March 23, 2005

Seeking Cover


Feeding off on the current Lakoff craze, the latest issue of The New Republic has a cover story by Robert Reich about “the lost art of Democratic narrative.”  In the piece, Reich proposes a series of “story lines” the Dems can use to better package their policies.

As you probably know, language framing has become the new panacea for the party.  This concept is getting so much play, just yesterday the NYT had a front page article about the semantic battle over “private” versus “personal” savings accounts.

Nothing against verbal politics, but here at the BAG, our interest is in the visual narrative.  Specifically, I was wondering about the rendering of this book, and the possible (if unintended) symbolism of TNR’s photo illustration. 

For example, what does it say about the Democratic party and the problems it faces that this edition is so old and yellowed? 

Maybe the party believes it can be a bestseller again just by updating its language.  But what if the problem is more structural than that?  What if the emphasis on changing a few words around is as logical as trying to insert a new title page smack in the middle of a book?

Could another inference here be that the party has grown too quaint?  Doesn’t the title “Story Time,” and the cute little drawing of the White House, suggest a children’s book or a fairy tale?  (Could you imagine such a layout illustrating the party of Bush, Cheney, Frist and DeLay?!) 


And, what do you make of this particular White House?  (Could it be that the party’s been leaning too much on FDR lately?)

There are still other elements that are either confusing, or seem to bode ill.  For example, why does the quality of the type (which doesn’t look quite this bad on the original cover) look like cheap laser print?  Does it imply these ideas for changing the party lack weight or impression? 

And, why is this image so dark? 

Finally, what’s with that lonely bit of type on the facing page?  Although it’s obscured, the layout and style seems completely inconsistent with the title page.  …But maybe that’s the fundamental problem with the Democrats.  Maybe its a party with so many stories, it’s virtually impossible to bind together into a single text. 

(photo illustration: The New Republic)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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