2016 has come and gone. It was a year full of notable deaths. From Justice Antonin Scalia to the inventor of the singular red plastic cup, it was a year that seemed to spare no one.
The most outpouring of emotion came when Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher died on December 27 and her mother and fellow actress, Debbie Reynolds, passed away the following day. Their deaths were met with cries of how 2016 was possibly the worst year ever.
For some people talks of 2016 being the worst year ever were absurd. Mourning the deaths of people of whom you never met was equally absurd. They also criticize calling 2016 the “worst year ever” because 2016 could never compete with 1914 or 1939, just to name a few.
I will have to admit to not being a Star Wars fan. I got roped into watching The Force Awakens on the condition there would be pizza. That is the extent of my Star Wars “knowledge.” Many people have had a different experience. Clearly, Fisher’s portrayal of Princess Leia meant something to a lot of people, but why?
Put simply, stories and the characters within them can convey a message better than a lecture. Nobody ever switched political affiliations because of a Paul Ryan press conference where he sounds like an economics professor, even if everything he says about taxes or entitlement spending is true.
Every four years, with last year being the ultimate example, those of us who consider ourselves political nerds bemoan the lack focus on issues during a campaign. We want a debate over the issues, not whose character when it comes to sexual assault is least repulsive.
However, come General Election time, the number of people who decide on who to vote for based on a side-by-side comparison of pie charts, line graphs, bar charts, or spreadsheets is so small it’s almost comical.
The overwhelming majority of “normal” voters do not know why China is significant in our approach to North Korea, nor do they care. Those of us who identify as foreign policy wonks can talk about China as it relates to North Korea for hours, but by August we have likely decided who we are voting for.
For years, the Republican Party intelligentsia thought the key to winning undecided voters was to nominate moderates. This belief was part of the justification behind the nominations of John McCain and Mitt Romney. The assumption being that undecided voters actually care about the political spectrum.
Many people, including yours truly, thought Trump was the least likely Republican to win, but he did, in part because of his storytelling. He told a story of a cabal of corporations and bought-off politicians who were out to screw the hardworking voters in the Rust Belt by moving their jobs to China or Mexico. It did not matter that his 1930’s economic policies contributed to The Great Depression, the story of a crumbling Rust Belt outweighed economic realities and lectures on the value of free trade.
Stories are full of emotion and, as a general rule, conservatives are adverse to emotionalism. Emotion leads to passion, and in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Passion governs, and she never governs wisely.” We like to say that your emotions do not change the facts. Conservatives should not throw their desire to pursue objective truths away, but should apply those truths in a way that connects with people.