George Lakoff, Fingernail Clipped...Or Not

Cross-posted From Patterns That Connect

People often seem to criticize George Lakoff based on their own peculiar misreadings of him.  And it's happened again over at Talk Left, in a guess commentary by Big Tent Democrat, "What Lakoff and Obama Do Not Understand" [Disclaimer: I would much rather be writing about what Obama does and does not understand, but that will have to wait.]  Curiously, Matt Stoller over at MyDD, referred to this as George Lakoff Gutted, but it's more like a fingernail clipping... that failed.

This is a very rambling, rather tangled post, that seems to have two fundamental misreadings of Lakoff at its core:

(1) It misunderstands Lakoff's criticism of issue-based attempts to target voters.  Lakoff's big picture criticism is that it misunderstands how most people think about politics. His little picture criticism is directed specifically at the laundry-list approach to trying win over swing voters.  Big Tent Democrat misconstrues it as Lakoff ignoring single-issue voters.

(2) It misunderstands why Lakoff talks about talking to conservatives.  Lakoff does so primarily because his theory explains two coherent political frameworks, liberal and conservative.  There is no coherent moderate framework.  However, moderates employ both liberal and conservative frameworks.  Thus, speaking to and countering conservative influences is a way to reach both conservatives and moderates.  Big Tent Democrat mistakenly thinks that Lakoff is ignoring moderates in favor of conservatives.

A deeper look at these misunderstandings, and more, on the flip.

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Dems = Fairness, Strength, Inspiriation for the Future

Even though in late June another Bush-Republican lie was found out--that the White House puffed up the stature of recently eliminated terrorist Zarqawi so his death could be labeled a "turning point" in Iraq (actually, it may be making things worse)--it will not greatly help Democrats' chances to take Congress in 2006's midterm elections, though it certainly doesn't hurt their chances. This is because the Zarqawi lie is yet another Bush failure that will be drummed out of the collective mind of the "United States of Amnesia" by Bush-Republican talking points and distractions dutifully echoed by the media.

However, and increasingly, Democratic leaders seem to want to do something about this situation.

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A Democratic mantra: should the government...

Toss the lofty rhetoric in the rubbish--check that--recycling bin. Or at the very least, employ the correct language to connect with the appropriate audience. To get those so-called disaffected Democrats back to the fold, dispose of 32-paragraph 'soundbites,' discard sound and sight of ANY and ALL statistics and flowcharts, deep six the PowerPoint presentations...

Go for the visceral, reach for the head, but more importantly, the heart. Offer transparent either/or propositions that paint a vivid philosophical difference. Very simplistically, here is how ANY and ALL Democrats should campaign.

   * should our government benefit the politicians in it and their friends or work for you?

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An Object Lesson in Framing

I'll leave my thoughts on Barack Obama for a different forum, but I did come across something totally unrelated.

Here are two poll questions on the same subject, by the same pollster, in the same time frame.

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Lakoff's "Whose Freedom?"

George Lakoff's new book, "Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea", is shipping from online stores. Its official pub date is the Fourth of July, but it's getting to local booksellers already.

George's contributions to the progressive movement are many. Simply by creating new awareness of how language works in politics, George has helped grassroots activists learn to frame their conversations and messages. Through his other books and his continuing work at the Rockridge Institute, he is literally rewriting the language of politics.

In the new book he points to the war over the idea of freedom. Radical conservatives are defining the concept of freedom as something narrow and mean. Their "freedom" is about obedience, not responsibility. But the American tradition has always been about freedom as responsibility and opportunity. It is a dynamic, creative force. Based on analysis of the (contested) core concept of freedom, and its variable frames, this book lays out the terms of engagement in the war over the idea of freedom.

There's more...

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