Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy for president has hit a rough patch. This week The New Yorker asked, “Can Beto Bounce Back?” He’s got one clear problem — his speeches lack narrative depth. The article alludes to it. His scores for the Narrative Index point the same way — stuck in dullsville.
NARRATIVE INDEX (NI) is the ratio of the word “but” in the speech to the word “and” multiplied by 100 to make it a round number. The AND FREQUENCY (AF) is the number of occurrences of the word “and” divided by the total number of words in the speech.
ANEMIC NARRATIVE SCORES
Next week I will be releasing my new eBook, “Narrative Is Everything,” on Amazon and elsewhere. It will, at last, be the in-depth presentation of 4 years now of calculating the Narrative Index (But/And ratio) for everything from political speeches and editorials to novels and Nobel Laureate addresses.
The Narrative Index is a robust reflection of narrative depth. Speeches that score above 20 generally present strong, compelling arguments. Speeches that score below 10 don’t. It’s that simple.
I’ve found the transcripts for two significant speeches so far from Beto O’Rourke — his concession speech last November and his announcement speech in March in El Paso, Texas. The latter provides a solid amount of text at over 4,000 words. The signs are not good.
Not only is a Narrative Index of 13 pretty limp, more concerning is the And Frequency of 4.0. That’s getting up to the level of government reports (read the stuff about the World Bank in 2017 for background on the And Frequency). Good speeches score over 15 for the Narrative Index. Well edited texts score very close to 2.5 for the And Frequency (you can read about this in the Stanford Literary Lab study of World Bank reports by Moretti and Pestri).
HE’S NOT DIGGING DEEP
Look at this first line of the New Yorker article: “It’s not easy to get Beto O’Rourke to speak disparagingly about anyone.”
That’s bad. Nice guys finish last. He’d better start identifying problems, then getting specific about who is causing them and proposing how to confront them. That’s what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been doing all along — it’s called fighting, and it’s what’s needed.
But for now he might as well be reading the phone book to audiences.