Streams

How Democrats Frame Issues

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Elisabeth Wehling, political strategist and researcher of linguistics, and George Lakoff, Cognitive Science and Linguistics professor at the University of California, Berkley, discuss their book, The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic, and explain how Democrats can communicate their moral values clearly and forcefully in a way that sets them apart from their GOP counterparts.

 

→ Screening Room: The Videos George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling Analyzed

Guests:

George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

Comments [37]

While we're waiting for "amalgam" to update his talking points, would it be interesting to consider the ways that Mr. Lakoff can be compared to a modern day Fagin for the self-designated, progressive crowd.

"Fagin (play /ˈfeɪɡɪn/) is a fictional character who appears as an antagonist of the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, . . .
Born in London, Fagin is described as "grotesque" to look at. He is the leader of a group of children, the Artful Dodger and Charley Bates among them, whom he teaches to make their livings by pickpocketing and other criminal activities in exchange for a roof over their heads. A distinguishing trait is his constant—and thoroughly insincere—use of the phrase "my dear" when addressing others. At the time of the novel, he is said by another character, Monks, to have already made criminals out of "scores" of children who grow up to live—or die—committing the same crimes as adults. Bill Sikes, one of the major villains of the novel, is hinted to be one of Fagin's old pupils, and Nancy, Sikes' prostitute, clearly was.

"Whilst portrayed as relatively humorous, he is nonetheless a self-confessed miser who, despite the amount he has acquired over the years from the work of others, does very little to improve the squalid lives of the children he takes in . . . "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fagin

Jul. 28 2012 11:42 PM

(Luke 12:48; King James version): "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required."

Gee, Amalgan,

That's what I call "almost specific."
If scriptural sloganeering is your preferred m.o., can we know who the good Luke, or the Lord he purports to be quoting, was recognizing as the "Giver"? (I'm assuming that it would be the same agent as the one doing the "requiring"? - please correct me if I'm in error about that.)

I don't think you need to be "religious" to answer that quertion, and your answer should not be taken as any admission on your part of any agreement with their faith.

I suppose it is permissible to bolster the "righteousness" of the assertion, with the authority of a righteous leader - somehow JFK does not quite measure up ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/reliable-source/post/jfk-intern-mimi-alford-shares-story-of-her-affair-with-kennedy-in-new-book-relevant-historian-robert-dallek-says-yes/2012/02/06/gIQAFgF1uQ_blog.html ).[or was the point of his "asking" the 19 year old intern to "service" his aide and his brother merely an opportunity for paying back the "much" she had received?]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oj3VphK9AMk

- https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/553132_413086932061360_1316713539_n.jpg -

Jul. 26 2012 05:33 PM

(Luke 12:48; King James version): "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required."

Gee, Amalgan,

That's what I call "almost specific."
If scriptural sloganeering is your preferred m.o., can we know who the good Luke, or the Lord he purports to be quoting, was recognizing as the "Giver"? (I'm assuming that it would be the same agent as the one doing the "requiring"? - please correct me if I'm in error about that.)

I don't think you need to be "religious" to answer that quertion, and your answer should not be taken as any admission on your part of any agreement with their faith.

I suppose it is permissible to bolster the "righteousness" of the assertion, with the authority of a righteous leader - somehow JFK does not quite measure up ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/reliable-source/post/jfk-intern-mimi-alford-shares-story-of-her-affair-with-kennedy-in-new-book-relevant-historian-robert-dallek-says-yes/2012/02/06/gIQAFgF1uQ_blog.html ).[or was the point of his "asking" the 19 year old intern to "service" his aide and his brother merely an opportunity for paying back the "much" she had received?]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oj3VphK9AMk

- https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/553132_413086932061360_1316713539_n.jpg -

Jul. 26 2012 05:32 PM
jawbone

http://wonkette.com/479190/romney-hates-olympic-athletes-in-addition-to-poors-blinds-gays-and-welfare-moms

Wonkette found this little gem from Romney's past. Looks like Romney'll need to lift the plastic on the Etch-a-Sketch again:

--QUOTE--

Speaking back in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Romney said one of the many statements that he would probably want to take back, if he had any integrity, that is, which he doesn’t.

“You Olympians, however, know you didn’t get here solely on your own power. For most of you, loving parents, sisters or brothers encouraged your hopes,” he said after praising the competitors in footage unearthed by NBC News. “Coaches guided, communities built venues in order to organize competitions. All Olympians stand on the shoulders of those who lifted them. We’ve already cheered the Olympians, let’s also cheer the parents, coaches and communities.”

--UNQUOTE--

Jul. 26 2012 01:07 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ ge - You're right; it should be "whom." My editor will be disappointed.

Jul. 26 2012 10:08 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ ge - Specificity; that's what I'm all about.

The "slogan" actually comes from the New Testament (Luke 12:48; King James version): "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required."

JFK popularized it in American discourse:

"I’ll take you back 49 years to a Joint Convention of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1961. Then president-elect John F. Kennedy delivered an address acknowledging the incredible responsibility he was about to assume in his new role. It was here that JFK said, 'For of those to whom much is given, much is required.'"

http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/those-whom-much-given

By the way, I'm not religious, but I know that the majority of people in the US identify as Christian and are familiar with that sort of language. And considering that those on the right who ideologically oppose government involvement - at least that from the federal govt. despite all levels being part of the American governmental "system" - an even greater majority of them strongly identify with Christianity. It makes sense, then, to speak in their terms; right?

Jul. 26 2012 10:04 AM

"to who [shouldn't that be "whom"?] much is given, much is expected."
Essentially, "the more that you benefit form collective efforts, taxation, etc., the more you owe to society."

Can someone (preferably someone who believes in these superstitions)
please tell me the source of these slogans?

Just be specific.

Jul. 25 2012 06:35 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ gary -

"Again, you are missing the whole point. Obama followed Warren down this path to" explain that to who much is given, much is expected. Essentially, the more that you benefit form collective efforts, taxation, etc., the more you owe to society. It's not a "minimiz[ation of] the personal accomplishments of entrepreneurs," as you say, but an acknowledgment that they did something right to be successful and have even more of an investment in the benefits of maintaining society.

Again, I am saying that the "you didn't build [public infrastructure and the entire American system of governance, etc." _tribe_ (nice dig) actually means that investors and innovators obtain their profits by dint of hard work, connections, etc., but also because of the stable platform of the society that was created collectively, something that cannot be done solely by "little platoons."

And just because many people "challenge _SOME_ things government does" doesn't extend to the very notion of whether the government has the RIGHT and the NECESSITY to provide those benefits like infrastructure, mandatory public education, etc. No serious person argues that govt. doesn't have those rights, they argue over how they are carried out.

Federal laws outstripping state laws is so vague as to not answer the question.

Jul. 25 2012 05:24 PM
Art Vandelay

The Democrats are the ones who learned what is akin to Orwell's Newspeak.

The Republicans are the ones who just think everyone will understand if you say things the way they are.

But the one thing the two have in common are they are both a bunch of corrupt liars.

Jul. 25 2012 02:14 PM
gary from queens

Amalgam,

Again, you are missing the whole point. Obama followed Warren down this path to minimize the personal accomplishments of entrepreneurs, IN ORDER TO minimize their greater rewards as against the income of workers, IN ORDER TO justify high taxes upon these people of greater income.

So the "you didn't build it" tribe is actually "you dont deserve it" rant. And more to the point, it is a banal argument. we all contribute to public works, and we all benefit from it. How does that make investors and innovators less worthy to obtain profits?

To answer you banal, of point question, there are many people who challenge some things government does. I gave you one example, in which federal laws outstrip state laws.

Some people feel public education is a failure. Maybe Obama does, because his kids attend an elite private institution.

gotta go. take the last argument

Jul. 25 2012 01:57 PM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ gary -

I'm asking specifically -

Who disagrees that it's within the constitutional purview that the government performs these actions listed below:

__Building roads, bridges, airports, water infrastructure, the electrical grid(s), etc.;
__Free and mandatory public education for all residents;
__Research and development handed off to the private sector.
__etc. etc.

Your talk of constitutionality distracts from my practical point, considering that we live in a world of concrete reality and that business, for example, has to move among objects to operate and make money. Right?

Again, specifically demonstrate - within the Constitution if you must - that people disagree that government DOES NOT have the right to perform these actions and duties.

Also, feel free to disagree since I disagree with virtually all your views and, I presume, you with mine.

Just be specific.

Jul. 25 2012 12:41 PM

L M F A O !

So a segment that began with a lie
Ends with a reminder to tell the truth!

The voters are very aware of what the president (of the United States)
and Elizabeth Warren mean to say - I'm not noticing that her candidacy
is catching fire in "blue-state Massachusetts" either.
Were Ms. Wehling, and Mr. Lakoff the same propagandists who advised Dukakis
on how he should "militarize" his image?

Let me try a quote what should be on the first page of any book about mere messaging: "You can fool all of the people some of the time. And, you can fool some of the people all of the time. But, you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Jul. 25 2012 11:31 AM
gary from QUEENS

Dear Amalgam

No one can claim that the public all agrees any ANYTHING. But you miss the point.

It's not what we agree on. it's about what the Framers wrote in the constitution as limited and delineated powers. we are well beyond that.

Just look at the federal judge interview yesterday. We have more laws in the federal codes than any state has as their state laws. and too much is dual jurisdictional. meaning that the federal law is superfluous, let along exceeding the constitution.

Blame the expansion of the interpretation of the commerce clause by liberals

Jul. 25 2012 11:28 AM
Ed from New Jersey

The President has a problem with the economy struggling since 2008 and unemployment effecting so many people. Combined with statements such as the small business statement and other missteps, the President is sending the wrong message. His campaign is lashing out at detractors, instead of producing results in the economy.

Jul. 25 2012 11:09 AM
amalgam from NYC by day, NJ by night

@ gary - Thanks for your screed, which, after all the verbiage, gets to this point:

"But when the government acts outside of its constitutionally enumerated powers, it may be doing things that none of us freely chose to 'do together.'"

Are these government actions - the very ones that Obama was talking about - "outside of its constitutionally enumerated powers"?

__Building roads, bridges, airports, water infrastructure, the electrical grid(s), etc.;
__Free and mandatory public education for all residents;
__Research and development handed off to the private sector.
__etc. etc.

Specifically, can you dispute that all segments of society agree that those government actions above are acceptable? (Of course, maybe there is an issue with the fact that those accepted actions and duties _DIRECTLY provide_ the private sector the platform for profit-making.)

Jul. 25 2012 11:06 AM
Brian C

Liberals believe in people, family, community and teamwork. This is a battle between the politics of "We" versus "Me". Conservatives have forgotten that with freedom comes responsibility to yourself and others. They also have forgotten that success is plural; no one succeeds without help from someone else. Liberal need to emphasize this difference in philosophy.

Jul. 25 2012 11:00 AM
RL

President Obama said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

I have just had enough of this, Gary. You edit the quote to say what you want it to say. You don't have the line just before that about "roads and bridges". THAT'S WHAT YOU DIDN'T BUILD!!! You didn't build the roads and bridges. It had nothing to do with anyone's business. What smug misquoting. Sad!

Jul. 25 2012 11:00 AM

Thank you to my parents, the teachers I had, the folks who went before me and upon whose shoulders I stand I am a successful small business my ingenuity and your support the reason this country is the success it is the UNITED states of America. Thank you all

Jul. 25 2012 10:59 AM
fuva from harlemworld

I believe Obama is viscerally an advocate for the poor and middle class. But I'm not so sure about his team/ the people surrounding him -- which is why the financiers have been running the show. And so, any progressive vision of capitalism hasn't been thoroughly fleshed out. And so, he's been coming off as half-assed and flat and inauthentic. His spiel is getting tired. He needs to get it together.

Jul. 25 2012 10:59 AM

I'm bored—can these two do anything other than reveal the entirely obvious as if they had made some miraculous discoveries? Someone should sentence these sententious propagandists to read Aristotle's Rhetoric.

Jul. 25 2012 10:58 AM
jawbone

Both guests say Obama should lead with his policies and beliefs.

I don't think he can do that.

Because his beliefs are closer to right of center right, even here in US politics.

Watch what he does, not what he says.

Jul. 25 2012 10:58 AM
gary from queens

Good points Martin.

And why doesnt BL announce Lakoff's pol affiliation? He does so with conservatives. Such as introducing them as "the conservative columnist, John Smith."

But then having a conservative on his show is so rare, that he needs to warn his listeners to close their minds to new ideas

Jul. 25 2012 10:58 AM
Tara from NYC

I actually thought that Obama was at his most transparent during his speech on business. What he meant was very obvious, that he does not believe that anyone can take full credit for their own successes. Clearly a controversial statement to make and not in keeping with the over riding belief in this culture, but I do believe it IS what HE believes.

Jul. 25 2012 10:58 AM
Amy from Manhattan

What I don't get is why the Democrats aren't doing better at countering Mr. Romney's statements. When he says foreclosures should go ahead until the housing market bottoms out, why aren't they asking how many people would lose their homes before the market hits bottom? When he says Pres. Obama had majorities in both houses of Congress, why aren't they saying the minority in the Senate filibustered most of his bills? When he says Pres. Obama's policies haven't fixed the economy, why aren't they saying that because of the Republicans in Congress, most of his policies haven't gone into effect?

Jul. 25 2012 10:57 AM
jawbone

I'm not sure I can agree with Lakoff that Obama holds progressive capitalism as a personal belief or set of principles.

His actions while in office have been to support the Big Banksters, to the extent that even programs "intended" to help home owners who might have been hurt by bankers' actions were used instead to help the banks spread out their losses over more years.

Obama is a Coporatist, not a Democrat from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

Jul. 25 2012 10:56 AM
J from Bklyn

How come Obama seems not to know these obvious things?

Jul. 25 2012 10:55 AM

Romney is pandering to the right-wing tendency to boil down statements from the opposition in to what they want to hear rather than what they said. I gguess the Left does it, too. ["I like firing people...") How many Americans believe that Al Gore said 'I invented the Internet'? [not w/o canny editing from R Limbaugh, they didn't!]

The willingness of the media to carry the water for these wrong-headed positions is what amazes me.

Jul. 25 2012 10:53 AM
sophia

Republicans don't genuinely believe in individualism and limited govt either, as can be seen in the way the states which take the most from govt compared to what they give are overwhelmingly red states, and the way Republican presidents grow the govt and the deficit MORE than democrats.

Does this basic hypocrisy/denial need to be addressed?

Jul. 25 2012 10:52 AM
John A

When Conservatives poo-poo WNYC for being 'all liberal all the time' I should remind myself of NPR's published (2008?) policy to stop using the term "Pro-Life", thus breaking a balance between those two sides.

Jul. 25 2012 10:49 AM
MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT from MANHATTAN

LITTLE BARRY OBAMA-

"I didn't exactly say exactly what I said."

Jul. 25 2012 10:49 AM
The Truth from Becky

Why do people write these mini essays, make your point and move on..most people are not really reading all of it anyways.

Jul. 25 2012 10:48 AM
The Truth from Becky

Ohhh whatever George, I am sure the President was not attempting to quote YOU in his speech! The man made his point.

Jul. 25 2012 10:46 AM
gary from queens

President Obama said, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

This simplistic baloney that "that didn't get there on your own" is the Elizabeth Warren "thesis"-----the women who couldnt get into Harvard on her own without falsely claiming to have one drop of Cherokee blood.

Their argument is that Government built the roads and bridges.

Really?! How? With whose money? Like Ms. Warren, what Obama's statist pieties omits is that wealth creation from business funds government: It is the car maker who builds the roads and bridges----not the government. Businesses pay the highest taxes in the world in the US. Corporate profits are taxed twice: once at the corporate rate of 35% and once at the dividend or capital gains rate of 15%. And that’s just federal taxes.

Wealthy people pay too. virtually all taxes. Workers, whose jobs are the result of business profits, also pay taxes. In 2009, the top 400 taxpayers paid almost as much in federal income taxes as the entire bottom 50 percent combined.

Obama: "Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet," Wrong! It was private industry & entrepreneurs who invented it and made it a success. (See "Who Really Invented the Internet?" by L. Gordon Crovitz, 7/22/2012, http://online.wsj.com)

The president's thesis is self-evidently absurd, if not simplistic. Lots of people attend public schools and have teachers. Very few people become Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Everybody uses the roads and bridges the factory owner uses to bring his products to market. But not everyone builds a factory.

Tax dollars that paid for those roads, bridges, schools, and teachers didn't just come from "someone else" or the "rest of us." They came from innovators, the factory owners, and entrepreneurs. All started out without help from community activists.

You don't become a rich country through public works. You become rich by inventing things & selling them. Innovators must keep most of the rewards if they succeed. You can't come around mooching afterwards with, "Hey, we built that road in front of your house. We made you a success! You owe us."

Barney Frank always says, "Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together." But we do lots of things together that are apart from government, in families and communities, churches and synagogues, private associations and what Edmund Burke called the "little platoons" of civil society. The market itself is something we do together. But when the government acts outside of its constitutionally enumerated powers, it may be doing things that none of us freely chose to "do together."

There are beautiful roads in North Korea, Cuba & Burma. What's missing are automobiles and destinations of worth. And that's because wealth comes from private entrepreneurship.

This cynical demogoguery pits low income against high income citizens for political gain.

Jul. 25 2012 10:45 AM
oscar from ny

Heres fly politics,i remember reading a while ago about some kids "disrespecting" the 9:11 memorial by throwing baseballs and littering the base wich consist of two square ceptics with running water...god is correct to inform...these kids just acted normal

Jul. 25 2012 10:25 AM
MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT from Manhattan

What is Lakoff's reply to widespread criticism (WSJ, Weekly Standard) about this book's advice to discussants from the Left to simply ignore any other points of view and talk over them. Lakeoff appears to be actually actively discouraging constructive engagement....i.e. don't acknowledge anything else but your own points and repeat them over and over and over.
The wind-up "Deborah Wasserman Schultz doll" is one example of this perseveration.

Isn't Lakoff's spiel really just warmed over Saul Alinsky....albeit all gussied up as "political linguistics"??

Jul. 25 2012 09:48 AM
Eric K from Eric K

Should Democrats play the same game played by the Republicans? Or are they supposed to play a different game to throw the Republicans off their message? Because this is what Republicans do that is usually effective:

-They own words. They don't just tell you their version or opinion of "Family Values" or "Common Sense". They tell you that their version is THE definition of "Family Values" and "Common Sense". So therefore, their opponents don't have a different view of "values", they don't have any values at all, and are therefore bad people, maybe even evil, and are a threat to our children. They also do this with "liberty" and "freedom".

The most dramatic use of language I could think the Democrats can pull off is essentially "class warfare" but so be it: don't chime along with the Republicans that they too believe in "values" and all those other words. Stop playing catch up on the notion of "pick yourself up by your own bootstraps" in our wonderful capitalist system, and just outright declare that the Republican Party of today is not in favor of social mobility and seeing people make their own way in the world. That for the first time ever, the goal of the Republican Party is to keep poor people poor and prevent them from taking part in the American Dream.

Jul. 25 2012 09:31 AM
gary from Queens

Demorcats have come up with great terms to conceal their unpopular positions. Such as calling themselves "pro-choice" instead of "pro-abortion." Or by referring to themselves as "progressives" instead of liberals.

Republicans do it too, although sometimes it's intended to magnify focus in on the plain-language meaning, such as calling the "inheritance tax" the "death tax." That's what it actually is, as well as an unprecedented tax on wealth. (Altho some would erroneously argue it's "income" for the beneficiary.) And here's an example of the death tax gone really wrong, by government stupidity and power by fiat:
http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/07/22/value-0-taxes-40-million-bald-eagle-irs-robert-rauschenberg/

HOWEVER, the best spin on the truth is the more recent Democrat use of the term "revenue." Democrats do not want to "raise taxes." They want to "raise revenues."!

It is brilliant. And when a Democrat uses the term, no one in the compliant, gullible news media calls them on it.

Revenue is not the same as taxes. Revenue is income to the government from any source, such as tarifs, or fines, or penalties like the healthcare personal mandate. Oops, I think the Democrats succeeded in redefining THAT one!

Indeed, conservatives have shown that when Kennedy and Reagan had reduced the marginal tax rates (i.e. "lowering taxes" in common parlance), federal revenues from tax payers grew significantly. When people and businesses see that they can keep most of their earnings (see China and Russia now), they work more and invest more of their money. But the greater gross income yields more REVENUE.

So when democrats say they want to raise revenues, they really mean they want to raise TAX RATES. But they use the term inappropriately. EVERYONE wants to revenues to increase, especially now, to reduce the national debt. But Democrats have corrupted the language for political gain.

Jul. 25 2012 09:25 AM

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