Most Progressives and Democrats whom I've seen in the news media seem to share my value of honesty. I think of myself as being mostly, more-or-less Progressive. I share many of their values. That's why is distresses me that, while they seem to be open and honest about facts, they are all too often leave out their values. Let me explain why I say that. There's more to political views than mere facts. There are value systems. When we're at our best, we want what's best for our country, for our state and for our county and city (if we live in one). Our notions about what's best come first and foremost from our value system. Progressives typically have values like empathy, compassion and doing what's best for everybody. From there, we can site facts to bolster our argument, but fundamentally, the core of wanting what's best for the country, state or local area you live in starts with core values.
Yet, all too often, Progressive and Democrat politicians only talk about facts and leave out values. Conservatives and Republicans talk about values, except that they have different values, such as authoritarianism, discipline and self-reliance (actually, I think we Progressives respect discipline and self-reliance as forms of taking responsibility, but we see them in a greater context of empathy, compassion and wanting what's best for all). The result is that people hear facts (or in some cases misrepresented facts) from both sided, but only values from one side, so they tend to support Conservatives over Progressives. What Progressive leaders should do is speak from their core values. In fact, I think many of us rank-and-file Progressives back home could stand to do that more too. This is more than good strategy: it's ethical! It's ethical to be honest. Witholding your value system, allowing others to choose the words of the debate that reinforce their value system and allowing them to speak to their value system without speaking to yours is really a form of dishonesty. It's dishonest because it hides your values. The honest thing to do is actually to express your values. That way people know both your values and the facts, as opposed to just the facts.
This is exactly what Dr. George Lakoff, the U.C. Berkeley cognitive scientist and linguist, has been saying for years. Here is his blog on Huffington Post:
George Lakoff's Blog on Huffington Post
Dr. Lakoff explains that Progressives and Democrats can win if they use something called language framing to choose words based on our own Progressive value system rather than someone else's value system (such as a Conservative one). All language and all words have frames around them. Consider the term "reform". For example, I say I support "Tax Reform" and you say you disagree with "Ivan's Tax Reform" policy, you're reinforcing my value system, which says that taxes needs to be reformed. On the other hand, if you say, "I believe in wise investments in the American people and cutting taxes without providing for things like public education and health care will gut those wise investments", according to Dr. Lakoff, you've reframed the debate from the point of view of your value system. This is actually more honest, because, according to your value system, rather than taxes needing reform, taxes can be one means of making wise investments. That is, everybody would like taxes to be lower, but your value system is that taxes can be useful if they're spent wisely. So, it actually communicates your value system more clearly and more concisely, whereas saying that you oppose my "tax reform" hides your value system while putting mine up in the front. (Obviously, I don't really support "tax reform" that would gut funds for public education and health care. It's just an example! :D )
Dr. Lakoff has written several books on this subject as follows:
Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives -- this is a good introduction to his theory
Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think -- this is more in debth
Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision -- this is sort of a handbook for how Progressives and Democrats can reframe the debate. Think of it as a strategy guide.
In my humble opinion as one rank-and-file Progressive (more-or-less), I think it's critical that Progressive and Democrat politicians start reframing the debate from the point of view of our Progressive value system. If they fail to, the Coservatives will continues to win. On the other hand, if Progressives succeed in reframing the debate, Dr. Lakoff predicts that Progressive views will win out. That's because most Americans are actually more Progressive than Conservative, but they keep siding with Conservative policies, because Conservative politicians are good at expressing their value systems. I'm sure Dr. Lakoff would be happy to help Progressives and Democrats win.
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