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Democrats Need Better Stories

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Humans are drawn to narratives, but too many politicians struggle to use storytelling to find common ground.

About the author: Molly Jong-Fast is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the author of its newsletter Wait, What? She is also the host of The New Abnormal and a columnist for Vogue.

It’s unusual for a one-off political speech to make someone famous. This is especially the case in today’s toxic fog of disinformation and apathy. But last week a Democratic state senator named Mallory McMorrow from Royal Oak, Michigan, somehow broke through when she stood up on the floor of the Michigan Senate and defended herself against smears from another state senator, Lana Theis, who wrote in a fundraising email that Democrats like McMorrow “are outraged they can’t teach can’t groom and sexualize kindergartners or that 8-year-olds are responsible for slavery.”

McMorrow laid out the absurd charges against her, and she did so on personal terms—telling a story about her own childhood before describing the obligation she feels to call out the tactics of politicians like Theis. “I am a straight, white, Christian, married suburban mom … I want every child in this state to feel seen, heard, and supported, not marginalized and targeted because they are not straight, white, and Christian. We cannot let hateful people tell you otherwise to scapegoat and deflect from the fact that they are not doing anything to fix the real issues that impact people’s lives. And I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen.”

Conor Friedersdorf: That’s not what grooming means

McMorrow’s remarks were memorable because she was tenacious in her delivery, but also because Democrats tend not to defend themselves in this way. More often, they ignore scurrilous attacks. They take the high road, whatever that means, with very mixed results. Think of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which helped derail John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004, or the conspiracy theories about the Benghazi embassy attack, which hurt Hillary Clinton’s........

© The Atlantic

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