How does that work with Bush, though? He no consistent narrative and won twice. Gore did have a pretty good narrative, but lost. Well, maybe he didn’t lose, maybe it was the hanging chads, but either way Gore had the narrative there.
So I don’t think it’s as simple as the narrative. And maybe you can credit Bush’s second win to 9/11 and a swing to conservatism, but again it kinda looks to me like Kerry had the narrative, and was underdone by straightforwardly false allegations (the whole “Swift Boat” pack of lies, which a responsible media would have rapidly debunked, but instead the US media decided it got people watching, so kept pushing it. The allegations were quickly proven completely false after the election, I note.). So I would say Kerry had the narrative - including a familiar-seeming slogan “Let America be America Again” (!!!), but a straightforward smear campaign destroyed that narrative.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kerry_military_service_controversy in case you’re wondering.)
So when you say “Hillary didn’t have a narrative”, well, it’s not entirely untrue, but she lost by such a small margin that I cannot see how you can seriously claim that as the key factor (if you are). Comey 2.0 seems to be the main thing that, had it not happened, she wouldn’t have lost. Just change that, and the narrative doesn’t matter.
However I agree re: this:
Indeed. None of them had a narrative the resonated with the mostly-white, mostly-male, mostly-older, mostly-better-off Republican voter. I’d say Rubio (just as thick as Trump, note) might have had a stronger personal narrative, a strong “Why am I here?”, but he’s Latino and… I don’t think that was ever going to fly.
One of the most amazing things is how far Cruz got, given he gives ever appearance of being an Alien Robot. It’s like if John Redwood was seriously up for leader of the Tory party or something.
This is interesting, because it means that by “bad” you’re not talking about a moral or even really ethical kind of bad, which is perhaps the root of all the confusion here.
Re: can’t sell pragmatism, I don’t think it’s as simple as that, but I think pragmatism only sells if the electorate have been through some serious shit lately, and just want sensible things to happen. Also it can be very easy to package pragmatism well, but you have to focus on how it’s going to benefit people, not on how cool it makes the leader.
I mean, look at ol’ Tone and his lot. They were basically selling pragmatism, when the Tories were rudderless and ideological (as they are once more - I’m not sure they ever stopped being, not fully, not since Thatcher), but they packaged it in very much the same manner Obama did. Not “I’m so cool!”, but rather “You will see a better world through these sensible measures”.
As for presupposition, well, I think you underestimate the media’s role there and overstate the politicians’. The media continually telling people the result will be one way or another is hugely problematic. I kind of feel like maybe opinion polls should be banned for like, 3 months before an election or referendum. Of course that’s terribly anti-free-speech of me…
(That said Cameron et al clearly did view Brexit as a prefunctory sort of thing.)