"Narrative imperialism" is a phrase coined by literary scholar James Phelan to describe the reduction of strings of narratives to a single story, an objection to if not a rejection of the notion of narrative identity—the idea that, as Oliver Sacks wrote, "Each of us is a singular narrative." I believe both things are true: We construct ourselves as a narrative to make sense of our lives (narrative identity), and we impose a narrative grid on things we can't explain (narrative imperialism). The reaction of different acolytes to the caucus is a perfect example of the latter.
Even Trump has now created his own story around his second-place loss. His story has become: I did not lose; my win was stolen from me. It's a perfect example of narrative imperialism, at least as I understand Phelan's construct. Trump's narrative identity is: I am a winner. The Iowa loss doesn't fit. Therefore, I cannot have lost, a villain must exist who stole the election. Luckily for Trump, Cruz makes an excellent villain.
Elections are competitions, or struggles, between opposing forces. The way we humans construct stories, if you're not the protagonist, or hero, and you are in opposition to the hero, as in an election campaign, you must be the antagonist, or villain. This is a ridiculously simplistic way to look at a complex contest, but it's drilled into us from childhood and passed down from the ancient past. It explains why certain people scoff at the notion of supporting whomever emerges victorious from the Democratic primaries. How could we ever support the villain of our tale?
We hire pollsters because we want to be able to predict the plots of our stories. We rely on the media to shape complicated contests into simple tales.
The results of the Iowa caucus were confounding enough to send story-lovers scrambling for a story grid to impose upon the outcome. It is unacceptable for a hero and villain to be as evenly matched as the two Democratic candidates were. The Hillary narrative became: She won handily. The Bernie narrative became: The results are debatable. Plot points abounded: Coin tosses! Blizzards! Bad polling!