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Why It Works

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A phrase like 'civil rights' can work because it calls to mind familiar themes in our shared national 'story.' The enduring American 'story' is actually a collection of mini-narratives about who we are as a people, who we want to be, how we get there, how we do things, what works for us, and how we succeed. Though not all of these mini-narratives express progressive values, many do. All of these story elements are usually expressed by shorthand in everyday communication—for example, demanding that we 'play by the rules' about something is one of the most commonly used American political phrases. We all know it means 'play fair' in a cooperative, team way when we hear it.- Link to the next section of this essay: What the 'American Story' Includes