"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Saturday, May 22, 2004

Using language to dominate politics

George Lakoff, via Keith ray...

Do any of the Democratic Presidential candidates grasp the importance of framing?

None. They don't get it at all. But they're in a funny position. The framing changes that have to be made are long-term changes. The conservatives understood this in 1973. By 1980 they had a candidate, Ronald Reagan, who could take all this stuff and run with it. The progressives don't have a candidate now who understands these things and can talk about them. And in order for a candidate to be able to talk about them, the ideas have to be out there. You have to be able to reference them in a sound bite...

Conservative foundations give large block grants year after year to their think tanks. They say, 'Here's several million dollars, do what you need to do.' And basically, they build infrastructure, they build TV studios, hire intellectuals, set aside money to buy a lot of books to get them on the best-seller lists, hire research assistants for their intellectuals so they do well on TV, and hire agents to put them on TV. They do all of that. Why? Because the conservative moral system, which I analyzed in "Moral Politics," has as its highest value preserving and defending the "strict father" system itself. And that means building infrastructure. As businessmen, they know how to do this very well.

Meanwhile, liberals' conceptual system of the "nurturant parent" has as its highest value helping individuals who need help. The progressive foundations and donors give their money to a variety of grassroots organizations. They say, 'We're giving you $25,000, but don't waste a penny of it. Make sure it all goes to the cause, don't use it for administration, communication, infrastructure, or career development.' So there's actually a structural reason built into the worldviews that explains why conservatives have done better.


Anonymous said...

In essence this argument retreads "liberals need to become more like conservatives"

if the problem is built into the dominant worldview how does he suppose it should be fixed, he doesn't, instead he argues that liberals should act as if they had a conservative worldview. I don't think that kind of thing works in the long run, and it's the long run he suggests is needed.

Anonymous said...

Lakoff is not saying that Democrats need to be become conservatives. He is pointing out that the conservatives adopted a stategy starting in 1973 that is successful -- being very organized in defining the terms of political debate. This stategy is relatively new, and not "built-in" to the conservative mindset.

He points out that liberals think that just pointing out the facts is enough. He alludes to the liberals mindset as being descended from the Enlightenment philosphers (several of whom helped create the USA) -- he doesn't mention (but should) that back in the days of the Enlightenment, the liberals were defining the terms of political debate - "Natural rights" (as opposed to "God-given rights"), "social contract" (as opposed to "divine right of kings"), and so on.

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.