Friday, October 06, 2006

Walk the Talk, Talk the Walk!

Photo from World Can't Wait San Francisco 10/5/06

Today I'm featuring the second in a two-part series of "thinking points" from one of the nation's few progressive Think Tanks, the Rockridge Institute. The text excerpts are from linguist George Lakoff's new book, Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision, A Progressive's Handbook.

I'm interspersing this heady stuff with images from some of yesterday's anti-Bush regime marches. I attended the San Francisco march, in the rain (first of the season) and was deeply gratified to see so many high school students out in the political streets. It gives you hope, it really does. You see these "kids" know that they will be the ones left to clean up the mess that George Bush and his radical right wing warmongers are creating, and they're PISSED about it!

Lakoff's thinking points are especially relevant in light of the recent scandal rocking the GOP regarding Representative Foley's inexcusable sexual advances towards a minor working as a Congressional page.

Photo from World Can't Wait San Francisco 10/5/06

For progressives to succeed in taking back this country, we need to stay true to our values and communicate them effectively. To accomplish this mission, we need to be aware of the traps that have often tripped up progressives in the past

Six of the Twelve Traps to Avoid (I blogged about the first six HERE:)

7. The Centrist Trap

There is a common belief that there is an ideological "center"--a large group of voters either with a consistent ideology of their own or lined up left to right on the issues or forming a "mainstream," all with the same positions on issues. In fact, the so-called center is actually made up of biconceptuals, people who are conservative in some aspects of life and progressive in others. Voters who self-identify as "conservative" often have significant progressive values in important areas of life. We should address these "partial progressive" biconceptuals through their progressive identities, which are often systematic and extensive.

A common mistaken ideology has convinced many progressives that they must "move to the right" to get more votes. In reality, this is counterproductive. By moving to the right, progressives actually help activate the right's values and give up on their own. In the process, they also alienate their base.

Photo from World Can't Wait Chicago 10/5/06

8. The "Misunderestimating" Trap

Too many progressives think that people who vote conservative are just stupid, especially those who vote against their economic self-interest. Progressives believe that we only have to tell them the real economic facts, and they will change the way they vote. The reality is that those who vote conservative have their reasons, and we had better understand them. Conservative populism is cultural--not economic--in nature. Conservative populists see themselves as oppressed by elitist liberals who look down their noses at them, when they are just ordinary, moral, right-thinking folks. They see liberals as trying to impose an immoral "political correctness" on them, and they are angry about it.

Progressives also paint conservative leaders as incompetent and not very smart, based on a misunderstanding of the conservative agenda. This results from looking at conservative goals through progressive values. Looking at conservative goals through conservative values yields insight and shows just how effective conservatives really are.

Photo from World Can't Wait New York 10/5/06

9. The Reactive Trap

For the most part, we have been letting conservatives frame the debate. Conservatives are taking the initiative on policy making and getting their ideas out to the public. When progressives react, we echo the conservative frames and values, so our message is not heard or, even worse, reinforces their ideas. Progressives need a collection of proactive policies and communication techniques to get our own values out on our own terms. "War rooms" and "truth squads" must change frames, not reinforce conservative frames. But even then, they are not nearly enough. Progressive leaders, outside of any party, must come together in an ongoing, long-term, organized national campaign that honestly conveys progressive values to the public--day after day, week after week, year after year, no matter what the specific issues of the day are.

Photo from San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco 10/5/06

10. The Spin Trap

Some progressives believe that winning elections or getting public support is a matter of clever spin and catchy slogans--what we call "surface framing." Surface framing is meaningless without deep framing--our deepest moral convictions and political principles. Framing, used honestly at both the deep and surface levels, is needed to make the truth visible and our values clear. Spin, on the other hand, is the dishonest use of surface linguistic frames to hide the truth. And progressive values and principles--the deep frames--must be in place before slogans can have an effect; slogans alone accomplish nothing. Conservative slogans work because they have been communicating their deep frames for decades.

11. The Policyspeak Trap

Progressives consistently use legislative jargon and bureaucratic solutions, like "Medicare prescription drug benefits," to speak to the public about their positions. Instead, progressives should speak in terms of the common concerns of voters--for instance, how a policy will let you send your daughter to college, or how it will let you launch your own business.

Photo from World Can't Wait New York 10/5/06

12. The Blame Game Trap

It is convenient to blame our problems on the media and on conservative lies. Yes, conservative leaders have regularly lied and used Orwellian language to distort the truth, and yes, the media have been lax, repeating the conservatives' frames. But we have little control over that. We can control only how we communicate. Simply correcting a lie with the truth is not enough. We must reframe from our moral perspective so that the truth can be understood. This reframing is needed to get our deep frames into public discourse. If enough people around the country honestly, effectively, and regularly express a progressive vision, the media will be much more likely to adopt our frames.

You can download the entire first chapter, and more, at Rockridge Institute. This is a very useful manual for clear thinking and communication that progressives need to learn to use, and propagate. Read it, think on it, share it around your personal community and work it, work it, work it!

Photo from San Francisco Chronicle
Ironic sight up above the San Francisco protest 10/05/06

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