Tag Archive: George Lakoff

Why conservatives love killer cops

Rally for Michael Brown, Minneapolis, MN

Rally for Michael Brown, Minneapolis, MN

Two months ago, we heard from Democratic framing and messaging guru George Lakoff, who reminded us about his “Strict Father” model for conservatives. This Strict Father mindset, which idolizes authoritarian figures who criticize poor people and advocate the use of force, is playing out in conservative and Republican reactions to police violence against blacks, and the resulting protests currently taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, Berkeley, California and elsewhere. In short, the conservative Strict Father mindset, which encompasses a “Scary Brown People” sub-theme, is a key reason why many conservatives side with cops and others who kill unarmed black men.

Conference call with George Lakoff, Democratic messaging guru

Democratic messaging guru George Lakoff

Democratic messaging guru George Lakoff

Last Tuesday, Democracy For America held a conference call featuring Democratic messaging guru George Lakoff and Nina Turner, current State Senator and Democratic candidate for Secretary of State from Ohio. The subject of the call was how to frame the Democratic Party message for the 2014 and 2016 elections.

The news still skews Republican

Messaging Matters2

The very first post at Messaging Matters noted that many issues in the news seem to skew Republican. That was nearly three years ago, and it’s still the case. Many of the so-called major news stories of 2013 were ginned up by Republicans: Obamacare website glitches, Benghazi, IRS “scandal,” etc. Even the New York Times, supposedly the bastion of liberal media, fell for these Republican-created news memes. And how about the lineups of the Sunday morning talk shows? This year, only the GOP Shutdown seemed to favor the Democrats.

Two Conservative arguments for gun control

The tragic killings of children in Newtown, Connecticut seem to have set off a noisy political debate over gun laws, perhaps more than previous mass shootings such as those in Aurora, Colorado and Tucson, Arizona. However, many of the arguments are likely to fall along the same lines as always, which could lead to the usual gridlock and inaction. To break this gridlock, advocates for stronger gun laws might benefit from two frames long used by conservatives:

1. “Law and Order”

Conservatives (and the Republican Party that they dominate) have long tried to claim the mantle of the party of “law and order.” Then-candidate Richard M. Nixon successfully ran for and won the Presidentcy on a “law and order” platform in 1968, as America was being roiled by anti-Vietnam War protests and the killings of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. The death toll from the mass shootings of recent years far exceeds that of the events of 1968, thus we have more of a “law and order” problem today.

Likewise, the flip side of “law and order” is the charge that Republicans leveled against Democrats for years, i.e., that they were “soft on crime.” Also, note that being for “law and order” precisely fits framing guru George Lakoff‘s “strict father” paradigm which dominates among conservatives and Republicans, and which includes adherence to the “rule of law.” The “soft on crime” charge can be leveled against conservatives who fail to support reasonable steps to reduce gun crimes and maintain “law and order” in our streets and our schools.

Those who want to advocate for sensible gun laws (e.g., reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban, closing the “gun show loophole,” and establishing an effective database to prevent persons who have been ruled mentally incompetent from purchasing guns) are usually thought of as liberal. The “law and order” approach can turn this stereotype on its head, and maybe even attract a few conservatives or independents to the cause.

2. “Right to Life”

The Declaration of Independence contains the famous phrase: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Likewise, the Constitution contains references to the right to life. Conservatives have glommed onto the “right to life” phrase to push for the outlawing of abortion. They strongly stand for the right to life — of fetuses. Once those fetuses are born, not so much.

However, advocates for sensible gun laws can argue for such laws based on the “right to life” of children and other would-be victims of mass shooters. This is especially apparent in a case like Newtown, where such a large portion of those killed were small children, gunned down in their classrooms. If you make the argument that these kids and their teachers and principals had a “right to life” or even a right to “freedom” — another favorite conservative word — from crazed gunmen with easy access to military-style assault weapons, the good Christians and other conservatives who advocate for the “right to life” of fetuses could have a hard time explaining why kids who were fetuses just a few years earlier don’t deserve the same protections.

Based on the lack of results on gun control over the past decade under the traditional approach, there’s no harm in giving these arguments a try and reporting back here as to what kind of reaction you receive.

Political Phrases Used by Democrats

A year ago, we posted the list of Political Phrases Used by Republicans. These are words and phrases the Republicans use and repeat in order to tilt the political playing field in their favor. We expressed the desire to create a similar list of Democratic and progressive phrases, but feared there were too few even to make a list.

Now, a year later, we dare to begin creating the list of phrases that Democrats use, or should use, to help level the playing field against the Republicans. Thus far, however, the list is modest, which is precisely why we wrote A Messaging Manifesto For Democrats. Therefore, we ask for your suggestions in the comments (or via Twitter) as to additional phrases that the Democrats either (a) are using, or (b) should use, and we’ll add the appropriate ones to the list. Hopefully, this list will at some point begin to approach the Republican list in length and effectiveness.

Also, when you compare the Democratic and Republican lists, notice the differences. Democrats tend to focus on things like hope, family, and health, while Republicans focus a lot on life vs. death and good vs. evil. This precisely reflects the competing Democrats’ “nurturing parent” and Republican “strict father” models identified by linguistics professor and political language guru George Lakoff.

Here’s the list:

On Democratic Messaging, Great Minds Think Alike

We’ve been writing and speaking about the Democratic Party’s need for better messaging efforts for a good two years, and have been focusing on it for much longer than that. We wrote “A Messaging Manifesto For Democrats” in 2010. We’ve repeatedly cited UC Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff and his book “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” for its all-important discussion of issue framing. Sometimes it’s been a lonely effort.

Not any more.

A few days ago, a post by blogger Jill Klausen entitled “5 Words and Phrases Democrats Should Never Say Again” appeared on the influential Crooks and Liars political blog. The post talked about the need for sharp, effective Democratic messaging, and even mentioned George Lakoff. Now others are getting in on the act too.

We welcome this growing effort by Democrats (and progressives who may not call themselves Democrats) to recognize the need to compete with the Republican Party’s effective message machine. Democrats perhaps are at a disadvantage in this area, because we think for ourselves, have lots of good ideas, and don’t fall in line easily. Nevertheless, these efforts at improving political communication by and for Democrats are critical, and if we join our efforts together, they will become even more powerful. And we’re going to join together. Stay tuned.

A Messaging Manifesto For Democrats

The summer of 2010 was the second summer in a row in which Democrats lost control of the political message, and the news cycle. Given the 2010 election results, how did that work for you?

What’s the Problem?

In the summer of 2009, Republicans and their Tea Party surrogates took over Congressional town hall meetings, repeating false phrases such as “government-run health care.” Democrats dawdled for weeks, and when they finally responded, all they could muster was “no it isn’t.” Guess who won that battle? The “health care reform” law passed by the Democrats who control Congress and the presidency was severely watered down.