George Lakoff on the Narrative of a Democratic Realignment
George Lakoff has weighed in with his analysis of the November elections at the Rockridge Institute (and in a Daily Kos diary). He offers some thought-provoking notions on the competition between self-styled centrists and economic populists to claim credit for the Democratic victory, but I'd like to focus in particular on some passages that
boost my ego echo themes I've addressed frequently in the past few months:
. . . the new members of Congress did better than their predecessors at communicating their values to the public. Not much has been said about it, but they successfully reframed public debate and did so in the best way: they framed reality accurately.
. . . Framing raises the issue of moral worldviews and overall values and principles, and they in turn raise the question of what values lie behind policy prescriptions.
. . . Neuroscientists know that there are two conditions for change in the synapses: repetition and trauma. The campaign provided the repetition through ads and campaign speeches. And three realities created traumas for the American public: Katrina and the floating bodies, Iraq and the bodies blown to bits, and the systematic financial and moral corruption represented by DeLay, Abramoff, and Foley. The new Democratic winners didn't shrink from pointing to those traumas, nor did they soft-pedal their progressive views. They created a narrative of good guys who care and bad guys who don't; good guys who use government to get things done for people and bad guys who are out to destroy government and don't get things done.
Anyone who remembers my series of posts on the language of a Democratic realignment will recognize the concepts of connecting reality to moral values, and not just having policy stands but being the kind of people who take care of the people's business. This is the first time I've seen Lakoff go beyond the theoretical realm (exploring the difference between conversative and progressive values) to the practical (using reality to convince voters that one set of values is better at delivering what they want), and I'm glad to see that our interpretations are in sync.
(One thing I hadn't thought of, but find intriguing, is his scientist's take on how the GOP narrative crumbled, compared to my comparatively results-oriented views about betrayal of trust and the inability to provide order.)
Lakoff notes toward the end of his analysis that "The goal is not just to move the Democrats in a more progressive direction, but to move Republicans and independents in that direction as well. The idea is to benefit the nation, not just the party." I can't think of a better shorthand definition of the kind of "bipartisanship" and "governing from the center" that the new Democratic Congress should pursue.