The Secret of Obama's Success: He Listens to George Lakoff

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank captured the angst foes of Barack Obama are feeling.


The Clintons in the past couple of weeks have done all they could to cook him up into an airy souffle, a candidate so light in substance that he collapses when speared. They exposed him as a guy who copies others' speeches and makes lofty pledges only to break them.
And yet: The Obama Souffle continues to rise.
Why that is has befuddled many Democrats, particularly Clinton followers. How can Obama score so many wins by offering so little -- just hope -- and yet everything -- hope?

I can answer that question. It's because Obama gets it. He's been reading the George Lakoff and Rockridge Institute playbook, Thinking Points and skillfully applying it. Lakoff rewrote the progressive strategy with the concept of framing. Had my guy, John Edwards, followed Lakoff's advice and like Obama, gone lighter on the policies and heavier on the values, he might be where Obama is today. Dennis Kucinich would have won a primary or two. John Kerry might be president now. Al Gore would not have needed the Supreme Court in 2000.
Richard Wirthlin, chief strategist for former president Ronald Reagan, made a discovery in 1980 that profoundly changed American politics. As a pollster, he was taught that people vote for candidates on the basis of the candidates' positions on issues. But his initial polls for Reagan revealed something fascinating: Voters who didn't agree with Reagan on the issues still wanted to vote for him...
Reagan talked about values rather than issues. Communicating values mattered more than specific policy positions. Reagan connected with people; he communicated well...It was not because all of his values matched theirs exactly. It was not because he was from their socioeconomic class or subculture. It was because they believed in the integrity of his connection with them as well as the connection between his worldview and his actions.

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