Friday, July 14, 2017


Democrats are frustrated.  They believe the facts are on their side, but voters persist in giving power to the Republicans, even against their own economic self interest.  George Lakoff argues that facts and reasoning are not enough, but that there is a way to better understand how to influence voters.  Words count.

Reasoning is the main weapon of the Democrats, but they overlook the critical role of emotions.  The conscious reasoning process is already lagging behind the unconscious reflex process.  The unconscious mind is the base for much of our conscious decisions.  There is discussion of neural connections and how everything fits into established unconscious patterns.

Lakoff divides voters into two main camps--conservatives and progressives, but very definitely allowing that most people have a little bit of both tendencies.  There are words and images that tie to one "frame" and over a period of time can steer us in a direction.  If you listen you will notice that the Republicans use a well defined frame for their policies and criticisms.  Although no one is all conservative or all progressive in their thinking, we can be steered to accept views that are not totally compatible.

Conservatives are authoritarian and favour a strict father while progressives are more nurturing parents.  Discipline is admired as is loyalty by conservative.  An example is that when Bush pardoned Scooter Libby for taking the rap for disclosing a secret service employee (Valerie Plame) the conservatives admire the loyalty displayed.  Masculinity (including what I call machoism) is part of the same package.

A favorite word of conservatives is "entitlements" and they have even been able to get Democrats to use the term.  It infers that safety net items are luxuries that should not be taken for granted, instead of something voters help pay for.

A pet theme of conservatives is that regulations stifle business.  De-regulating is a stated goal of Republicans, but if you examine the issue what they really mean is the regulations that cut their ability to maximize profits.  A progressive view is that they are really protections.  Lakoff contends that if politicians always counter with the word "protection" voters would eventually realize they have a stake in the issue--their health, their financial security and their safety.  It really is a life and death issue, but Republicans have succeeded in picturing regulations as harmful.

Another beef he has is that conservatives are always wanting to privatize different functions on the premise that private business can do it more efficiently.  The problem from Lakoff's view is that the government has a mission to protect citizens while private businesses have profit as the highest priority.  These two goals are often in conflict.  One example of privatizing:  Black Water started by Erik Prince (brother to Betsy De Vos who wants to privatize education) contracts military services, but are not accountable.  It has changed ownership and names, but still active.

9-11 was initially termed a crime, but was soon converted to terrorism and the government adopted war powers putting Democrats on the defense.  Criticism was regarded as unpatriotic and many people suffered.

The Bad Apple defense is often used by conservatives.   A few underlings with little authority take the blame, not the organizers/designers.  One example was the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.  The big decisions were made at the presidential, cabinet minister level, but they were not punished.  Instead the focus was on low level employees.

Still another abused term is "Job Creators" who are pictured as the over taxed citizens who would start up factories, etc if they had the money when in fact no jobs are created without consumers spending money.  Usually poor people when given a little extra money are more likely to spend it than the rich who just gain a bigger cushion and the ability to better protect their greedy interests.

At the same time government jobs don't count.  Overlooking the fact that not only do their employees spend money, but they facilitate a wide range of market activities whether teachers, police, researchers, infrastructure workers or even bureaucrats.

Taxes are always bad and progressives are criticized as spendthrifts who take hard earned money from deserving people and waste it.  Expenditures should be seen as investments--facilitating and protecting.  Yes there is waste and government which is accountable to the voters must make efforts to control waste.

Metaphors are a critical tool we all use to make sense of things.  Republicans have mastered many of them.  Check

"The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt provides another perspective to my way of thinking.  It demonstrates some of the underlying differences that voters start with.  He is sympathetic to conservatives, but I think explains their base.

Paraphrasing Bill Clinton, "As we all become more interdependent we are more inclined to look for win-win solutions instead of win-lose."  It reminds me of  Stephen R Covey and the fear Republicans spout about dependency.

Deregulation and privatizing mark a shift from a government with accountability to the public to a government (private business) without accountability to the public--from a government with a moral mission to a government with a mission of maximizing profit.

I would like to leave with a link to George Lakoff's thoughts on how Trump triumphed (over reason). From this link you can learn more Lakoff's thoughts on other political matters.

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