invocation of "change" as a serious idea rather than a shallow campaign slogan. He seems to have hypnotized much of the media and the public with his eloquence and the symbolism of his life story. The result is a mass delusion that Obama is forthrightly engaging the nation's major problems when, so far, he isn't.

Alongside Obama the lightweight is Obama the leftie. Try this from George Bush's former top adviser Karl Rove.

Perhaps in response to criticisms that have been building in recent days, Mr. Obama pivoted Tuesday from his usual incantations. He dropped the pretense of being a candidate of inspiring but undescribed "post-partisan" change. Until now, Mr. Obama has been making appeals to the center, saying, for example, that we are not red or blue states, but the United States. But in his Houston speech, he used the opportunity of 45 (long) minutes on national TV to advocate a distinctly non-centrist, even proudly left-wing, agenda. By doing so, he opened himself to new and damaging contrasts and lines of criticism . . .

In recent days, courtesy of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Mr. Obama has invoked the Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Franklin Roosevelt to show the power of words. But there is a critical difference between Mr. Obama's rhetoric and that of Jefferson, King and FDR. In each instance, their words were used to advance large, specific purposes -- establishing a new nation based on inalienable rights; achieving equal rights and a color-blind society; giving people confidence to endure a Great Depression. For Mr. Obama, words are merely a means to hide a left-leaning agenda behind the cloak of centrist rhetoric. That garment has now been torn. As voters see what his agenda is, his opponents can now far more effectively question his authenticity, credibility, record and fitness to be leader of the free world.

The road to the presidency just got steeper for Barack Obama, and all because he pivoted on Tuesday night.

Watch these counter-stories over the next few days and weeks. Similar efforts wrecked previous Democratic candidates’ presidential bids. And what is happening to Senator Obama is a valuable case study. These counter-stories – especially Rove’s efforts – can work because they’re simple and appeal to existing voter preconceptions.
Senator Obama can beat them - if he challenges the basic premises with bold, decisive moves to turn some Democratic orthodoxies on their heads and appeal to the centre of the American electorate. Remember how Bill Clinton did that in 1992. If he doesn’t, all that will remain of Senator Obama is his rhetoric.

[Thanks to the excellent Framing Science blog for these references]

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Is it too late for Nick Clegg to offer a "fresh" face?

We all know that people are pissed off with the way things are going. Voters in the US, the UK and elsewhere keep telling pollsters that their countries are on the wrong track. But they don’t necessarily want big policy changes. The voters are finding their own solution (as they inevitably do): get in some new faces at the top, without risking policy shocks. They are also more and more interested in leaders from a new generation who are untainted by old arguments and who carry less political baggage than what’s already on offer. Senator Barack Obama, with his offer of a fresh break from the baby boomers' culture wars, is the latest example.

My home country New Zealand has a general election later this year. After three terms, the incumbent Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark (57) faces an uphill struggle (but she will fight like hell) against the centre-right National Party’s John Key (46), an MP since 2002 who became his party’s leader in late 2006. The veteran NZ political pundit Colin James says:

. . . "fresh" is John Key's critical advantage.

Clark has been more than 14 years and two months Labour leader, now longest serving by some accounts. She was an MP 27 years ago, a minister 21 years ago and Deputy Prime Minister 19 years ago. She is long in the political tooth.

Key is still new. He has not accumulated enemies as Clark has. He promises a "fresh start". The potency of that slogan is in its plausibility.

Key is not promising a change of direction. He has signed up to most of Labour'smajor policy positions. His "fresh start" for young people predisposed to crime two weeks back consisted mainly of more vigorous action on programmes already in place.

Instead of a new direction, Key's "fresh start" promises fresh energy in the current direction: some amendments and over time discernible leans but nothing dramatic or unsettling.

Key is able to do that plausibly because, unlike his predecessor and his opponent, he is not defined by the debates of the past . . .

James explains what those were and then says:

Key can plausibly present himself as offering "fresh" politics. He can imply he has answers to the "crisis" he says besets us without proposing radical policy change, simply because he is of a new political cohort. He can even take large political risks. . . He can walk where Clark cannot.

In case UK readers haven’t worked it out yet:

There are loose parallels in United States presidential candidate Barack Obama, British Tory leader David Cameron and Kevin Rudd in Australia.

At the age of 41, inexperienced in office and all but unknown before 2005, Cameron, in his own way and in this political environment, seems to tick a lot of same boxes as Key and Obama.

Nick Clegg is also 41 and still a new face at Westminster. But he came to his party’s leadership two years after Cameron. The new generation of voters already had someone new to identify with. So a “fresh face” won’t quite be enough.

Has he arrived too late? Not necessarily. The last time voters were getting very weary of a government, in 1997, the Lib Dems invited them to make a real difference and it worked. I think that could work next time. But offering a genuinely fresh start means taking large but calculated political risks and walking where Brown and Cameron cannot.

Monday, 18 February 2008

John McCain's Daniel Boone narrative

I was all set to do a posting about Republican frontrunner John McCain’s political narrative. But in today’s Guardian, feminist author Susan Faludi has explained most of it. She says:

"Well, let's assume McCain is the Republican candidate. His story is going to be the story of Daniel Boone - the guy who was taken captive by Indians or, in his case, the North Vietnamese, and withstood torture and came back. That's the drama that's going to be trotted out. Already they're talking about 'McCain the Warrior'. And then on the Democratic side, whoever the candidate is they'll be attacked because they don't fit into that rescue formula. Clinton will either be accused of being not manly enough to withstand the terrorist threat, or accused of being too cold and calculating to be a woman. Or both. And Obama will be this scrawny guy who doesn't seem macho enough to stand up to the enemy.”

Susan Faludi describes the archetype at work as “the rescue narrative”. She is talking about The Terror Dream, her new book on the American media reportage of 9/11 and its aftermath. She argues that American men felt that their masculinity was under attack and as a result, new, all-male heroes had to be found. Women were forced into the background.

America's media fell back in love with the manly man - an old-fashioned hero strong enough to defend his nation and rescue his womenfolk.

If he did not exist, he would have to be invented. So firemen had to be superheroes, widows had to be helpless, unmarried women had to be frantic to wed and working mums had to want to stay at home. Crucially, strong men had to protect weak women - a desire vividly dramatised by the Rambo-style rescue in Iraq of Private Jessica Lynch, who found herself reconfigured by the media from professional soldier to helpless damsel.

Faludi traces this "rescue narrative" right back to the original shame of America's frontiersmen, whose womenfolk were frequently kidnapped by Indians - and, more shaming still, did not always want to be rescued. "The 'unimaginable' assault on our home soil was, in fact, anything but unimaginable," she writes. "The anxieties it awakened reside deep in our cultural memory. And the myth we deployed to keep those anxieties buried is one we've been constructing for more than 300 years."

I would add the myth that McCain has created of a being an “American maverick”. This appeals to an archetypal hero that can be found throughout the military and cultural history of the US. General Douglas MacArthur is a leading example.

Also, when discussing the America media’s propensity to muddle up cultural fiction with reality, Susan Faludi makes another interesting observation.

"I think," she says bluntly, "it combines with a number of prevailing, longstanding dynamics in the American mindset. You know - the desire to be seen as innocent, that you can just hit the restart button. That tomorrow's a new day, one person can make a difference - all these apolitical, and even anti-political, or certainly anti-historical ways of looking at the world. That makes us more susceptible to Cinderella stories, and want to believe them. Americans have always wanted to believe in some dreamy notion that has nothing to do with the facts that are right before them. Americans are just so wedded to saying OK, let's just turn the page and everything's going to be fine."

Friday, 15 February 2008

Clinton rules, UK

The campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination is getting away from Hillary Clinton. As I have argued previously, one of the main reasons is Barack Obama’s narrative, which is more in tune with his target audience’s emotional needs, more simple and more personal. Senator Obama well and truly embodies his story.

But there may be another factor: what the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls “Clinton rules”:

“the term a number of observers use for the way pundits and some news organisations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent.”

I have my share of reservations about the Clintons. They are not selfless ingĂ©nues, the innocent victims of a massive right wing conspiracy. For years, they, Bill Clinton especially, have brought many of their problems on themselves. But Paul Krugman's basic argument is correct: too often, much of the media’s default position is that they are up to no good.

He gives another, less contentious example:

“. . . Al Gore was subjected to Clinton rules during the 2000 campaign: anything he said, and some things he didn’t say (no, he never claimed to have invented the Internet), was held up as proof of his alleged character flaws.”

Although Clinton rules may be working in Senator Obama’s favour now, there’s also a warning for him:

“ . . . if history is any guide, if Mr. Obama wins the nomination, he will quickly find himself being subjected to Clinton rules. Democrats always do.”

The brutal reality is that media counter-stories will always drown out any stories that politicians try to tell about themselves. Look at the way the way the media narrative on Gordon Brown has changed in the past six months.

The best antidote is usually inoculation: don’t do anything that feeds or lends credence to the counter-story. (Translation for Liberal Democrats: don’t do anything flaky or that makes you look less than serious; make sure all the policies and messages add up).

But counter stories on the scale of Clinton rules can’t ever be fixed. For instance, the last Lib Dem leader suffered from “Campbell rules” (he’s too old and useless). Perhaps there is also a “Lib Dem rule” (they don’t matter).

You don’t have to do an in-depth textual analysis of the Evening Standard or the Daily Mail to see how, in this country, media cynicism has fuelled the public’s contempt for politicians. All parties have lost out. But it’s still the gorilla in the room when politicians and pundits fret about the collapse of trust in politics.

Who might be next? Are we now seeing a “Ken rules” (allegations of dodginess)? A “Darling rules” (totally incompetent)? These won’t necessarily benefit the Liberal Democrats. And how long till there’s a “Clegg rules”?

[With thanks to my longstanding friend Peter for the reference to Krugman’s article]

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

1970s redux

In the latest Sunday Times Magazine, Bryan Appleyard has re-assessed the seventies and decided that they weren’t just a ten year long bad hair day. He concludes:

The full reassessment of the 1970s must . . . take into account two great truths. First, it was the age of transition from then to now. Battles were fought and won that made us who we are today. Some victories were benign – few now would argue against the liberation of gays and women, and environmentalism. Others were distinctly ambiguous – hyper-individualism has gone, everybody agrees, too far, though nobody knows how to restrain its excesses. Second, it was a period that produced a disproportionate share of the greatest art of the postwar period. Sam Tyler [in tv’s Life on Mars] was right to leap off that building back into the era of Gene Hunt and Mark III Cortinas. It felt more alive. The 1970s had the Allegro, but they weren’t “shit-brown”. They were golden.

After years of denigrating and trying to forget them, I agree that the 1970s should be looked at afresh. In economic terms, they were years of unhappy decline. Western countries experienced deep anxiety and feelings of national malaise. To the right, the seventies marked the catastrophic collapse of the Keynesian (or, in the US, liberal) economic policy consensus in the west. The presidents and prime minister of the time are usually derided as doomed stewards of decline who failed miserably to make the old, statist policies work. The “left” and liberals often depict the 1970s as lost, unhappy years, devoid of social progress.

The economic history of the time is, however, more complicated than is often painted. James Callaghan’s government tamed inflation for a time and avoided mass unemployment. Nor were the leaders of the time always stuck in a statist, corporatist time warp. James Callaghan’s government experimented with “monetarist” policies and cut public spending in real terms to the sorts of levels we have seen in recent years. It was, after all, Callaghan who told the 1976 Labour conference that "spending your way out of a recession" was no longer an option. In the US, Jimmy Carter was defeated partly because of the high interest rate policies pursued by Paul Volcker’s Federal Reserve. All sides of politics now accept and follow these sorts of policies. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan did not invent them all on their own.

A big re-think of liberal and centre-left politics can be traced back to the 1970s. For all this faults, Carter recognised the big tensions between the cultural conservatism and economic resentments of many “middle ground” American voters and the policies pursued by liberalism’s champions. That was one of the main reasons he was elected president in 1976. Bill Clinton won twice in the 1990s largely because he was able to bridge these sorts of chasms.

For all the economic and political failures, the seventies were not a dead decade. Edward Heath’s government made an appalling mess of the economy but he took Britain into Europe, a major achievement. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975 -- both, it must be said, by Labour governments. A new law on domestic violence was also passed. In the US, Richard Nixon disgraced his office. But he left behind the world’s first environmental protection agency and ground-breaking legislation on protecting endangered species.

No, I do not see the seventies as a golden decade. I grew up in New Zealand and witnessed the ending of a number of golden weathers during those years. They still make me shudder sometimes. The great inflation and the oil shock hit New Zealand very hard. In 1975, a well-meaning but inept Labour government was swept out of office, thrashed by the unspeakable Robert Muldoon. Then inflation stayed in double digits, the economy stagnated, unemployment started going up and for a while the mood got ugly. But the decade also saw the rise of the women’s movement, which had more impact, more quickly than in many English-speaking countries. New Zealand was home to a strong environmental movement with substantial public support, as well as the world’s first green party. A cultural renaissance started and a more outward-looking, cosmopolitan society started to emerge. That part of Bryan Appleyard’s article strikes a chord with me.

My point is that this much-maligned decade deserves to be re-assessed. Many of the most important accepted wisdoms of today’s politics can be traced back to the seventies. So can some very important social progress. But I certainly don’t mourn them, the way some people do the sixties. Nor am I about to rush out and buy any progressive rock albums.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Hey! someone's trying to steal my narrative.

More liberal criticism of Hillary Clinton’s campaigning. The New Republic’s column The Plank complains that Senator Clinton is appropriating Barack Obama’s frames and messages.

"Sometimes, imitation is just the sincerest form of lameness, and Clinton adviser Mark Penn's effort to brand Barack Obama the "establishment" candidate is one of those occasions . . .

"Obama makes headway by framing himself (accurately) as a change agent?Clinton abruptly starts pitching herself as a change agent, too. Obama describes Clinton (again, accurately, at least in relative terms) as the status-quo candidate in
last night's speech? This morning we have Penn's I'm-rubber-you're-glue routine. Next thing you know, Clinton will start attending rallies in a men's suit and skinny tie and talking about how much she loves "The Wire," too.

"Silly, obvious fibs like this are one reason that so many in the media are skeptical of anything that comes out of the Clinton camp. It's an insult to the intelligence of the people being spun. (Massachusetts was an upset win for Clinton? Obama's the establishment candidate?)"

There’s more. The Plank claims that Senator Clinton is playing into the counter-story that the Republicans will spread about her.

"But the worst part of it all is that the GOP has won the last two presidential elections largely by framing the Democratic nominee as book-smart but inauthentic, someone who really doesn't know who they are. Hillary's attempted reinventions over the last few weeks--from establishment juggernaut to counter-establishment rebel; from Strong Woman to Sensitive Soul; from "leader" to"change agent"--are just doing the GOP's general-election work for them."

That’s important. An inauthentic candidate is one who cannot embody their narrative; such a candidate is doomed. It’s often seemed to me that centre-left and liberal candidates are especially prone to helping their opponents tell counter-stories about them.
Let's hope the Liberal Democrats don't fall into this trap (again) over the coming months – by, for instance, not appearinging serious; producing messages and promises that don't seem to add up; or by looking inconsistent and nannyish.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Hillary Clinton's dragon slayer narrative

Just like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton is using old archetypes for her political narrative. In today’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd says that Senator Clinton is portraying herself as a slayer of dragons.
"As she talked Sunday to George Stephanopoulos, a former director of the formidable Clinton war room, Hillary’s case boiled down to the fact that she can be Trouble, as they say about hard-boiled dames in film noir, when Republicans make trouble.

" “I have been through these Republican attacks over and over and over again, and I believe that I’ve demonstrated that much to the dismay of the Republicans, I not only can survive, but thrive,” she said.

"And on Tuesday night she told supporters, “Let me be clear: I won’t let anyone Swift-boat this country’s future.” "

Ms Dowd is not impressed.

"Better the devil you know than the diffident debutante you don’t. Better to go with the Clintons, with all their dysfunction and chaos — the same kind that fueled the Republican hate machine — than to risk the chance that Obama would be mauled like a chew toy in the general election. Better to blow off all the inspiration and the young voters, the independents and the Republicans that Obama is attracting than to take a chance on something as ephemeral as hope."

"Hillary Clinton denounced Dick Cheney as Darth Vader, but she did not absorb the ultimate lesson of the destructive vice president: Don’t become so paranoid that you let yourself be overwhelmed by a dark vision . . .

". . . Darkness seeking darkness. It’s an exhausting specter, and the reason that Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Claire McCaskill and so many other Democrats are dashing for daylight and trying to break away from the pathological Clinton path."

The Republican attack machine should not be dismissed lightly. If you don’t believe me, or you like your political narratives hard boiled, check out this little classic from George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign against the then Massachussetts governor, Michael Dukakis. If you're still up for it, check out the swift boat spots used against John Kerry in 2004 -- the ads referred to by Senator Clinton. The machine could yet waste Senator Obama - or Hillary Clinton herself.

Still, as Maureen Dowd points out, Barack Obama is getting some valuable tutelage:
"The relentless Hillary has been the reticent Obama’s tutor in the Political School for Scandal. He is learning how to take a punch and give one back. When she presents her mythic narrative, the dragon she has slain is the Republican attack machine. Obama told me he doesn’t think about mythic narratives, and Tuesday night in Chicago he was reaching up for “a hymn that will heal this nation and repair the world.”

"But, if he wants to be president, he will still have to slay the dragon. And his dragon is the Clinton attack
machine, which emerged Tuesday night, not invincible but breathing fire."

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Barack Obama's liberation narrative

While the Super-Duper Tuesday jury is out, the brilliant American political columnist E.J. Dionne jr. assesses Barack Obama’s political narrative. Dionne finds Biblical archetypes in the rhetoric that Obama uses and suggests that his talk of salvation and liberation is precisely what Democrats are yearning for.

"Barack Obama has surged to rough parity with Hillary Clinton in the national polls not because Democrats reject her carefully thought-out solutions to the central public problems but because he has created in the party's rank and file a feeling of liberation -- from intimidation by Republicans, from old divisions, from history itself. "

Then there’s the Obama narrative of how to make change happen.

"The larger difference between Clinton and Obama is in their respective theories of change. Implicit in the Clinton narrative, as she put it on the stump last weekend, is the idea that "making change is hard." Only someone with carefully laid plans and the toughness to go toe-to-toe with the Republicans in the daily and weekly Washington slog can hope to achieve reform.

"Obama agrees to an extent. "I know how hard change is," he says. But he promises to transcend the old fights -- the liberation narrative again -- by building a "bottom-up" movement to create inexorable pressure for reform that would draw in even Republicans.

" "Good intentions are not enough," he said in his
Wilmington speech. They need to be "fortified with political will or political power." Obama marries a softer rhetorical line on Republicans with a more far-reaching and activist analysis of how change happens. He thus manages to go to Clinton's right and left at the same time.

"That's why Obama is on the move in a way that worries Clinton's lieutenants. She promises toughness, competence, clarity and experience in a year when many Democrats are seeking something closer to salvation. "

After all, every good story needs a happy ending.

Dionne concludes:

"One of the politicians who spoke before Obama at the rally, Delaware state Treasurer Jack Markell, cited the New Testament letter to the Hebrews in which Saint Paul spoke of "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It was a revealing moment: While Clinton wages a campaign, Obama is preaching a revival."

Monday, 4 February 2008

In the frame

What links the epic face-off between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with today’s Guardian report that a new counter-terrorism phrasebook has been drawn up by a Home Office research unit “to advise civil servants on how to talk to Muslim communities about the nature of the terror threat”?

They are both striking examples of attempts to frame politics and political debate.

Framing is about giving people a way to think about political issues. This is usually done by using a model or structure or question. A strong frame enables you to push your best issues to the fore and help people to see the political choices in your terms. This way, it should help you to deliver a compelling narrative.

The American linguist George Lakoff showed how, in his first term, George W. Bush used the “tax relief” frame to great effect.
“It got picked up by the newspapers as if it were a neutral term, which it is not. First, you have the frame for "relief." For there to be relief, there has to be an affliction, an afflicted party, somebody who administers the relief, and an act in which you are relieved of the affliction. The reliever is the hero, and anybody who tries to stop them is the bad guy intent on keeping the affliction going. So, add "tax" to "relief" and you get a metaphor that taxation is an affliction, and anybody against relieving this affliction is a villain.”
In British politics, “investing in public services” has worked well as a frame for both Labour and in 1997 and 2001, the Liberal Democrats. You don’t “spend”; you “invest”. So, as the Conservatives learned the hard way in 2001 and 2005, if you want to spend less, you want to invest less in the services that voters use. One of Tony Blair’s favourite frames, not used by his successor, was “choice” in public services. Another was “the war”, “the clash” between the west and “Islamic extremism”. The Guardian has a table that explains what is heard when these phrases are used: that terrorists are soldiers fighting for cause; that extremism is the fault of Islam; and that homogeneous groups are involved in the “battle”. If ministers follow the phrasebook, they will abandon one of the government’s core narratives.

Over the pond, Senator Clinton is trying to frame hers as the candidacy of policy substance and Senator Obama’s as the candidacy of rhetoric. The left-leaning blog Buzzflash argues that Senator Obama and not Senator Clinton is the best candidate to both deliver the framing of progressive ideas and to change the public mindset. Whilst I have written admiringly of Senator Obama’s ability to present a powerful narrative for his candidacy, it is not (yet) clear to me that he is framing policies that are inherently progressive. As he must do at this point, he is framing himself: the candidate of change, of post-boomer era culture war politics and the embodiment of a sense of optimism about America’s future. That’s quite different to framing issues or policies.

And while we’re on the subject: have you spotted any Liberal Democrat frames lately?