If Only Right-Wing Christians Knew Where Their Ideas Came From

by Ira Chernus, AlterNet, November 12, 2013

mini-excerpts

Right wing political landscape

The media spotlight has focused on the growing split in the Republican Party between its corporate-business wing and the libertarian-leaning Tea Partiers. But what about the third leg of the GOP tripod…the evangelical Christian religious right?…what will determine the fate of the GOP, is which way the religious right will break in this intramural fight over the role of government…the split in the GOP runs smack down the middle of the religious right…Tea Partiers align with the libertarian call for smaller government. They see government as a force imposing its secular ways upon them…Many other evangelicals will join the corporate-business Republicans in rejecting the Tea Party’s extremist anti-government agenda. They’ll see why Tea Partying is a trap for them. Only a powerful government can do the things evangelicals want most, like banning abortion and gay marriage, and more generally, imposing strict rules of personal behavior on every American.

History

What most won’t see, though, is the hidden place where evangelicals and libertarians do meet: way back in U.S. history, where both movements were inspired by a radical worldview. Just as the libertarian call for less government has its roots in radical, not conservative, assumptions about human nature, so the religious right’s call for government intervention has deep roots in evangelical demands for policies that were radically progressive at the time. Some of them are still radical, even by today’s standards…use government to achieve their goals—goals that today’s progressives still struggle for, like a fair and just income tax structure, guaranteed equal pay for women, and government ownership of utilities and transportation systems…Populists. Their program was laid out most famously in the 1892 declaration of the People’s Party, which demanded that government support the interest of “the people,” not “capitalists, corporations, banks, trusts.”…the main weapon Populists aimed to use was political power—enough power to make sure that their policies were enacted through government legislation, regulation, and strict enforcement…The Knights of Labor, the Populists, and the Bryanites [William Jennings Bryan] were in many ways the forerunner of today’s progressive left. Their fusion of evangelical Christianity and strong progressive government holds lessons for, and poses questions to, progressives today.

Progressive movement – strategy

The Republican Party may or may not be cracking up. Cracks in the GOP alliance don’t necessarily mean any advantage for progressives, of course. But they are windows of opportunity, if the left knows how to take advantage of them. It’s all a question of strategy. A smart first step for progressives is to do whatever we can to widen those cracks. It’s the religious right, long the progressive left’s favorite target, that is now the richest target of opportunity. Because politically progressive evangelical Christianity is not merely a relic of the 19th century. It’s making a comeback. That presents left progressives with a challenge. In your struggle for justice, would you ally with people who share your commitment to greater economic equality but would like to see government ban abortion and gay marriage? Today the question may seem abstract and hypothetical. Soon enough it may become a very real issue of debate for progressive strategists, and there are bound to be good arguments on both sides.

Communications/message

However, everyone should be able to agree that at least progressives outside the evangelical community should begin talking to folks inside that circle who are open to hearing the progressive message. Evangelicals will have to filter the message through their own beliefs, which means phrasing it in a somewhat different language…The main goal here should be to make the progressive tent wide enough to make room for evangelicals…moving evangelicals to the left will also widen the cracks in the shaky conservative alliance and hasten the day when it can no longer hold itself together.

Full Excerpt

The media spotlight has focused on the growing split in the Republican Party between its corporate-business wing and the libertarian-leaning Tea Partiers. But what about the third leg of the GOP tripod, the one that used to get all the attention: the evangelical Christian religious right? That’s where the spotlight ought to be…

We know the corporate-business types want an active federal government, because it can be counted on to serve their interests, especially if Republicans regain control of it. We know that the libertarians, who are the driving force in the Tea Party, want to shrink government; that’s their whole reason for being.

What we don’t know yet, and what will determine the fate of the GOP, is which way the religious right will break in this intramural fight over the role of government. Even the conservative evangelicals themselves don’t know, because the split in the GOP runs smack down the middle of the religious right.

Many politically active evangelicals are happy to be Tea Partiers [3] and align with the libertarian call for smaller government. They see government as a force imposing its secular ways upon them…Many other evangelicals will join the corporate-business Republicans in rejecting the Tea Party’s extremist anti-government agenda. They’ll see why Tea Partying is a trap for them. Only a powerful government can do the things evangelicals want most, like banning abortion and gay marriage, and more generally, imposing strict rules of personal behavior on every American.

What most won’t see, though, is the hidden place where evangelicals and libertarians do meet: way back in U.S. history, where both movements were inspired by a radical worldview. Just as the libertarian call for less government has its roots in radical, not conservative, assumptions about human nature, so the religious right’s call for government intervention has deep roots in evangelical demands for policies that were radically progressive at the time. Some of them are still radical, even by today’s standards…use government to achieve their goals—goals that today’s progressives still struggle for, like a fair and just income tax structure, guaranteed equal pay for women, and government ownership of utilities and transportation systems…Populists. Their program was laid out most famously in the 1892 declaration of the People’s Party, which demanded that government support the interest of “the people,” not “capitalists, corporations, banks, trusts.”…the main weapon Populists aimed to use was political power—enough power to make sure that their policies were enacted through government legislation, regulation, and strict enforcement…The Knights of Labor, the Populists, and the Bryanites [William Jennings Bryan] were in many ways the forerunner of today’s progressive left. Their fusion of evangelical Christianity and strong progressive government holds lessons for, and poses questions to, progressives today.

The Republican Party may or may not be cracking up. Cracks in the GOP alliance don’t necessarily mean any advantage for progressives, of course. But they are windows of opportunity, if the left knows how to take advantage of them. It’s all a question of strategy.

A smart first step for progressives is to do whatever we can to widen those cracks. It’s the religious right, long the progressive left’s favorite target, that is now the richest target of opportunity. Because politically progressive evangelical Christianity is not merely a relic of the 19th century. It’s making a comeback [7].

That presents left progressives with a challenge. In your struggle for justice, would you ally with people who share your commitment to greater economic equality but would like to see government ban abortion and gay marriage? Today the question may seem abstract and hypothetical. Soon enough it may become a very real issue of debate for progressive strategists, and there are bound to be good arguments on both sides.

However, everyone should be able to agree that at least progressives outside the evangelical community should begin talking to folks inside that circle who are open to hearing the progressive message. Evangelicals will have to filter the message through their own beliefs, which means phrasing it in a somewhat different language.

Smart progressives will start learning that language, figuring out how to communicate with evangelicals and discover common ground. Smart progressives will also learn how to remind evangelicals, gently but persuasively, of their own radical political history, which many may not know.

The main goal here should be to make the progressive tent wide enough to make room for evangelicals. Though we are far from the 19th century, evangelicals can now, as then, bring a unique kind of energy into progressive movements that can pay off. As a side benefit, moving evangelicals to the left will also widen the cracks in the shaky conservative alliance and hasten the day when it can no longer hold itself together.       

Full text

The media spotlight has focused on the growing split in the Republican Party between its corporate-business wing and the libertarian-leaning Tea Partiers. But what about the third leg of the GOP tripod, the one that used to get all the attention: the evangelical Christian religious right? That’s where the spotlight ought to be.

We know the corporate-business types want an active federal government, because it can be counted on to serve their interests, especially if Republicans regain control of it. We know that the libertarians, who are the driving force in the Tea Party, want to shrink government; that’s their whole reason for being.

What we don’t know yet, and what will determine the fate of the GOP, is which way the religious right will break in this intramural fight over the role of government. Even the conservative evangelicals themselves don’t know, because the split in the GOP runs smack down the middle of the religious right.

Many politically active evangelicals are happy to be Tea Partiers [3] and align with the libertarian call for smaller government. They see government as a force imposing its secular ways upon them. And Tea Party politicians have been equally happy to talk the religious right talk because it wins them votes.

Many other evangelicals will join the corporate-business Republicans in rejecting the Tea Party’s extremist anti-government agenda. They’ll see why Tea Partying is a trap for them. Only a powerful government can do the things evangelicals want most, like banning abortion and gay marriage, and more generally, imposing strict rules of personal behavior on every American. The more the Tea Party weakens the government, the more it deprives the religious right of its most potent tool. That should be easy enough for most conservative evangelicals to see.

What most won’t see, though, is the hidden place where evangelicals and libertarians do meet: way back in U.S. history, where both movements were inspired by a radical worldview. Just as the libertarian call for less government has its roots in radical [4], not conservative, assumptions about human nature, so the religious right’s call for government intervention has deep roots in evangelical demands for policies that were radically progressive at the time. Some of them are still radical, even by today’s standards.  

As early as the 1820s, the evangelical style of Christianity was beginning to dominate American political life. It didn’t stop dominating until the 19th century was over.

Looking back across the history of that century you’ll find evangelicals, demanding strong government intervention in everyone’s life, popping up in all sorts of places. And most of those places are well to the left of where you might expect them, if your view of evangelical politics is shaped only by the era of Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell.

Most famously, evangelical Christians led and filled the ranks of the movement to abolish slavery. Some (though far too few) even took the lead in treating African Americans as genuine equals. The best recent writing on the causes of the Civil War shows that evangelicalism was a crucial factor creating widespread popular resistance to the “peculiar institution.”

Without the spur of evangelical fervor there probably would have been no Republican Party, no President Lincoln, and no secession of the South. Slavery would not only have continued in the United States; it probably would have spread throughout the territories that became the new states of the Southwest, making it that much harder ever to abolish.

Antebellum evangelical reformers also took the lead in demanding that government provide free public education for all, more humane treatment of prisoners and the disabled, and more equality for women. Of course, most of their specific policy prescriptions seem too conservative by today’s progressive standards. But in their own day they were out on the cutting left edge of political life. And one of their demands—that government renounce war as an instrument of national policy—still sounds as radical as ever.

You’ll find all of these examples, and more, if you pick up any good book on 19th-century U.S. history.

I picked up one such book at random, just as I was beginning to write this column: Alan Trachtenberg’s The Incorporation of America [5], one of the most insightful histories of the Gilded Age, from the 1870s to the 1890s. When historians go looking for evangelicals supporting left-leaning government policies, they almost always look at the era of reform before the Civil War, not the Gilded Age that followed it. Yet just thumbing through Trachtenberg’s book I easily found evidence that the pattern lasted right through the 19th century.

Trachtenberg points out the powerful evangelical impulse in two of the era’s greatest political bestsellers, Henry George’s Progress and Poverty and Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward. George wrote glowingly of “the noble dreams of socialism.” Bellamy advocated “the religion of solidarity… a system of public ownership… to realize the idea of the nation … as a family, a vital union, a common life.”

Both denounced the injustices of the emerging corporate system with “evangelical fervor,” says Trachtenberg, sustained by “religious emotions of ‘solidarity.’”

But there was more going on than just utopian words. There were workers organizing in the factories and the streets, dominated in the 1870s and 1880s by the Knights of Labor. The Knights intended to use government to achieve their goals—goals that today’s progressives still struggle for, like a fair and just income tax structure, guaranteed equal pay for women, and government ownership of utilities and transportation systems.

And they built their movement upon “an unmistakable fusion of republicanism and evangelical Protestantism,” in Trachtenberg’s words. “Workers found in Protestantism a profound ‘notion of right’ for their struggles.” They made “’the religion of solidarity’ proclaimed by Edward Bellamy and other Protestant reformers … a living experience within labor.” Obviously they saw no conflict between evangelical Christianity and a strong central government enforcing laws to create economic justice.

By the 1890s the Knights’ leading role in labor movement had been eclipsed by the American Federation of Labor. But as the Knights declined, the spirit that moved them was being picked up by an eclectic mix of movements that came to be grouped under the umbrella term, Populists. Their program was laid out most famously in the 1892 declaration of the People’s Party, which demanded that government support the interest of “the people,” not “capitalists, corporations, banks, trusts.”

That declaration was “composed in evangelical accents” and “rang with echoes of revivalism” as well as “backwoods democracy and grassroots outrage,” as Trachtenberg writes. “Populist spokesmen clothed themselves in the garb of righteous evangels.”

Like the Knights, the Populists were on a crusade to eliminate sin. But their political ideas also “drew from the movement’s roots in native radicalism, in a secular rhetoric of ‘equal rights’ and ‘anti-monopoly.’” And the main weapon Populists aimed to use was political power—enough power to make sure that their policies were enacted through government legislation, regulation, and strict enforcement.

Like most historians, Trachtenberg traces the decline of the Populists to their fateful decision, in1896, to join with the Democrats in making William Jennings Bryan their joint candidate for president. Bryan ran three times for the top job and lost all three times. Today, on the left, he’s most remembered as the evangelical Christian zealot who decried the teaching of evolution in the 1924 Scopes trial. But the infamous trial came near the end of his long life.

For most of that life he, more than any other American, carried the banner of radical reform in the name of God. It’s worth reading the details in Michael Kazin’s recent biography of Bryan [6]. Kazin, a leading authority on Populism and an important progressive intellectual in his own right, makes it clear that in the late 19th century, and on into the early 20th, millions of evangelical Protestants saw it as a religious duty to demand that a strong government right the economic wrongs of the corporate capitalist system. The left in that era could not have emerged as a significant force without the tremendous boost it got from evangelical faith.

All this history should be more than mere curiosity to us. The Knights of Labor, the Populists, and the Bryanites were in many ways the forerunner of today’s progressive left. Their fusion of evangelical Christianity and strong progressive government holds lessons for, and poses questions to, progressives today.

The Republican Party may or may not be cracking up. Cracks in the GOP alliance don’t necessarily mean any advantage for progressives, of course. But they are windows of opportunity, if the left knows how to take advantage of them. It’s all a question of strategy.

A smart first step for progressives is to do whatever we can to widen those cracks. It’s the religious right, long the progressive left’s favorite target, that is now the richest target of opportunity. Because politically progressive evangelical Christianity is not merely a relic of the 19th century. It’s making a comeback [7].

That presents left progressives with a challenge. In your struggle for justice, would you ally with people who share your commitment to greater economic equality but would like to see government ban abortion and gay marriage? Today the question may seem abstract and hypothetical. Soon enough it may become a very real issue of debate for progressive strategists, and there are bound to be good arguments on both sides.

However, everyone should be able to agree that at least progressives outside the evangelical community should begin talking to folks inside that circle who are open to hearing the progressive message. Evangelicals will have to filter the message through their own beliefs, which means phrasing it in a somewhat different language.

Smart progressives will start learning that language, figuring out how to communicate with evangelicals and discover common ground. Smart progressives will also learn how to remind evangelicals, gently but persuasively, of their own radical political history, which many may not know.

The main goal here should be to make the progressive tent wide enough to make room for evangelicals. Though we are far from the 19th century, evangelicals can now, as then, bring a unique kind of energy into progressive movements that can pay off. As a side benefit, moving evangelicals to the left will also widen the cracks in the shaky conservative alliance and hasten the day when it can no longer hold itself together.    

See more stories tagged with:

gop [8],

republican party [9],

libertarian [10],

christian [11],

evangelical [12],

religious [13],

right-wing [14],

tea party [15]


Source URL: http://admin.alternet.org/belief/if-only-right-wing-christian-evangelicals-knew-where-their-ideas-came

Links:
[1] http://alternet.org
[2] http://admin.alternet.org/authors/ira-chernus
[3] http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/just-enough-city/2013/apr/22/how-religious-right-and-libertarians-buried-hatche/
[4] http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/if-only-tea-party-crowd-knew-where-their-ideas-came
[5] http://us.macmillan.com/theincorporationofamerica/AlanTrachtenberg
[6] http://www.randomhouse.com/book/90625/a-godly-hero-by-michael-kazin
[7] http://www.christianpost.com/news/author-new-evangelical-left-pushing-bounds-of-christianity-49287/
[8] http://admin.alternet.org/tags/gop
[9] http://admin.alternet.org/tags/republican-party
[10] http://admin.alternet.org/tags/libertarian-0
[11] http://admin.alternet.org/tags/christian-0
[12] http://admin.alternet.org/tags/evangelical
[13] http://admin.alternet.org/tags/religious
[14] http://admin.alternet.org/tags/right-wing
[15] http://admin.alternet.org/tags/tea-party-0
[16] http://admin.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Progressive Building Blocks

American Values Project

A concise, coherent and compelling progressive vision for America rests on three, fundamental building blocks, which are explored in detail in Progressive Thinking. They are:

  • Our Values
  • Our Beliefs
  • Our Issues

Our values, beliefs and issues build on and support our vision for America, with values occupying the bottom and most important tier, philosophical beliefs the middle tier and issues the top tier. The pyramid points, ultimately, to our vision of the society we are trying to create – steadily improving living standards and opportunities for everyone; safe, clean and healthy communities; a government that works for all people; and economic growth with widely shared prosperity. The entire pyramid then becomes an outline of our central progressive message: “Everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.”

Some progressives tend to be overly analytical in their communications, favoring discussions of issues and policy rather than venturing into the sometimes murky territory of morals, values and core beliefs. But if we want more people to connect with a progressive view of the world, we need to reach their hearts and their heads. As the architecture of this pyramid highlights, core progressive values form the most important level of our communications, with political beliefs and issue positions building on this values foundation. Implied is the need to articulate our values and beliefs as much, if not more than, we discuss our positions on the issues – as a way to highlight our broad, common ground.

http://americanvaluesproject.com/progressive-building-blocks/

Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions

American Values Project, representing a cross section of leaders from think tanks, philanthropic organizations, and environmental, labor, youth, civil rights, and other progressive groups, to try to distill progressive beliefs and values into clear language in one digestible resource.

Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions.

Progressive Thinking is a comprehensive and practical synthesis of the current and best understanding of progressivism, encompassing its history, traditions, worldview, values and positions on major issues. Progressive Thinking is designed to serve as a foundation for greater coherence in communications and unity in the expression of progressive ideals and aspirations. This document – and our use of the terms “Progressive Thinking” and “synthesis” – are informed by our communications with more than 300 progressives and extensive correspondence and conversations with many of our nation’s leading progressive thinkers.

Progressive Thinking outlines what we believe as progressives and how we view the world. It is designed to help our nation’s diverse progressive community better understand and articulate a common philosophical and values framework to the wider public. We also believe a majority of Americans will find themselves and their views represented in these pages because progressive thought is deeply rooted in the values and philosophies on which our country was founded and upon which we have built nearly two and a half centuries of American achievement.

We sincerely hope Progressive Thinking and its central, common-sense theme – “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does his or her fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules” – will help focus the views and, indeed, the hopes of a growing majority of Americans committed to progressive principles and policies.

To download a PDF of Progressive Thinking, please click here. You will need Adobe Acrobat or Preview to view this document.

http://americanvaluesproject.com/progressive-thinking/

Progressive Building Blocks

Progressive Thinking: A Synthesis of Progressive Values, Beliefs, and Positions

What It Means To Be A Progressive: A Manifesto

Some Better Targets for the People Who Hate Government

by Paul Buchheit, December 10, 2012 by Common Dreams

One of the pleasures of a weekend away from the city is visiting with people who express points of view that are different from my own. A lot of them hate government. Their comments are sprinkled with colorful references to taxes, waste, and socialism.

Countering with facts and statistics doesn’t seem to work. Instead, listening to their rants can be educational for a progressive, because the anti-government sentiment highlights the masterful job done by conservatives and the wealthy over the years, as they have basically convinced much of America to argue against themselves on matters of politics and the economy.

It would make more sense to take on the real villains.

1. Medical Providers

They’re taking a lot more of our money than Medicare does. According to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, medical administrative costs as a percentage of claims are about three times higher for private insurance than for Medicare. The U.S. Institute of Medicine reports that the for-profit system wastes $750 billion a year on waste, fraud, and inefficiency. As a percent of GDP, we spend $1.2 trillion more than the OECD average.

That’s an amount equal to the entire deficit wasted on private medical care companies. One out of every six dollars we earn goes to doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and insurance companies. All good reasons to redirect our hatred.

2. Retirement Brokers

Various reports have concluded that administrative costs for 401(k) plans are much higher than those for Social Security — up to twenty times more.

It would be difficult to find, or even imagine, any short-term-profit-based private insurer that is fully funded for the next 25 years. Social Security is. It works for all retirees while private plans work for a limited number of investors.

3. Banks

Government is often blamed for local budget shortfalls, but cities and towns around the country have been repeatedly victimized by a “bid-rigging” process that diverts billions of dollars — a few thousand at a time — from numerous unsuspecting communities to the accounts of a few big banks.

Individual homeowners, especially minorities, have also been victimized by the banks. Because of the housing crash and the corresponding decrease in home values, black households lost over half of their median wealth, and Hispanic households almost two-thirds.

There are scandals and scams galore: the privately run Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS) headed up the illegal foreclosure business; the banking association LIBOR was guilty of interest rate manipulation; and plenty of financial institutions have engaged in the subtle art of imposing hidden fees. Credit cards are loaded with “gray charges” like surprise subscriptions and auto-renewals that cost the average consumer $356 a year.

Yet we’re forced to keep paying. Shockingly, it has been estimated that 40% of every dollar we spend on goods and services goes to banks as interest.

Public banks, on the other hand, focus on the needs of communities and small businesses rather than on investors. The most well-known example is the Bank of North Dakota (BND), which has successfully worked with local banks throughout the state, promoting business growth through loans that a larger bank might be reluctant to make, while managing to turn a profit every year for the past 40 years.

4. Higher Education Operators

Outside of the banking industry, there may not be a more egregious example of public abuse than the expropriation of higher education by profit-seekers who have subjected underemployed young people to years of student loan obligations. The collection of outstanding student debt is managed in good part by big banks like JP Morgan and Citigroup.

In most countries tuition remains free or nominal, but in America, as noted by Noam Chomsky, the belief that education strengthens a country is giving way to a philosophy of paying for your own educational benefits. Meanwhile, the “corporatization of universities” has led to a dramatic increase in administrators while relatively expensive programs like nursing, engineering and computer science are being cut.

But the easy loans keep accruing interest long after college ends. With a hint of foreboding, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Department of Education reported that the student loan debacle has been fueled by the same forces that led to the subprime mortgage collapse.

5. Big Box and Fast Food Companies

Smaller government is promoted by the very companies that make record profits while forcing their employees to accept public assistance.

While McDonald’s enjoyed profits of 130 percent over the past four years, and Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC) made 45 percent, and while the Walton family made $20 billion in one year, the median hourly wage for food service workers and Walmart employees is about $9 an hour. Many workers are stuck at the $7.25 minimum wage, which according to the National Employment Law Project is worth 30 percent less than in 1968.

Food service and big box store employees, among the fastest-growing job segments in the nation, are making barely enough to stay out of poverty. And it’s not just the employees who are subsidizing their bosses. We all are. Low-wage employees are more dependent on the food stamps and Medicaid that are paid for by our tax dollars.

Some Alternative Targets: Panic, Poison, Plowing, Postage, Prison

What is the incentive for private companies to deal with tragedies like Hurricane Sandy? The Pacific Standard aptly stated that “the free market doesn’t want to be in the flood business.”

What is the incentive for private companies to keep the poisons out of our drinking water? Without sufficient government regulations the Clean Water Act was violated a half-million times in one year.

What is the incentive for private companies to plow the county roads? Or to reduce the number of prisoners in profit-seeking prisons? Or to allow you to send a birthday card for just 45 cents? Or to simply treat its customers with respect rather than as a source of profit?

The “invisible hand” of the free market is unable, or unwilling, to satisfy the needs of society in all these areas. For that it is worthy of our contempt.

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.

more Paul Buchheit


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/10

Crib Notes for Lakoff’s Latest by Anna Fahey

http://daily.sightline.org, August 9, 2012 

An even littler guide to The Little Blue Book. This post is part of the research project: Flashcards 

Love him or leave him, agree or disagree (…with his science or his conclusions or his politics…), George Lakoff has been enormously successful in getting lots of us thinking about how the brain processes words and language—about framing. 

And while many of his specific frame recommendations over the years may have been too complicated or too lofty to put to work, his insistence more generally that language is never neutral and his pleas to proactively frame the debate and to link our values and moral convictions to policy solutions undoubtedly took us in the right direction. 

Lakoff’s latest framing handbook is hot off the presses: The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic (co-authored by Elisabeth Wehling). The book is most successful 1) as a reminder to never check your values and morals at the door when talking policy; and 2) as a thoughtful treatise on how we define our vision for the nation and how we talk about government in moral terms. 

But despite promising sounding chapter titles like “A Phrasebook” and talking points under headings declaring “Here’s what to say,” the book left me hungry for clearer takeaways. 

So, I’ve taken the liberty to distill the Little Blue Book into something even littler—a Flashcard (with longer explanations below.) My aim is to give busy people the “Cliff Notes” version—a pocket guide to Lakoff’s messaging lessons that actually fits in your pocket. 

And in a subsequent post, I’ll distill Lakoff’s talking points for defining the role of government in moral terms. 

First the basics: 

Crib Notes for Lakoff’s Little Blue Book

  • Never check your morals at the door—talk about them! (Always sandwich facts and figures in values.)
  • Don’t repeat the opposition’s language, even when arguing against it.
  • Words don’t mean the same thing to everybody. Explain big ideas—freedom, fairness, democracy—in terms of your moral vision.
  • Say it simply and bring it home—use plain language and tell stories about real people.
  • Start with solid ideas! Words are tools for connecting ideas to our moral values.
  • Practice, practice, practice—and repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Lakoff 101 in a bit more depth—but still quite little 

Oddly, a list of the “Most Important Things” from The Little Blue Book is available on the book’s blog (The Little Blue Blog) and in the publisher’s publicity materials, but not in the book itself, where you have to hunt for them (or guess at them). So, for the Flashcard and for the summary below, I mashed up the “official” top 10 list from the publisher with my own notes from the book—so this is my version of a Lakoff 101. 

  • Never check your moral values at the door—talk about them! Lakoff likes to remind us that “All politics is moral, and morality trumps policy.” All of us have values and morals—the problem is not deciding what they are. The problem is that many of us fail to express the moral dimensions of our policy positions. We make the grave mistake of assuming our values and morals are simply implied or understood. Lakoff urges us to talk about the moral bases of our policy positions openly and regularly.
  • Always sandwich your facts and figures in values and morals. Facts have little meaning outside of frames, metaphors, and moral narratives. Always discuss facts (and policy) within moral frames, because people do not reason outside of those moral frames.
  • “Don’t repeat the opposition’s language or ideas, even when arguing against them.” Instead, use your own language, say what you believe, and express the moral underpinnings for your position. It is particularly important to start with your beliefs (and frames). What comes first provides the lens through which the rest will be viewed. (Remember: Evoking the negative frame reinforces it. Think: “I am not a crook.”)
  • Words don’t mean the same thing to everybody. Explain big ideas—freedom, fairness, democracy—in terms of your moral vision. Don’t take the meaning of big ideas or values for granted. Each comes in at least two versions depending on one’s political worldview. So when you talk about those ideas, make sure you are talking about YOUR version—and taking the time to explain what you mean.
  • Everybody is morally complex—by expressing our morals we find common ground. (See: biconceptual). All of us, but especially “Moderates,” “independents,” and “swing voters” will use conservative moral frames on some issues and progressive moral frames on others. Reinforce the morality you share with others by using YOUR moral language.
  • Say it simply—in plain terms. Stick to basic level words. In cognitive science that means words that tend to be short and concrete (e.g. chair rather than furniture; water or air vs. environment.) Basic level words are more easily remembered. They also tend to more readily bring clear, familiar imagery to mind. They also tend to evoke body reactions (in brain science “motor programs”). Think of the physical reaction we have to the word cat vs. the more abstract concept of animal. Simple words are more potent. (Think: Can I see it, touch it, smell or hear it? Could I draw a picture or pantomime it?)
  • Bring it home—tell stories about real people. People want to know how policies affect their own lives. Share stories about real people and don’t be afraid to talk about yourself and your own motivations. “Share the stories that inspire you to work for this country,” or for your community.
  • Start with solid ideas! Words are good tools connecting ideas to our moral values. Lakoff reminds us that it’s not just words that matter. “If you think you have a language problem, you really have an idea problem,” he insists. Ideas are primary—and the language carries those ideas, evokes those ideas. Words, messages, and language are tools to use to better connect your ideas to your values and morals. To get language right, you have to understand the thoughts and ideas it conjures up.
  • Practice, practice, practice—and repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s often difficult for policy wonks to express values and morals. But if we don’t define central political frames in terms of our own morals and values, they’ll be defined for us. Practice helps us feel comfortable saying it out loud. “Repetition strengthens frames. Repeat your own moral frames over and over, every hour of every day of every year.” 

There are the key lessons in a nutshell. Stay tuned for a distilled take on Lakoff on talking about government. 

And for the record, Sightline’s work is not directed at Democrats in particular as Lakoff and Wehling’s book clearly is (don’t forget, I’ve issued talking points based on the work of Republican pollster Frank Luntz, Ronald Reagan, Michael Bloomberg, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.) But there are some general messaging lessons and useful language from The Little Blue Book that I think are worth sharing with our audiences working toward sustainability policy solutions. 

Sightline Flashcards are messaging memos designed as short, scannable tools for sharing effective communications strategies. Our strategic communications team digests piles of public opinion research, transcripts from speeches, expert advice, and academic studies—from cognitive linguistics and neuroscience to political science, sociology, and psychology—distilling best practices in messaging. Flashcards often focus on values-based communication: strategies for talking about important policies or issue solutions in terms of shared values. 

Want to receive Flashcards by email? Sign up. 

http://daily.sightline.org/2012/08/09/crib-notes-for-lakoffs-latest/

US Running on Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions by John Atcheson

Common Dreams, February 20, 2012

Republican Hypocrisy; Democratic Complicity; The Press’s Malfeasance; and Why You Don’t Have a Job and if You Do, Why it Doesn’t Pay Squat

Excerpt

…the country is running on lies, myths, deceptions and distractions… a few of the most destructive lies and myths.

1.Corporations and the uber rich are the job creators
2.Government can’t create jobs…
3.The deficit is our main problem, therefore we need an austerity budget…
4.Republicans actually care about deficits: Let’s put a stake in the heart of this one right now. Reagan and the two Bushes created more than 66% of the country’s debt — an amount equal to more than twice as much as all other President’s combined (including Obama). Did you hear any complaints while this record breaking debt was being wracked up? Not a word. Clinton, it’s worth remembering, had a surplus.
5.Republicans favor small government: In fact, the size of government exploded under Reagan and Bush II, and we didn’t hear a peep out of Republicans. In the last thirty years, only Clinton reduced the size of government significantly, and he did so while declaring “the era of big government” to be over. What they really favor is weak government, which brings us to …
6.Regulations stifle the economy; deregulation unleashes economic growth…
 
7.Climate Change is “just a theory” and we can’t afford to address it: Leaving aside the fact that in the pantheon of science, “theories” are reserved for issues that are about as certain as the scientific method allows, the scientific consensus on global warming is as strong as it gets….Thanks to Republican denial, Democratic complicity and press malfeasance, we’re literally sleepwalking into the worst catastrophe the human race has ever faced.
 
8.Republicans want to protect your freedom. Except when they want to tell you who you can sleep with, who you can marry, whether or not you can use birth control; when and whether you can choose to die; or when they want to tap your phone or detain you without due process, of course.
 

So why is it that these myths and lies – so easily disproven – persist. Indeed, why have they become conventional wisdom for many Americans, and why do they shape the national debate? 

Here’s where the Democrats, distractions and the press’s malfeasance comes in. 

Republicans throw up a lot of flack to keep people from focusing on the fact that they’re basically getting screwed by the 1%….it only works because Democrats are too wimpy – or too complicit – to confront this bait-and-switch bullshit… 

It doesn’t help that Democrats are feeding at the same corporate trough… 

But the real culprit is the press – they’ve simply abrogated their responsibility to give people accurate, truthful information… 

We are now stuck with a media that puts “balance” or “objectivity” before truth.

 At the end of the day, trying to run a country according to the rules of fantasy island isn’t a recipe for success. But it does serve the interests of the 1%.

Full text

The United States is headed for a plutocratic dystopia where a few gated communities sit like islands amidst a sea of bitterness, misery, and want.

Why?

Because the country is running on lies, myths, deceptions and distractions. Not surprisingly, they aren’t working very well for us.

Let’s run through a few of the most destructive lies and myths.

  1. Corporations and the uber rich are the job creators: Uh, no. Corporations are sitting on over $2 trillion dollars in un-invested profits. What jobs they are creating are in China and other countries – which, by the way, engaged in huge government funded stimulus programs when the Great Recession first hit. Which brings us to our next myth…
     
  2. Government can’t create jobs: This particular whopper is just plain counterfactual. Obama’s much maligned stimulus program created some 3 million jobs and would have created more if he hadn’t caved to Republicans and limited its size and agreed to put 40% of it into unproductive tax cuts. In short, government does create jobs – no one else can or will when there’s not enough consumer demand to justify corporate expansion. And as long as the middle class’s wealth is getting siphoned off by the 1%, there will not be enough demand.
     
  3. The deficit is our main problem, therefore we need an austerity budget: The story line from deficit hawks is that a deficit will spook bond markets and make it difficult for the US to borrow. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, demand is so high for our bonds, we’re able to borrow at record low interest rates. And while folks are practically lining up to buy our debt instruments, they’re eschewing investments in countries which instituted austerity plans. Yet the Obama Administration continues to join with the Republicans in insane hand wringing over deficits. Yes, we must bring down the deficit eventually, but not in the midst of a jobs crisis. In the long term, there are two ways to cut the deficit: grow our way out of it, or cut spending to the bone, and face a stagnating economy for the foreseeable future. If we’re to avoid the latter, right now we need government investment to stimulate growth.
     
  4. Republicans actually care about deficits: Let’s put a stake in the heart of this one right now. Reagan and the two Bushes created more than 66% of the country’s debt — an amount equal to more than twice as much as all other President’s combined (including Obama). Did you hear any complaints while this record breaking debt was being wracked up? Not a word. Clinton, it’s worth remembering, had a surplus.
     
  5. Republicans favor small government: In fact, the size of government exploded under Reagan and Bush II, and we didn’t hear a peep out of Republicans. In the last thirty years, only Clinton reduced the size of government significantly, and he did so while declaring “the era of big government” to be over. What they really favor is weak government, which brings us to …
     
  6. Regulations stifle the economy; deregulation unleashes economic growth:The fact is, laissez-faire, free market policies have failed miserably every time they’ve been tried. They have a nasty habit of causing grotesque income inequalities, huge market volatility and severe financial collapses. In fact, the Great Recession we are now climbing out of should have been strike 3 for the Free Marketeers. Strike 1 was the Panic of 1893 and the depression which followed it. Strike 2 was the Great Depression of the 30’s. In all three cases, these collapses were preceded by conservative, laissez-faire policies featuring deregulation, low taxes and weak governments.Three tries – each resulting in severe income inequality and the catastrophic economic meltdowns they inevitably cause. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this strategy doesn’t work.
     
  7. Climate Change is “just a theory” and we can’t afford to address it: Leaving aside the fact that in the pantheon of science, “theories” are reserved for issues that are about as certain as the scientific method allows, the scientific consensus on global warming is as strong as it gets. And we know that the costs of not acting to prevent it are going to be far more than the cost of taking action, and it goes up with each year we delay. Thanks to Republican denial, Democratic complicity and press malfeasance, we’re literally sleepwalking into the worst catastrophe the human race has ever faced.
     
  8. Republicans want to protect your freedom. Except when they want to tell you who you can sleep with, who you can marry, whether or not you can use birth control; when and whether you can choose to die; or when they want to tap your phone or detain you without due process, of course.

So why is it that these myths and lies – so easily disproven – persist. Indeed, why have they become conventional wisdom for many Americans, and why do they shape the national debate?

Here’s where the Democrats, distractions and the press’s malfeasance comes in.

Republicans throw up a lot of flack to keep people from focusing on the fact that they’re basically getting screwed by the 1%. Red meat issues like gay marriage, abortion and contraception, family values, and immigration do their part. Bald-faced lies like “Obama apologizes forAmerica,” or he was born inKenyacontribute as well. But it only works because Democrats are too wimpy – or too complicit – to confront this bait-and-switch bullshit.

It doesn’t help that Democrats are feeding at the same corporate trough. No doubt that explains why they act like the class cowards and cringe in the last stall in the bathroom every time one of these faux issues get raised.

But the real culprit is the press – they’ve simply abrogated their responsibility to give people accurate, truthful information. Several weeks ago, New York Times “reader’s representative” Andy Brisbane actually asked readers whether reporters should be concerned with the truth. Honestly. He did.

We are now stuck with a media that puts “balance” or “objectivity” before truth. As Eric Sevareid said:

“Our rigid formulae of so-called objectivity … have given the lie the same prominence and impact that truth is given; they have elevated the influence of fools to that of wise men; the ignorant to the level of the learned; the evil to the level of the good.”

This is more true today than it was then. And without a press devoted to honesty and accuracy, our ship of state runs on yarns, myths and the modern day equivalent of “bread and circuses,” and we are at the mercy of the evil, the foolish and the ignorant.

As long as that’s the case, the whims of the 1% will rule and your pay will continue to erode, or your job will exported toChinaorIndiaorHondurasor anywhere the plutocrats are free to exploit workers and the environment. Or to places likeGermany, where they don’t buy into the myths, and an active government role assures high-wage jobs and general prosperity.

At the end of the day, trying to run a country according to the rules of fantasy island isn’t a recipe for success. But it does serve the interests of the 1%. 

John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, theBaltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major newspapers. Atcheson’s book reviews are featured on Climateprogess.org.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/20-0