The wrong language

by Susie
I think one of the reasons why I never became a heavy hitter in the liberal blogosphere is that I absolutely reject the idea that wonking people out is a winning strategy. It’s just not, but liberals seem to want to double down on it, anyway. Whatever the arena – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, cable news — there’s always some liberal trying to respond to conservatives by being “logical” and “rational.”

Yeah, it’s worked great so far, hasn’t it?

So George Lakoff gets no argument from me on this:

I think Democrats need much better positive messaging, expressing and repeating liberal moral values — not just policies– uniformly across the party. That is not happening.

One of the reasons that it is not happening is that there is a failure to understand the difference between policy and morality, that morality beats policy, and that moral discourse is absolutely necessary. This is a major reason why the Democrats lost the House in 2010. Consider how conservatives got a majority of Americans to be against the Obama health care plan. The president had polled the provisions, and each had strong public support: No preconditions, no caps, no loss of coverage if you get sick, ability to keep your college-age child on your policy, and so on. These are policy details, and they matter. The conservatives never argued against any of them. Instead, they re-framed; they made a moral case against “Obamacare.” Their moral principles were freedom and life, and they had language to go with them. Freedom: “government takeover.” Life: “death panels.” Republicans at all levels repeated them over and over, and convinced millions of people who were for the policy provisions of the Obama plan to be against the plan as a whole. They changed the public discourse, changed the brains of the electorate — especially the “independents” — and won in 2010.

For several decades now, I’ve been telling Democratic candidates the same thing: Telling people they’re stupid for supporting the other guy (because he’s corrupt, unfair, a hypocrite, etc.) is a losing strategy. You have to offer them something, like a big idea.

Democrats keep getting bogged down in the minutiae. It’s why voters roll their eyes and say, “Oh, there they go again.”

Whenever I argue politics, I do it from a moral perspective. It connects with people. Making them feel stupid doesn’t.

4 thoughts on “The wrong language

  1. The Right has core beliefs. Liberals really don’t. In the 1960’s, the Democratic Party stood strongly for the poor, working class, middle class, immigrants, minorities, a safety net.

    But the Democratic Party as a whole has abandoned all that and now has nothing to fight for because it doesn’t know what it believes.

    I’d say you are to the left of liberal.

  2. Honestly, I’ve never understood this. Of course you should argue it from the moral perspective. Everything else becomes detail on how you accomplish the moral goals you’ve set. It’s extremely important, because the devil is in the details, but unless you’ve set the goals and moral debate of why you’re trying to accomplish something, you can’t discuss the details in any useful manner anyway.

    Get everyone on board with that first, then you can go wonky.

  3. I hate political speeches from Democrats that go on and on with policy proposals. I want them to be another Mario Cuomo at the 1984? 1988? Democratic convention with his vision of the ‘City on the Hill’ where no child went hungry and no sick person was neglected because we made a commitment as a society to take care of each other. It broke my heart.

  4. I “Social Media” with plenty of conservatives and you are absolutely correct about the moralizing of issues.
    As far as using religious freedom in deregulating the ACA act, pretty good strategy.
    Unfortunately, conservatives don’t quit while they are ahead and go for the “winner take all” tactic.
    When some of my conservative debate friends have exhausted all their resources, one cam always count on some irrelevant quote from the “Federalists’ Papers.” 🙂

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