How Liberals Dominate the Public Debate
According to former Green Jobs Czar Van Jones, the Democrats have a linguistics “Jedi” named George Lakoff (rhymes with back off), a Professor of Linguistics at U.C. Berkeley. He advises Democrats on how to win in the political arena by controlling the language. Lakoff's theory -- according to his Little Blue Book -- is that people use metaphors or narratives make decisions about politics. The way liberals frame issues in narratives undermines conservative’s positions in a subtle way that lets Democrats easily defend their disastrous policies.
Here are ten examples:
10) ObamaCare – At one point, the president embraced the word “ObamaCare”. It is the frame for the Affordable Care Act as “Obama given healthcare”. Then, the website debacle and the lies about “keeping your doctor” and “keeping your plan” began to tarnish the word by proxy. Obama dumped the frame went back to the “Affordable Care Act”. The media quickly followed.
9) Progressives – The “liberal” label has lost its glow, so it is back to “progressive” from Woodrow Wilson’s policies of the early 1900s. They choose “Progressive” because it implies that opponents are regressive. Same hula dance, different grass skirt.
8) Tea Baggers -- The Tea Party is overwhelmingly made of decent Americans who believe they have been Taxed Enough Already (TEA), are called "Tea Baggers" (A sexually offensive term) even by Biden. They are the moral opposite of the crude, law-breaking left’s Occupy Wall Street crowd.
7) Pro-Choice -- The term "pro-choice" frames those who are champion abortion-on-demand as defenders of a woman’s “right” to choose. Maybe the "war on the unborn" would be an effective Republican frame.
6) Trickle down -- The “trickle down” frame paints a picture of money trickling into the economy as the rich pay for their indulgences. This is just wrong. The rich are usually successful business owners. They invest in their successful businesses, while others spend more of their money on products made in China from Walmart. Investing in successful businesses creates a higher multiplier effect by creating jobs both directly and indirectly. They hire more employees. Their employees purchase things from other businesses. These businesses can then hire more people and create even more jobs. The suppliers to a successful business also grow. Increasing tax rates, leaves successful business owners with less invest and the employees less to spend. It is a damper on the multiplier effect. The job growth and the economy suffer.
5) Capitalism -- Capitalism was Marx and Lenin's derogatory term for the free enterprise or entrepreneurial system. Even conservatives use this term too frequently. The “capitalism” frame credits the money (aka capital) for a business’s success rather the entrepreneur, who puts his money, sweat and reputation on the line to create a company. The USA is a free enterprise, constitutional republic.
4) War on Women – The war on women is an effective narrative. Any opposition to a Democrat proposal that benefits primarily women is a "war on women." When for moral reasons, Hobby Lobby didn't want to pay for the birth control methods that caused a fertilized egg to abort (morning after pills) but were willing to pay for the other 28 methods, it was a "war on women". The hysteria was over the top as libs cried that women’s reproductive rights were under assault!
3) 1% -- The narrative is: “the top 1% have all the money, so there is little left for other 99%.” The top 1% pays more in taxes than the bottom 90%, but that is not enough for the Democrats. They attack the 1%, and if the greedy Democrats could, they would tax the heck out of the top 49%. The other 51% would keep them in office.
2) Racist -- The most difficult to defend frame is the charge of "racist' especially made by an African-American. It is their most effective frame. When conservatives oppose any proposed social program that benefits African-Americans more than others, they are called "racist". Opposing President Obama or Eric Holder is racist. When the Bush administration tried to investigate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that was racist. The investigation could have saved hundreds of billions.
1) Democracy – The liberals frame America as a Democracy. It is a constitutional republic. The Democrats are delighted that the media refers to the USA as a democracy -- a term that is nearly identical to the term “Democrat”. In a child’s mind, the obvious choice in a democracy is to be a Democrat. In a democracy, the majority gets what it wants. In our constitutional republic, the minority's rights are guaranteed in the constitution and are protected by the courts. The USA has never been a democracy.
"…Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote." Marvin Simkin -- LA Times 1992.
The Republicans have a few. Communist and socialist frames don’t pack much of a punch anymore. The sympathetic press marginalized “communist” on the excesses of Senator Joe McCarthy. Calling someone a communist has such old-fogy, Cold-War ring to it. You rarely see it. The communist goal of a centrally-controlled State run economy can be more easily accomplished with socialism using taxes and regulations.
Post-Vietnam, liberal college professors eroded the term “socialist”. Many of the young now embrace the term.
The Benghazi and “IRS” abuse frames still have legs, but before long, because they are pressed by racist Republicans who are engaged in a “war on women”; they will lose their power. The media will not press on the side of the Republicans. These words will at some point become benign. People stopped caring about “Fast and Furious” long ago. Who knew that people so passively accept NSA spying? They did when the press quickly dropped it as an issue.
Lakoff thought that Republicans referring to the liberals “safety net” frame as a “hammock” was an effective counter frame. His advice is to ignore right-wing frames and narratives. Change the conversation! Have you noticed how quickly the conversation changes every time the Democrats hit a policy land mine? See Fast and Furious, IRS abuse, spying on reporters, record people on food stamps, record people not employed, record people on disability, NSA spying, Obamacare lies, Obamacare site failure, Benghazi, Syria red line, Russian annexation of Crimea, failure in Egypt, failure in Libya, and Russian attacks on the Ukraine. They usually fall back on old narratives about a Bush, Rove, or Cheney being war criminals or profiting from the war, or to the narrative that to criticize Obama (or Holder) is racist.
Predictably today, a Dick Cheney meme arrived on my FB feed that said “My company made 39.5 billion… U.S. Tax Dollars off a lie”. You would think they would be reacting to Obama's sudden decision to go back into Iraq and attack ISIS in Syria. Committing U.S. troops to battle does not fit their narrative. So, they are ignoring it -- just as Lakoff recommended. This meme is reinforcing the narrative that it is Republicans are war mongers. It is not true. Since 1900, Democrats have involved the U.S. in many more major wars: WWI, WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War. The Republicans: Iraq I and Iraq II, and Afghanistan.
I did not waste my time responding. The best defense is a strong offense.
Our narrative should be Obama is endorsing Bush’s war to remove Saddam. Saddam was 10 times the threat of ISIS. According to the Duelfer report, the same report that found no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam had retained his chemical warfare scientists and would rebuild his arsenal when sanctions were lifted. I should be holding Obama’s feet to the fire on this instead of defending Cheney.
Right now Democrats own the vocabulary and own the debate. This can change. We must create narratives of our strengths. The Democrats are willing to let our country decay into a generation of the jobless geeks playing video games in their parent’s basement. The Democrats are beating down ambition with taxes, regulations and criticism of the successful. The Democrats label those who have reached lofty goals as greedy. The Democrats are letting our country become a morass of a self-indulgent cynicism as they beat us up over long ago actions that they now judge as injustices.
We need to set the record straight.
We need to do it often. "A lie told often enough becomes the truth." In today’s upside-down world we must tell the truth often enough until it becomes the truth.