Conservative Frank Luntz Has Set a Trap for Progressives -- Here's How to Outsmart Him and Boost the Occupy Movement
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He doesn't want progressives pointing out that corporations govern our lives far more than any government does - and for their profit, not ours. He doesn't want any discussion of corporate waste, or military waste, which is huge.
Luntz would love to have Democrats talking about "entrepreneurs," which evokes a Republican view of the market as a tool for self-interest. His proposal to discuss "job creators" instead hides the fact that the business community has not been hiring despite record profits. He certainly does not want discussion of outsourcing and minimizing pay for work, which leads corporations to eliminate or downgrade jobs and hence keep wages low when profits are high.
Hidden behind his proposal to substitute "careers" for "jobs" is his attempt to appeal to young people just out of college and grad school who expect more - a profession - not just a mere "job." But of course, corporations are downgrading positions away from professional careers and more toward interchangeable McJobs requiring minimal ability and with minimal pay and benefits.
Luntz is right about not saying "sacrifice." He is right that most Americans are already hurting more than enough. They want a viable present and a future for themselves and their children and grandchildren. He is right to suggest "talking about how 'we're all in this together.' We either succeed together or we fail together." But that is the opposite of conservative morality. It is the progressive view of a moral democracy that all of Luntz's conservative framings contradict. It is an attempt at co-opting the progressive moral system, because the Occupy movement is showing that it is an idea of Democracy that makes sense to most Americans. And it is an attempt to take Obama's strongest moral appeal away from him.
Unfortunately, Luntz is still ahead of most progressives responding to him. Progressives need to learn how framing works. Bashing Luntz, bashing Fox News, bashing the right-wing pundits and leaders using their frames and arguing against their positions just keeps their frames in play.
Progressives have a basic morality, which is largely unspoken. It has to be spoken, over and over, in every corner of our country. Progressives need to be both thinking and talking about their view of a moral Democracy, about how a robust Pubic is necessary for private success, about all that the Public gives us, about the benefits of health, about a Market for All not a Greed Market, about regulation as protection, about revenue and investment, about corporations that keep wages low when profits are high, about how most of the rich earn a lot of their money without making anything or serving anyone, about how corporations govern your life for their profit not yours, about real food, about corporate and military waste, about the moral and social role of unions, about how global warming causes the increasingly monstrous effects of weather disasters, about how to save and preserve nature.
Progressives have magnificent stories of their own to tell. They need to be telling them nonstop.
Let's lure the right into using OUR frames in public discourse.
George Lakoff is the author of Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate ' (Chelsea Green). He is Professor of Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley and a Senior Fellow of the Rockridge Institute.