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The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic

by George LakoffElisabeth Wehling

Pub Date: June 26th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4767-0001-4
Publisher: Free Press

A compact handbook on partisan political discourse, with a blueprint for how liberals can switch from playing defense against conservatives to launching a stronger offense.

“This is a handbook for Democrats, intended for immediate use in the current political moment,” write Lakoff (Cognitive Science and Linguistics/Univ. of California, Berkeley; The Political Mind: A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to Your Brain and Its Politics, 2009, etc.) and political strategist Wehling. However, the book’s foundation is deeper, as the authors go beneath the issues of the day to analyze the differences in moral values and framing devices of the two competing ideologies. “Each moral worldview comes with a set of issue frames,” they write. “By frames, we mean structures of ideas that we use to understand the world.” Thus, Democrats and Republicans may agree on the importance of a value such as “freedom,” but have entirely different conceptions of that ideal. Both may proceed from family values that serve as a metaphor for the relationship of the individual and the government, but there’s an ideological chasm separating the “nurturant parent family” envisioned by progressives and the “strict father family” of conservatives. Lakoff and Wehling argue that most voters are morally complex, unlikely to identify with extreme conservatism, but that conservatives have been far more effective at framing debate. They excoriate the evils of privatization, maintaining that less government is code for greater corporate control, and they suggest that liberals start speaking of “revenue” rather than “taxes,” “investment” rather than “government spending,” and “pregnancy prevention” rather than “birth control.”

This is not a book likely, or intended, to change anyone’s mind, but it offers analysis and rhetoric through which liberal strategists may attempt to shift the dialogue and win elections.