The Power and the Story

What’s a good way of predicting presidential races? Find the candidate with the best story to tell.

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Forget who’s got the bigger “war chest,” it’s
the candidate with the best story to tell who’s got the real advantage in presidential politics.
Armed with this provocative thesis, historian Evan Cornog proceeds to reexamine pivotal presidential
elections as a battle between the candidates’ life narratives. Andrew Jackson, for example,
was catapulted to enduring fame (and viable candidacy) in 1815, when he triumphed over a superior
British force at the Battle of New Orleans. Never mind that the conflict, coming two weeks after
the formal conclusion of the War of 1812, was militarily irrelevant.

That story, and many that follow, in Cor- nog’s long (and repetitious)
volume point to a disturbing trend: what Cornog calls “the relative unimportance of truth.”
From George Washington’s cherry tree to George W. Bush’s conflation of 9/11 and Saddam
Hussein, it’s clear, “A good story trumps a true story almost any day.”

Cornog occasionally oversells his point, yet this is an important and
deeply disturbing work, as it fully explores the decisive power of myth in our choosing of a national
leader. This is a truly disheartening view in our media- defined era: It’s not, “May
the best man win”; it’s more like, “May the best storyteller (or spinmeister)
prevail.”

THE TRUTH IS...

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THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

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