Activism Discussion: The Framing Wars

The Framing Wars
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Dan Clore
2005-07-18 01:34:52 EST
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

The New York Times
July 17, 2005
The Framing Wars
By MATT BAI

After last November's defeat, Democrats were like aviation
investigators sifting through twisted metal in a cornfield,
struggling to posit theories about the disaster all around
them. Some put the onus on John Kerry, saying he had never
found an easily discernable message. Others, including Kerry
himself, wrote off the defeat to the unshakable realities of
wartime, when voters were supposedly less inclined to
jettison a sitting president. Liberal activists blamed mushy
centrists. Mushy centrists blamed Michael Moore. As the
weeks passed, however, at Washington dinner parties and in
public post-mortems, one explanation took hold not just
among Washington insiders but among far-flung contributors,
activists and bloggers too: the problem wasn't the substance
of the party's agenda or its messenger as much as it was the
Democrats' inability to communicate coherently. They had
allowed Republicans to control the language of the debate,
and that had been their undoing.

Even in their weakened state, Democrats resolved not to let
it happen again. And improbably, given their post-election
gloom, they managed twice in the months that followed to
make good on that pledge. The first instance was the
skirmish over the plan that the president called Social
Security reform and that everybody else, by spring, was
calling a legislative disaster. The second test for
Democrats was their defense of the filibuster (the
time-honored stalling tactic that prevents the majority in
the Senate from ending debate), which seemed at the start a
hopeless cause but ended in an unlikely stalemate. These
victories weren't easy to account for, coming as they did at
a time when Republicans seem to own just about everything in
Washington but the first-place Nationals. (And they're
working on that.) During the first four years of the Bush
administration, after all, Democrats had railed just as
loudly against giveaways to the wealthy and energy
lobbyists, and all they had gotten for their trouble were
more tax cuts and more drilling. Something had changed in
Washington -- but what?

Democrats thought they knew the answer. Even before the
election, a new political word had begun to take hold of the
party, beginning on the West Coast and spreading like a
virus all the way to the inner offices of the Capitol. That
word was "framing." Exactly what it means to "frame" issues
seems to depend on which Democrat you are talking to, but
everyone agrees that it has to do with choosing the language
to define a debate and, more important, with fitting
individual issues into the contexts of broader story lines.
In the months after the election, Democratic consultants and
elected officials came to sound like creative-writing
teachers, holding forth on the importance of metaphor and
narrative.

Republicans, of course, were the ones who had always
excelled at framing controversial issues, having invented
and popularized loaded phrases like "tax relief" and
"partial-birth abortion" and having achieved a kind of
Pravda-esque discipline for disseminating them. But now
Democrats said that they had learned to fight back. "The
Democrats have finally reached a level of outrage with what
Republicans were doing to them with language," Geoff Garin,
a leading Democratic pollster, told me in May.

By the time Washington's attention turned to the Supreme
Court earlier this month, rejuvenated Democrats actually
believed they had developed the rhetorical skill, if it came
to that, to thwart the president's plans for the court. That
a party so thoroughly relegated to minority status might
dictate the composition of the Supreme Court would seem to
mock the hard realities of history and mathematics, but that
is how much faith the Democrats now held in the power of a
compelling story. "In a way, it feels like all the systemic
improvements we've made in communications strategy over the
past few months have been leading to this," Jim Jordan, one
of the party's top strategists, said a few days after Sandra
Day O'Connor announced her resignation. "This will be an
extraordinarily sophisticated, well-orchestrated, intense
fight. And our having had some run-throughs over the past
few months will be extremely important."

The most critical run-through for Democrats, in light of the
test ahead, was the defense of the filibuster, and for that
reason, it offers some useful clues to how Democrats may try
to frame the Supreme Court fight as well. The battle began
late last fall, when Senate Republicans, feeling pretty good
about themselves, started making noises about ramming judges
through the Senate by stripping Democrats of their ability
to filibuster, a plan the Republican senators initially
called "the nuclear option." The fight was nominally over
Bush's choices for the federal bench, but everyone knew it
was in fact merely a prelude to the battle over the Supreme
Court; the only way for Democrats to stop a confirmation
vote would be to employ the filibuster.
[Note that after coining the term "nuclear option", the
Republicans dropped it and started dishonestly attributing
it to the Democrats.--DC]

In January, Geoff Garin conducted a confidential poll on
judicial nominations, paid for by a coalition of liberal
advocacy groups. He was looking for a story -- a frame --
for the filibuster that would persuade voters that it should
be preserved, and he tested four possible narratives.
Democratic politicians assumed that voters saw the
filibuster fight primarily as a campaign to stop radically
conservative judges, as they themselves did. But to their
surprise, Garin found that making the case on ideological
grounds -- that is, that the filibuster prevented the
appointment of judges who would roll back civil rights --
was the least effective approach. When, however, you told
voters that the filibuster had been around for over 200
years, that Republicans were "changing rules in the middle
of the game" and dismantling the "checks and balances" that
protected us against one-party rule, almost half the voters
strongly agreed, and 7 out of 10 were basically persuaded.
It became, for them, an issue of fairness.

Garin then convened focus groups and listened for clues
about how to make this case. He heard voters call the
majority party "arrogant." They said they feared "abuse of
power." This phrase struck Garin. He realized many people
had already developed deep suspicions about Republicans in
Washington. Garin shared his polling with a group of
Democratic senators that included Harry Reid, the minority
leader. Reid, in turn, assigned Stephanie Cutter, who was
Kerry's spokeswoman last year, to put together a
campaign-style "war room" on the filibuster. Cutter set up a
strategy group, which included senior Senate aides, Garin,
the pollster Mark Mellman and Jim Margolis, one of the
party's top ad makers. She used Garin's research to create a
series of talking points intended to cast the filibuster as
an American birthright every bit as central to the Republic
as Fourth of July fireworks. The talking points began like
this: "Republicans are waging an unprecedented power grab.
They are changing the rules in the middle of the game and
attacking our historic system of checks and balances." They
concluded, "Democrats are committed to fighting this abuse
of power."

Cutter's war room began churning out mountains of news
releases hammering daily at the G.O.P.'s "abuse of power."
In an unusual show of discipline, Democrats in the Senate
and House carried laminated, pocket-size message cards --
"DEMOCRATS FIGHTING FOR DEMOCRACY, AGAINST ABUSE OF POWER,"
blared the headline at the top -- with the talking points on
one side and some helpful factoids about Bush's nominees on
the other. During an appearance on "This Week With George
Stephanopoulos" in April, Senator Charles Schumer of New
York needed all of 30 seconds to invoke the "abuse of power"
theme -- twice.

By the time Reid took to the airwaves in late May, on the
eve of what looked to be a final showdown on the filibuster
("This abuse of power is not what our founders intended," he
told the camera solemnly), the issue seemed pretty well
defined in the public mind. In a typical poll conducted by
Time magazine, 59 percent of voters said they thought the
G.O.P. should be stopped from eliminating the filibuster.
Perhaps feeling the pressure, a group of seven Republicans
joined with seven Democrats in a last-minute compromise.
Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, and his team,
smarting from crucial defections, had no choice but to back
down from a vote. The truce meant that several of Bush's
judges would be confirmed quickly, but it marked a rare
retreat for Republicans and infuriated conservative
activists, who knew that a Supreme Court battle would now be
messier than they had hoped.

For their part, Democrats were euphoric at having played the
G.O.P. to a draw. The facts of the filibuster fight hadn't
necessarily favored them; in reality, the constitutional
principle of "checks and balances" on which the Democrats'
case was based refers to the three branches of government,
not to some parliamentary procedure, and it was actually the
Democrats who had broken with Senate tradition by using the
filibuster to block an entire slate of judges. ("An
irrelevancy beyond the pay grade of the American voter,"
Garin retorted when I pointed this out.) And yet it was
their theory of the case, and not the Republicans', that had
won the argument. As Garin explained it, Republicans had
become ensnared in a faulty frame of their own making. The
phrase "nuclear option" -- a term Frist and his colleagues
had tried gamely, but unsuccessfully, to lose -- had made
Dr. Frist sound more like Dr. Strangelove. "It's a very
evocative phrase," Garin said. "It's blowing up the Senate.
It's having your finger on the button."

Garin was gloating, but it was hard to blame him. On the eve
of what promises to be a historic debate over the direction
of the nation's highest court, Democrats on Capitol Hill
seemed to have starkly reversed the dynamic of last fall's
election. Then, they had watched helplessly as George W.
Bush and his strategists methodically twisted John Kerry
into a hopeless tangle of contradictions and equivocations,
using words and imagery to bend him into a shape that hardly
resembled the war hero he had been. Now, Democrats believed,
they had deciphered the hieroglyphics of modern political
debate that had so eluded them in the campaign, and in doing
so they had exacted some small measure of revenge. As one of
the party's senior Senate aides told me a few days after the
filibuster compromise was reached, "We framed them the way
they framed Kerry."

The father of framing is a man named George Lakoff, and his
spectacular ascent over the last eight months in many ways
tells the story of where Democrats have been since the
election. A year ago, Lakoff was an obscure linguistics
professor at Berkeley, renowned as one of the great, if
controversial, minds in cognitive science but largely
unknown outside of it. When he, like many liberals, became
exasperated over the drift of the Kerry campaign last summer
-- "I went to bed angry every night," he told me -- Lakoff
decided to bang out a short book about politics and
language, based on theories he had already published with
academic presses, that could serve as a kind of handbook for
Democratic activists. His agent couldn't find a publishing
house that wanted it. Lakoff ended up more or less giving it
away to Chelsea Green, a tiny liberal publisher in Vermont.

That book, "Don't Think of an Elephant!" is now in its
eighth printing, having sold nearly 200,000 copies, first
through liberal word of mouth and the blogosphere and then
through reviews and the lecture circuit. (On the eve of last
fall's election, I came across a Democratic volunteer in
Ohio who was handing out a boxful of copies to her friends.)
Lakoff has emerged as one of the country's most coveted
speakers among liberal groups, up there with Howard Dean,
who, as it happens, wrote the foreword to "Don't Think of an
Elephant!" Lakoff has a DVD titled "How Democrats and
Progressives Can Win: Solutions From George Lakoff," and he
recently set up his own consulting company.

When I first met Lakoff in April, at a U.C.L.A. forum where
he was appearing with Arianna Huffington and the populist
author Thomas Frank, he told me that he had been receiving
an average of eight speaking invitations a day and that his
e-mail account and his voice mailbox had been full for
months. "I have a lot of trouble with this life," Lakoff
confided wearily as we boarded a rental-car shuttle in
Oakland the following morning. He is a short and portly man
with a professorial beard, and his rumpled suits are a size
too big. "People say, 'Why do you go speak to all these
little groups?' It's because I love them. I wish I could do
them all." Not that most of Lakoff's engagements are small.
Recently, in what has become a fairly typical week for him,
Lakoff sold out auditoriums in Denver and Seattle.

How this came to be is a story about the unlikely
intersection of cognitive science and political tumult. It
began nearly 40 years ago, when, as a graduate student,
Lakoff rebelled against his mentor, Noam Chomsky, the most
celebrated linguist of the century. The technical basis of
their argument, which for a time cleaved the linguistics
world in two, remains well beyond the intellectual reach of
anyone who actually had fun in college, but it was a
personal and nasty disagreement, and it basically went like
this: Chomsky said that linguists should concern themselves
with discovering the universal rules of syntax, which form
the basis for language. Lakoff, on the other hand, theorized
that language was inherently linked to the workings of the
mind -- to "conceptual structures," as a linguist would put
it -- and that to understand language, you first had to
study the way that each individual's worldview and ideas
informed his thought process.

Chomsky effectively won this debate, at least in the sense
that most American linguistics departments still teach it
his way. (To this day, the two men don't speak.) Undeterred,
however, Lakoff and his like-minded colleagues marched off
and founded the field of cognitive linguistics, which seeks
to understand the nature of language -- how we use it, why
it is persuasive -- by exploring the largely unconscious way
in which the mind operates.

In the 1970s, Lakoff, verging into philosophy, became
obsessed with metaphors. As he explained it to me one day
over lunch at a Berkeley cafe, students of the mind, going
back to Aristotle, had always viewed metaphor simply as a
device of language, a facile way of making a point. Lakoff
argued instead that metaphors were actually embedded in the
recesses of the mind, giving the brain a way to process
abstract ideas. In other words, a bad relationship reminds
you on an unconscious level of a cul-de-sac, because both
are leading nowhere. This results from what might be called
a "love as journey" frame in the neural pathways of your
brain -- that is, you are more likely to relate to the story
of, say, a breakup if it is described to you with the
imagery of a journey. This might seem intuitive, but in
1980, when Lakoff wrote "Metaphors We Live By," it was
considered fairly radical. "For 2,500 years, nobody
challenged Aristotle, even though he was wrong," Lakoff told
me, sipping from a goblet of pinot grape juice. Humility is
not his most obvious virtue.

Through his work on metaphors, Lakoff found an avenue into
political discourse. In a seminal 1996 book, "Moral
Politics," he asserted that people relate to political
ideologies, on an unconscious level, through the
metaphorical frame of a family. Conservative politicians,
Lakoff suggests, operate under the frame of a strict father,
who lays down inflexible rules and imbues his family with a
strong moral order. Liberals, on the other hand, are best
understood through a frame of the nurturant parent, who
teaches his child to pursue personal happiness and care for
those around him. (The two models, Lakoff has said, are
personified by Arnold Schwarzenegger on one side and Oprah
Winfrey on the other.) Most voters, Lakoff suggests, carry
some part of both parental frames in the synapses of their
brains; which model is "activated" -- that is, which they
can better relate to -- depends on the language that
politicians use and the story that they tell.
[I wish we could get away from both of these models, which
presume that people are children. Finding an alternative to
them may prove difficult, though. The once-common use of
sibling metaphors, brotherhood, fraternity, "brothers and
sisters", etc. might provide a place to start.--DC]

The most compelling part of Lakoff's hypothesis is the
notion that in order to reach voters, all the individual
issues of a political debate must be tied together by some
larger frame that feels familiar to us. Lakoff suggests that
voters respond to grand metaphors -- whether it is the
metaphor of a strict father or something else entirely -- as
opposed to specific arguments, and that specific arguments
only resonate if they reinforce some grander metaphor. The
best evidence to support this idea can be found in the
history of the 2004 presidential campaign. From Day 1,
Republicans tagged Kerry with a larger metaphor: he was a
flip-flopper, a Ted Kennedy-style liberal who tried to seem
centrist, forever bouncing erratically from one position to
the other. They made sure that virtually every comment they
uttered about Kerry during the campaign reminded voters,
subtly or not, of this one central theme. (The smartest ad
of the campaign may have been the one that showed Kerry
windsurfing, expertly gliding back and forth, back and
forth.) Democrats, on the other hand, presented a litany of
different complaints about Bush, depending on the day and
the backdrop; he was a liar, a corporate stooge, a spoiled
rich kid, a reckless warmonger. But they never managed to
tie them all into a single, unifying image that voters could
associate with the president. As a result, none of them
stuck. Bush was attacked. Kerry was framed.

According to Lakoff, Republicans are skilled at using loaded
language, along with constant repetition, to play into the
frames in our unconscious minds. Take one of his favorite
examples, the phrase "tax relief." It presumes, Lakoff
points out, that we are being oppressed by taxes and that we
need to be liberated from them. It fits into a familiar
frame of persecution, and when such a phrase, repeated over
time, enters the everyday lexicon, it biases the debate in
favor of conservatives. If Democrats start to talk about
their own "tax relief" plan, Lakoff says, they have conceded
the point that taxes are somehow an unfair burden rather
than making the case that they are an investment in the
common good. The argument is lost before it begins.
[Taxes sure seem like a burden to me.--DC]

Lakoff informed his political theories by studying the work
of Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster who helped Newt
Gingrich formulate the Contract With America in 1994. To
Lakoff and his followers, Luntz is the very embodiment of
Republican deception. His private memos, many of which fell
into the hands of Democrats, explain why. In one recent
memo, titled "The 14 Words Never to Use," Luntz urged
conservatives to restrict themselves to phrases from what he
calls, grandly, the "New American Lexicon." Thus, a smart
Republican, in Luntz's view, never advocates "drilling for
oil"; he prefers "exploring for energy." He should never
criticize the "government," which cleans our streets and
pays our firemen; he should attack "Washington," with its
ceaseless thirst for taxes and regulations. "We should never
use the word outsourcing," Luntz wrote, "because we will
then be asked to defend or end the practice of allowing
companies to ship American jobs overseas."

In Lakoff's view, not only does Luntz's language twist the
facts of his agenda but it also renders facts meaningless by
actually reprogramming, through long-term repetition, the
neural networks inside our brains. And this is where
Lakoff's vision gets a little disturbing. According to
Lakoff, Democrats have been wrong to assume that people are
rational actors who make their decisions based on facts; in
reality, he says, cognitive science has proved that all of
us are programmed to respond to the frames that have been
embedded deep in our unconscious minds, and if the facts
don't fit the frame, our brains simply reject them. Lakoff
explained to me that the frames in our brains can be
"activated" by the right combination of words and imagery,
and only then, once the brain has been unlocked, can we
process the facts being thrown at us.

This notion of "activating" unconscious thought sounded like
something out of "The Manchurian Candidate" ("Raymond, why
don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?"),
and I asked Lakoff if he was suggesting that Americans voted
for conservatives because they had been brainwashed.

"Absolutely not," he answered, shaking his head.

But hadn't he just said that Republicans had somehow managed
to rewire people's brains?

"That's true, but that's different from brainwashing, and
it's a very important thing," he said. "Brainwashing has to
do with physical control, capturing people and giving them
messages over and over under conditions of physical
deprivation or torture. What conservatives have done is not
brainwashing in this way. They've done something that's
perfectly legal. What they've done is find ways to set their
frames into words over many years and have them repeated
over and over again and have everybody say it the same way
and get their journalists to repeat them, until they became
part of normal English."

I asked Lakoff how he himself had avoided being reprogrammed
by these stealth Republican words. "Because I'm a linguist,
I recognize them," he said. Even to him, this sounded a
little too neat, and a moment later he admitted that he,
too, had fallen prey to conservative frames now and then.
"Occasionally," he said with a shrug, "I've caught myself."

In May 2003, Senator Byron Dorgan, the North Dakota
Democrat, read "Moral Politics" and took Lakoff to a
Democratic Senate retreat in Cambridge, Md. Lakoff had never
met a senator before. "I knew what they were up against,
even if they didn't know what they were up against," Lakoff
says. "They were just besieged. My heart went out to them."

Lakoff gave a presentation, and in the parlance of
comedians, he killed. Hillary Clinton invited him to dinner.
Tom Daschle, then the minority leader, asked Lakoff if he
would rejoin the senators a few days later, during their
next caucus meeting at the Capitol, so that he could offer
advice about the tax plan they were working on. Lakoff
readily agreed, even though he had come East without so much
as a jacket or tie. "I went in there, and it was just this
beautiful thing," he told me, recalling the caucus meeting.
"All these people I'd just met applauded. They gave me hugs.
It was the most amazing thing."

Of course, the idea that language and narrative matter in
politics shouldn't really have come as a revelation to
Washington Democrats. Bill Clinton had been an intuitive
master of framing. As far back as 1992, Clinton's image of
Americans who "worked hard and played by the rules," for
instance, had perfectly evoked the metaphor of society as a
contest that relied on fairness. And yet despite this,
Democrats in Congress were remarkably slow to grasp this
dimension of political combat. Having ruled Capitol Hill
pretty comfortably for most of the past 60 years, Democrats
had never had much reason to think about calibrating their
language in order to sell their ideas.

"I can describe, and I've always been able to describe, what
Republicans stand for in eight words, and the eight words
are lower taxes, less government, strong defense and family
values," Dorgan, who runs the Democratic Policy Committee in
the Senate, told me recently. "We Democrats, if you ask us
about one piece of that, we can meander for 5 or 10 minutes
in order to describe who we are and what we stand for. And
frankly, it just doesn't compete very well. I'm not talking
about the policies. I'm talking about the language."

Dorgan has become the caucus's chief proponent of framing
theory. "I think getting some help from some people who
really understand how to frame some of these issues is long
overdue," he says, which is why he invited Lakoff back to
talk to his colleagues after the 2004 election. Meanwhile,
over on the House side, George Miller, a Democrat from the
San Francisco area, met Lakoff through a contributor and
offered to distribute copies of "Don't Think of an
Elephant!" to every member of the caucus. The thin paperback
became as ubiquitous among Democrats in the Capitol as Mao's
Little Red Book once was in the Forbidden City. "The framing
was perfect for us, because we were just arriving in an
unscientific way at what Lakoff was arriving at in a
scientific way," says Representative Nancy Pelosi, the
minority leader in the House.

In fact, though Lakoff started the framing discussion, he
was by no means the only outside expert whom Democrats were
consulting about language. To the contrary, a small industry
had blossomed. Even before the 2004 election, Pelosi had
enlisted John Cullinane, a software entrepreneur in Boston,
to help the caucus develop the wording for a vision
statement. Cullinane spent an hour and a half with members
of the caucus one afternoon, while his aide scrawled
suggestions on a white board. Among his recommendations was
that they come up with a list that had six parts -- either
six principles or six values or six ideas. When we spoke, I
asked Cullinane why it had to be six. "Seven's too many," he
replied. "Five's too few."

Then there was Richard Yanowitch, a Silicon Valley executive
and party donor, who worked with Senate Democrats, providing
what he calls "private-sector type marketing." Last
December, at Dorgan's request, Reid put Yanowitch in charge
of a "messaging project" to help devise new language for the
party. Another adviser who became a frequent guest on the
Hill after the election was Jim Wallis, a left-leaning
evangelical minister who wrote "God's Politics: Why the
Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it." In
January, after addressing a Senate caucus retreat at the
Kennedy Center, Wallis wrote a memo to the Democratic Policy
Committee titled "Budgets Are Moral Documents," in which he
laid out his argument that Democrats needed to "reframe" the
budget in spiritual terms.

What all of these new advisers meant by "framing," exactly,
and whether their concepts bore much resemblance to Lakoff's
complex cognitive theories wasn't really clear. The word had
quickly become something of a catchall, a handy term to
describe anything having to do with changing the party's
image through some new combination of language. So admired
were these outside experts that they could hardly be counted
as outsiders anymore. In May, for instance, Roger Altman,
Clinton's former deputy treasury secretary, held a dinner
for the former president to discuss the party's message with
about 15 of its most elite and influential thinkers,
including James Carville, Paul Begala, the pollster Mark J.
Penn and John Podesta, president of the Center for American
Progress, the liberal think tank. Lakoff sat at Clinton's
table; Wallis, at the next one over.

ush's plan to reform Social Security provided, last winter,
the first test of the Democrats' new focus on language and
narrative. In retrospect, it shows both the limits of
framing and, perhaps, the real reason that Democrats have
managed to stymie critical pieces of the Bush agenda.

Almost as soon as Bush signaled his intention to overhaul
the existing program, Democrats in Congress, enamored of
Lakoff's theories, embarked on a search for a compelling
story line. Yanowitch's highly secretive messaging group met
for months on the topic and came up with two "sample
narratives" that Democrats might use. The first, titled
"Privatization: A Gamble You Can't Afford to Take," stressed
the insecurity of middle-class families and compared Bush's
plan to a roll of the dice. The second, "The Magical World
of Privatization," spun out a metaphor that centered on Bush
as "an old-fashioned traveling salesman, with a cart full of
magic elixirs and cure-all tonics." Some of this imagery
found its way into the dialogue, for better or worse; Pelosi
and other House members, never too proud to put their
dignity above the greater good, held an outdoor news
conference standing next to a stack of giant dice.

As they would later with the filibuster fight and with the
Supreme Court, Senate Democrats, under Reid's direction, set
up a war room and a strategy group, this one run by Jim
Messina, chief of staff for Senator Max Baucus of Montana.
Eschewing all the lofty metaphors, the war room stuck to two
simple ideas: Bush's plan relied on privatizing the most
popular government benefit in America, and it amounted to
benefit cuts coupled with long-term borrowing. In addition
to keeping members focused on their talking points,
Messina's team and its allies -- led by two liberal interest
groups, MoveOn.org and Campaign for America's Future, with
help from the all-powerful AARP -- also had to stop senators
and congressmen from offering compromise plans that might
drive a wedge into the caucus. In this way, Democrats had
decided to follow the example of Bill Kristol, the
Republican strategist who had urged his party (shrewdly, as
it turned out) to refrain from proposing any alternatives to
Clinton's doomed health-care plan in 1993. "The minute we
introduce a plan, we have to solve the problem" is how one
senior Democratic aide explained it to me. "We are the
minority party. It's not our job to fix things."

As it happened, this was where Lakoff himself proved most
helpful. In a meeting with House Democrats, some of whom
were considering their own versions of private accounts, he
urged them to hold firm against Bush's plan. "I pointed out
that as soon as you allow them to get a privatization frame
in people's minds about retirement and Social Security, it
becomes an unintelligible difference," he recalled. "People
will not be able to tell the difference between your plan
and the other guy's." Referring to Pelosi, he added, "Nancy
was saying the same thing, and so they stopped." As
Democrats stood firm, Bush's idea for private accounts,
which was never all that popular with voters to begin with,
seemed to slowly lose altitude. A Gallup tracking poll
conducted for CNN and USA Today showed the president's plan
losing support, from 40 percent of voters in January to 33
percent in April.

Bush had tried to recast his proposed "private accounts" as
"personal accounts" after it became clear to both sides that
privatization, as a concept, frightened voters. But as they
did on the filibuster, Democrats had managed to trap the
president in his own linguistic box. "We branded them with
privatization, and they can't sell that brand anywhere,"
Pelosi bragged when I spoke with her in May. "It's down to,
like, 29 percent or something. At the beginning of this
debate, voters were saying that the president was a
president who had new ideas. Now he's a guy who wants to cut
my benefits." At this, Pelosi laughed loudly.

What had Democrats learned about framing? In the end, the
success of the Social Security effort -- and, for that
matter, the filibuster campaign -- may have had something to
do with language or metaphor, but it probably had more to do
with the elusive virtue of party discipline. Pelosi
explained it to me this way: for years, the party's leaders
had tried to get restless Democrats to stay "on message," to
stop freelancing their own rogue proposals and to continue
reading from the designated talking points even after it got
excruciatingly boring to do so. Consultants like Garin and
Margolis had been saying the same thing, but Democratic
congressmen, skeptical of the in-crowd of D.C. strategists,
had begun to tune them out. "Listening to people inside
Washington did not produce any victories," Pelosi said.

But now there were people from outside Washington -- experts
from the worlds of academia and Silicon Valley -- who were
making the same case. What the framing experts had been
telling Democrats on the Hill, aside from all this arcane
stuff about narratives and neural science, was that they
needed to stay unified and repeat the same few words and
phrases over and over again. And these "outsiders" had what
Reid and Pelosi and their legion of highly paid consultants
did not: the patina of scientific credibility. Culturally,
this made perfect sense. If you wanted Republican lawmakers
to buy into a program, you brought in a guy like Frank
Luntz, an unapologetically partisan pollster who dressed
like the head of the College Republicans. If you wanted
Democrats to pay attention, who better to do the job than an
egghead from Berkeley with an armful of impenetrable journal
studies on the workings of the brain?

You might say that Lakoff and the others managed to give the
old concept of message discipline a new, more persuasive
frame -- and that frame was called "framing." "The framing
validates what we're trying to say to them," Pelosi said.
"You have a Berkeley professor saying, 'This is how the mind
works; this is how people perceive language; this is how you
have to be organized in your presentation.' It gives me much
more leverage with my members."

n a recent morning in his Virginia office, seated next to
one of those one-way glass walls that you find only in the
offices of cops and pollsters, Frank Luntz explained why
George Lakoff and his framing theory were leading the
Democratic Party astray. In recent years, Luntz's penchant
for publicity -- he is a frequent commentator on cable
television -- has earned him no small amount of scorn and
ridicule from fellow Republicans; that Lakoff's little book
had suddenly elevated Luntz to a kind of mythic villain
seemed to amuse him. "In some ways, the Democrats appreciate
me more than the Republicans do," Luntz, 43, told me with a
trace of self-pity.

The problem with Lakoff, Luntz said, is that the professor's
ideology seemed to be driving his science. Luntz, after all,
has never made for a terribly convincing conservative
ideologue. (During our conversation, he volunteered that the
man he admired most was the actor Peter Sellers, for his
ability to disappear into whatever role he was given.) Luntz
sees Lakoff, by contrast, as a doctrinaire liberal who
believes viscerally that if Democrats are losing, it has to
be because of the words they use rather than the substance
of the argument they make. What Lakoff didn't realize, Luntz
said, was that poll-tested phrases like "tax relief" were
successful only because they reflected the values of voters
to begin with; no one could sell ideas like higher taxes and
more government to the American voter, no matter how they
were framed. To prove it, Luntz, as part of his recent
polling for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, specifically
tested some of Lakoff's proposed language on taxation. He
said he found that even when voters were reminded of the
government's need to invest in education, health care,
national security and retirement security, 66 percent of
them said the United States overtaxed its citizenry and only
14 percent said we were undertaxed. Luntz presented this
data to chamber officials on a slide with the headline
"George Lakoff Is Wrong!!"

"He deserves a lot of credit," Luntz said of Lakoff. "He's
one of the very few guys who understands the limits of
liberal language. What he doesn't understand is that there
are also limits on liberal philosophy. They think that if
they change all the words, it'll make a difference. Won't
happen." (Last month, after we talked, Luntz challenged
Lakoff, through me, to a "word-off" in which each man would
try to "move" a roomful of 30 swing voters. Lakoff responded
by counterchallenging Luntz to an "on-the-spot conceptual
analysis." Since I had no idea what either of them was
talking about, I let it go.)

Luntz's dismissiveness is what you might expect to hear
about Lakoff from a Republican, of course. But the same
complaint has surfaced with growing ferocity among skeptical
Democrats and in magazines like The Atlantic Monthly and The
New Republic. An antiframing backlash has emerged, and while
it is, on the surface, an argument about Lakoff and his
theories, it is clearly also a debate about whether the
party lacks only for language or whether it needs a fresher
agenda. Lakoff's detractors say that it is he who resembles
the traveling elixir salesman, peddling comforting answers
at a time when desperate Democrats should be admitting some
hard truths about their failure to generate new ideas.
"Every election defeat has a charlatan, some guy who shows
up and says, 'Hey, I marketed the lava lamp, and I can
market Democratic politics,'" says Kenneth Baer, a former
White House speechwriter who wrote an early article
attacking Lakoff's ideas in The Washington Monthly. "At its
most basic, it represents the Democratic desire to find a
messiah."

In a devastating critique in The Atlantic's April issue,
Marc Cooper, a contributing editor at The Nation, skillfully
ridiculed Lakoff as the new progressive icon. "Much more
than an offering of serious political strategy, 'Don't Think
of an Elephant!' is a feel-good, self-help book for a
stratum of despairing liberals who just can't believe how
their common-sense message has been misunderstood by
eternally deceived masses," Cooper wrote. In Lakoff's view,
he continued, American voters are "redneck, chain-smoking,
baby-slapping Christers desperately in need of some
gender-free nurturing and political counseling by
organic-gardening enthusiasts from Berkeley."

Lakoff doesn't have much patience for criticism (he's a
tenured professor, after all), and he keeps at his disposal
a seemingly bottomless arsenal of linguistic and
philosophical theories with which to refute such attacks. In
response to Cooper's article and another in The Atlantic, by
Joshua Green, Lakoff fired off a nine-page draft response to
a long e-mail list of friends and journalists in which he
accused Cooper and Green of living in the
"rationalist-materialist paradigm" (that's RAM for short),
an outdated belief system that mistakenly assumes the
rationality of other human beings. He also pointed out that
they had cleverly, but unsuccessfully, tried to trap him in
the "guru frame," a story line about one individual who
passes himself off as having all the answers to other
people's problems.

Lakoff has some valid points. In his writing, at least, he
explains framing in a way that is more intellectually
complex than his critics have admitted. His essential
insight into politics -- that voters make their decisions
based on larger frames rather than on the sum of a
candidate's positions -- is hard to refute. And Lakoff does
say in "Don't Think of an Elephant!" albeit very briefly,
that Democrats need not just new language but also new
thought; he told me the party suffers from "hypocognition,"
or a lack of ideas. What's more, when it comes to the
language itself, Lakoff has repeatedly written that the
process of reframing American political thought will take
years, if not decades, to achieve. He does not suggest in
his writing that a few catchy slogans can turn the political
order on its head by the next election.

The message Lakoff's adherents seem to take away from their
personal meetings with him, however, is decidedly more
simplistic. When I asked Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois,
the minority whip and one of Lakoff's strongest supporters,
whether Lakoff had talked to the caucus about this void of
new ideas in the party, Durbin didn't hesitate. "He doesn't
ask us to change our views or change our philosophy," Durbin
said. "He tells us that we have to recommunicate." In fact,
Durbin said he now understood, as a result of Lakoff's work,
that the Republicans have triumphed "by repackaging old
ideas in all new wrapping," the implication being that this
was not a war of ideas at all, but a contest of language.

The question here is whether Lakoff purposely twists his own
academic theories to better suit his partisan audience or
whether his followers are simply hearing what they want to
hear and ignoring the rest. When I first met Lakoff in Los
Angeles, he made it clear, without any prompting from me,
that he was exasperated by the dumbing down of his intricate
ideas. He had just been the main attraction at a dinner with
Hollywood liberals, and he despaired that all they had
wanted from him were quick fixes to long-term problems.
"They all just want to know the magic words," he told me. "I
say: 'You don't understand, there aren't any magic words.
It's about ideas.' But all everyone wants to know is: 'What
three words can we use? How do we win the next election?'
They don't get it."

And yet Lakoff had spoken for 12 minutes and then answered
questions at the U.C.L.A. forum with Huffington and Frank,
and not once had he even implied that the Democratic problem
hadn't been entirely caused by Republicans or that it
couldn't be entirely fixed by language. The more time I
spent with Lakoff, in fact, the more I began to suspect that
his complaint about "magic words" was another example of
framing; in this case, Lakoff was consciously framing
himself in his conversations with me as a helpless academic
whose theories were being misused. The reality seemed to be
that Lakoff was enjoying his sudden fame and popularity too
much to bother his followers with troubling details -- like,
say, the notion that their problem might be bigger than mere
words or that it might take decades to establish new
political frames. After all, Lakoff is selling out theaters
and making more money than he ever thought possible; in
2006, Farrar, Straus & Giroux will publish his next book, on
how conservatives have changed the meaning of the word
"freedom." At one point, Lakoff told me he would like to
appear as the host of a regular TV segment on framing.

Peter Teague, who oversees environmental programs at the
liberal Nathan Cummings Foundation, was Lakoff's most
important patron in the days after he wrote "Moral
Politics." When I spoke with Teague about Lakoff a few
months ago, he sounded a little depressed. "There's a
cartoon version of Lakoff out there, and everyone's
responding to the cartoon," Teague said. "It's not
particularly useful. As much as we talk about having a real
dialogue and a deeper discussion, we really end up having a
very superficial conversation.

"I keep saying to George, 'You're reinforcing the very
things you're fighting against.'"

I asked Lakoff, during an afternoon walk across the Berkeley
campus, if he felt at all complicit in the superficiality
that Teague was describing. "I do," he said thoughtfully.
"It's a complicated problem. Of course it bothers me. But
this is just Stage 1, and there are stages of
misunderstanding. People have to travel a path of
understanding."

His celebrity may yet prove to be his undoing. When I
visited him in Berkeley in April, Lakoff, who until then had
done all his work with Washington Democrats on a volunteer
basis, had submitted a proposal to leaders in the House for
a consulting contract. Although the details were closely
guarded, it had something to do with a project to use focus
groups to study narrative. In May, House Democrats decided
not to finalize the deal after some members and senior aides
wondered out loud if Lakoff mania had gotten out of hand.
Lakoff, it seemed, was experiencing a common Washington
phenomenon to which Frank Luntz could easily relate: the
more famous an adviser gets, the more politicians begin to
suspect him of trying to further himself at their expense. A
friend of Lakoff's suggested to me that we were witnessing
the beginning of an all-too-familiar frame: the meteoric
rise and dizzying fall of a political sensation.

If that were true, it seemed, then the whole notion of
framing might just be a passing craze, like some
post-election macarena. It certainly sounded like that might
be the case when I visited Harry Reid just before Memorial
Day. Reid waved away the suggestion that language had much
to do with the party's recent successes. "If you want my
honest opinion, and I know you do, I think people make too
much out of that," he said. "I'm not a person who dwells on
all these people getting together and spending hours and
days coming up with the right words. I know that my staff
thinks, 'Oh, why don't you tell him about all this great
work we've done on framing?' But honestly, that's not it."

Reid credited the "team effort" and message discipline of
the caucus for its victory on the filibuster issue. At one
point, when I asked Reid, a former boxer, about Lakoff's
theories, he seemed to equate them with psychotherapy. "I'm
not going to waste a lot of time sitting in a room talking
about how my parents weren't good to me or something like
that," Reid said firmly. "I'm not involved in any of that
gimmickry."

After leaving Reid, I walked across the Capitol to see Nancy
Pelosi, who told a different story. She assured me that
Lakoff's ideas had "forever changed" the way Democratic
House members thought about politics. "He has taken people
here to a place, whether you agree or disagree with his
particular frame, where they know there has to be a frame,"
she told me. "They all agree without any question that you
don't speak on Republican terms. You don't think of an
elephant."

I suggested that maybe she and Reid had different views on
the value of framing as a strategy. "Oh, no," she said
emphatically, drawing out the last word. "He's been a leader
on it! The two of us know better than anyone what's at stake
here. In fact, he sort of initiated our abuse-of-power frame."

It was hard to know what to make of these conflicting
conversations. Perhaps Reid feared that if he admitted to
caring about framing, he would be framed as one of those
clueless Democrats seeking easy answers. Perhaps Pelosi was
covering for him by suggesting they were unified when in
fact they weren't. But it seemed more likely that the
disconnect between the party's two elected leaders reflected
a broader confusion among Democrats about what they actually
mean by framing. There is no doubt that having a central
theme and repeating it like robots has made Democrats a
respectable opposition force in Congress. To Pelosi and a
lot of other Democrats, that is the miracle of this thing
called framing. To Reid, it is just an intuitive part of
politics, and he doesn't need some professor to give it a
name or tell him that Democrats haven't been very good at it.

Whatever you call it, this kind of message discipline will
be a crucial piece of what will most likely become, in the
weeks ahead, a Democratic push to block Bush's designs on
the Supreme Court. In order to stop a nominee, Democrats
will have to frame the filibuster battle in the public arena
all over again, and this time, they will have to convince
voters that it is Bush's specific choice for the nation's
highest court -- and not simply a slate of faceless judges
-- who represents the reckless arrogance of Republican rule.
Even in the hours after O'Connor made her announcement, you
could see in Democratic responses the first stirrings of
this new campaign. "If the president abuses his power and
nominates someone who threatens to roll back the rights and
freedoms of the American people," said Ted Kennedy, lifting
lines directly from Garin's latest polling memo, "then the
American people will insist that we oppose that nominee, and
we intend to do so." Meanwhile, Susan McCue, Reid's powerful
chief of staff, offered me a preview of the theory to come:
"It goes beyond 'abuse of power.' It's about arrogance,
irresponsibility, being out of touch and catering to a
narrow, narrow slice of their ideological constituency at
the expense of the vast majority of Americans."

It is not inconceivable that such an argument could sway
public opinion; Americans are congenitally disposed to
distrust whichever party holds power. The larger question --
too large, perhaps, for most Democrats to want to consider
at the moment -- is whether they can do more with language
and narrative than simply snipe at Bush's latest initiative
or sink his nominees. Here, the Republican example may be
instructive. In 1994, Republican lawmakers, having heeded
Bill Kristol's advice and refused to engage in the
health-care debate, found themselves in a position similar
to where Democrats are now; they had weakened the president
and spiked his trademark proposal, and they knew from
Luntz's polling that the public harbored serious
reservations about the Democratic majority in Congress. What
they did next changed the course of American politics.
Rather than continue merely to deflect Clinton's agenda,
Republicans came up with their own, the Contract With
America, which promised 10 major legislative acts that were,
at the time, quite provocative. They included reforming
welfare, slashing budget deficits, imposing harsher criminal
penalties and cutting taxes on small businesses. Those 10
items, taken as a whole, encapsulated a rigid conservative
philosophy that had been taking shape for 30 years -- and
that would define politics at the end of the 20th century.

By contrast, consider the declaration that House Democrats
produced after their session with John Cullinane, the
branding expert, last fall. The pamphlet is titled "The
House Democrats' New Partnership for America's Future: Six
Core Values for a Strong and Secure Middle Class." Under
each of the six values -- "prosperity, national security,
fairness, opportunity, community and accountability" -- is a
wish list of vague notions and familiar policy ideas. ("Make
health care affordable for every American," "Invest in a
fully funded education system that gives every child the
skills to succeed" and so on.) Pelosi is proud of the
document, which -- to be fair -- she notes is just a first
step toward repackaging the party's agenda. But if you had
to pick an unconscious metaphor to attach to it, it would
probably be a cotton ball.

Consider, too, George Lakoff's own answer to the Republican
mantra. He sums up the Republican message as "strong
defense, free markets, lower taxes, smaller government and
family values," and in "Don't Think of an Elephant!" he
proposes some Democratic alternatives: "Stronger America,
broad prosperity, better future, effective government and
mutual responsibility." Look at the differences between the
two. The Republican version is an argument, a series of
philosophical assertions that require voters to make
concrete choices about the direction of the country. Should
we spend more or less on the military? Should government
regulate industry or leave it unfettered? Lakoff's
formulation, on the other hand, amounts to a vague
collection of the least objectionable ideas in American
life. Who out there wants to make the case against
prosperity and a better future? Who doesn't want an
effective government?
[Me!--DC]

What all these middling generalities suggest, perhaps, is
that Democrats are still unwilling to put their more
concrete convictions about the country into words, either
because they don't know what those convictions are or
because they lack confidence in the notion that voters can
be persuaded to embrace them. Either way, this is where the
power of language meets its outer limit. The right words can
frame an argument, but they will never stand in its place.

Matt Bai, a contributing writer, covers national politics
for the magazine. He is working on a book about the future
of the Democrats.

--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction, _The Unspeakable and Others_:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1587154838/thedanclorenecro/
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Strange pleasures are known to him who flaunts the
immarcescible purple of poetry before the color-blind.
-- Clark Ashton Smith, "Epigrams and Apothegms"


Stan De SD
2005-07-22 01:04:57 EST

"Dan Clore" <clore@columbia-center.org> wrote in message
news:3k0tc2Fqnm0pU1@individual.net...
> News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
>
> The New York Times
> July 17, 2005
> The Framing Wars
> By MATT BAI
>
> After last November's defeat, Democrats were like aviation
> investigators sifting through twisted metal in a cornfield,
> struggling to posit theories about the disaster all around
> them. Some put the onus on John Kerry, saying he had never
> found an easily discernable message. Others, including Kerry
> himself, wrote off the defeat to the unshakable realities of
> wartime, when voters were supposedly less inclined to
> jettison a sitting president. Liberal activists blamed mushy
> centrists. Mushy centrists blamed Michael Moore. As the
> weeks passed, however, at Washington dinner parties and in
> public post-mortems, one explanation took hold not just
> among Washington insiders but among far-flung contributors,
> activists and bloggers too: the problem wasn't the substance
> of the party's agenda or its messenger as much as it was the
> Democrats' inability to communicate coherently.

And of course they miss the obvious reason, like everyone in the 1960's
comedy movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" looking for the big W and
missing the crossed palm trees. A growing number of Democrats are realizing
that their party is being taken over by the lunatic fringe - people who
would jeapordize their own country merely to get back at George Bush - and
realize that you and your ilk lack the integrity, maturity, psychological
stability, and even basic mental faculties to run the country.

Zell Miller was right, as was Ronald Reagan a half a century earlier: they
didn't leave the party, the party left them...



Brique
2005-07-22 01:32:52 EST

Stan de SD <standesd@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:Z7%De.2012$0C.796@newsread3.news.pas.earthlink.net...
>
> "Dan Clore" <clore@columbia-center.org> wrote in message
> news:3k0tc2Fqnm0pU1@individual.net...
> > News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
> > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
> >
> > The New York Times
> > July 17, 2005
> > The Framing Wars
> > By MATT BAI
> >
> > After last November's defeat, Democrats were like aviation
> > investigators sifting through twisted metal in a cornfield,
> > struggling to posit theories about the disaster all around
> > them. Some put the onus on John Kerry, saying he had never
> > found an easily discernable message. Others, including Kerry
> > himself, wrote off the defeat to the unshakable realities of
> > wartime, when voters were supposedly less inclined to
> > jettison a sitting president. Liberal activists blamed mushy
> > centrists. Mushy centrists blamed Michael Moore. As the
> > weeks passed, however, at Washington dinner parties and in
> > public post-mortems, one explanation took hold not just
> > among Washington insiders but among far-flung contributors,
> > activists and bloggers too: the problem wasn't the substance
> > of the party's agenda or its messenger as much as it was the
> > Democrats' inability to communicate coherently.
>
> And of course they miss the obvious reason, like everyone in the 1960's
> comedy movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" looking for the big W and
> missing the crossed palm trees. A growing number of Democrats are
realizing
> that their party is being taken over by the lunatic fringe - people who
> would jeapordize their own country merely to get back at George Bush - and
> realize that you and your ilk lack the integrity, maturity, psychological
> stability, and even basic mental faculties to run the country.

Whereas GWB, Rumsden, Cheney et al possesses inordinate amounts of
integrity, maturity, psychological stability and even basic mental
faculties.......yep.
>

> Zell Miller was right, as was Ronald Reagan a half a century earlier: they
> didn't leave the party, the party left them...
>
>



George
2005-07-22 01:56:52 EST

"brique" <briquenoir@freeuk.com> wrote in message
news:1122010856.31918.0@damia.uk.clara.net...
>
> Stan de SD <standesd@earthlink.net> wrote in message
> news:Z7%De.2012$0C.796@newsread3.news.pas.earthlink.net...
>>
>> "Dan Clore" <clore@columbia-center.org> wrote in message
>> news:3k0tc2Fqnm0pU1@individual.net...
>> > News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
>> > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
>> >
>> > The New York Times
>> > July 17, 2005
>> > The Framing Wars
>> > By MATT BAI
>> >
>> > After last November's defeat, Democrats were like aviation
>> > investigators sifting through twisted metal in a cornfield,
>> > struggling to posit theories about the disaster all around
>> > them. Some put the onus on John Kerry, saying he had never
>> > found an easily discernable message. Others, including Kerry
>> > himself, wrote off the defeat to the unshakable realities of
>> > wartime, when voters were supposedly less inclined to
>> > jettison a sitting president. Liberal activists blamed mushy
>> > centrists. Mushy centrists blamed Michael Moore. As the
>> > weeks passed, however, at Washington dinner parties and in
>> > public post-mortems, one explanation took hold not just
>> > among Washington insiders but among far-flung contributors,
>> > activists and bloggers too: the problem wasn't the substance
>> > of the party's agenda or its messenger as much as it was the
>> > Democrats' inability to communicate coherently.
>>
>> And of course they miss the obvious reason, like everyone in the 1960's
>> comedy movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" looking for the big W and
>> missing the crossed palm trees. A growing number of Democrats are
> realizing
>> that their party is being taken over by the lunatic fringe - people who
>> would jeapordize their own country merely to get back at George Bush -
>> and
>> realize that you and your ilk lack the integrity, maturity, psychological
>> stability, and even basic mental faculties to run the country.
>
> Whereas GWB, Rumsden, Cheney et al possesses inordinate amounts of
> integrity, maturity, psychological stability and even basic mental
> faculties.......yep.

The topic, you fucking libby-dem chimp, is "Democrats can't see the writing
on the wall -- YOU'RE LUZERS!" Not "here's my chance to 'contribute' by
using the descredited and juvenile 'change the subject' gambit -- but I'm to
fucking stupid to understand why it doesn't work -- or win debating points."

Take your ADD meds, boy. Take an overdose!

>>
>
>> Zell Miller was right, as was Ronald Reagan a half a century earlier:
>> they
>> didn't leave the party, the party left them...

Zell Miller and every Democrat he took with him are patriots. Those that
stayed behind, doing the bidding of the hard-core left,l are stupid fucks
who deserve everything that happens to them.

Potestas Democraticorum delenda est!



Dan Clore
2005-07-22 04:18:36 EST
Stan de SD wrote:
> "Dan Clore" <clore@columbia-center.org> wrote in message
> news:3k0tc2Fqnm0pU1@individual.net...

>>News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
>>http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
>>
>>The New York Times
>>July 17, 2005
>>The Framing Wars
>>By MATT BAI
>>
>>After last November's defeat, Democrats were like aviation
>>investigators sifting through twisted metal in a cornfield,
>>struggling to posit theories about the disaster all around
>>them. Some put the onus on John Kerry, saying he had never
>>found an easily discernable message. Others, including Kerry
>>himself, wrote off the defeat to the unshakable realities of
>>wartime, when voters were supposedly less inclined to
>>jettison a sitting president. Liberal activists blamed mushy
>>centrists. Mushy centrists blamed Michael Moore. As the
>>weeks passed, however, at Washington dinner parties and in
>>public post-mortems, one explanation took hold not just
>>among Washington insiders but among far-flung contributors,
>>activists and bloggers too: the problem wasn't the substance
>>of the party's agenda or its messenger as much as it was the
>>Democrats' inability to communicate coherently.
>
> And of course they miss the obvious reason, like everyone in the 1960's
> comedy movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" looking for the big W and
> missing the crossed palm trees. A growing number of Democrats are realizing
> that their party is being taken over by the lunatic fringe - people who
> would jeapordize their own country merely to get back at George Bush - and
> realize that you and your ilk lack the integrity, maturity, psychological
> stability, and even basic mental faculties to run the country.

Much more likely, the Democrat's problem was their lame, and
now usual, Republican-Lite strategy, trying to portray
themselves as basically like Republicans, just not quite so
bad, never making a peep that might offend the regressive
rightists, when they needed to make it clear that they
presented an alternative to them. By trying not to alienate
the regressives, they failed to appeal to the progressives,
in other words.

And in addition, I find it ironic and humorous that nutty
regressive rightists like Statist Stain would try to portray
the Democrats as getting further and further left, when they
actually stick to the Republican-Lite strategy like a pair
of sweaty thighs on a vinyl car seat.

--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction, _The Unspeakable and Others_:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1587154838/thedanclorenecro/
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Strange pleasures are known to him who flaunts the
immarcescible purple of poetry before the color-blind.
-- Clark Ashton Smith, "Epigrams and Apothegms"


Karl
2005-07-22 12:47:47 EST

"Stan de SD" <standesd@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:Z7%De.2012$0C.796@newsread3.news.pas.earthlink.net...
>
> "Dan Clore" <clore@columbia-center.org> wrote in message
> news:3k0tc2Fqnm0pU1@individual.net...
>> News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
>> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
>>
>> The New York Times
>> July 17, 2005
>> The Framing Wars
>> By MATT BAI
>>
>> After last November's defeat, Democrats were like aviation
>> investigators sifting through twisted metal in a cornfield,
>> struggling to posit theories about the disaster all around
>> them. Some put the onus on John Kerry, saying he had never
>> found an easily discernable message. Others, including Kerry
>> himself, wrote off the defeat to the unshakable realities of
>> wartime, when voters were supposedly less inclined to
>> jettison a sitting president. Liberal activists blamed mushy
>> centrists. Mushy centrists blamed Michael Moore. As the
>> weeks passed, however, at Washington dinner parties and in
>> public post-mortems, one explanation took hold not just
>> among Washington insiders but among far-flung contributors,
>> activists and bloggers too: the problem wasn't the substance
>> of the party's agenda or its messenger as much as it was the
>> Democrats' inability to communicate coherently.
>
> And of course they miss the obvious reason, like everyone in the 1960's
> comedy movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" looking for the big W and
> missing the crossed palm trees. A growing number of Democrats are
> realizing
> that their party is being taken over by the lunatic fringe - people who
> would jeapordize their own country merely to get back at George Bush - and
> realize that you and your ilk lack the integrity, maturity, psychological
> stability, and even basic mental faculties to run the country.
>
> Zell Miller was right, as was Ronald Reagan a half a century earlier: they
> didn't leave the party, the party left them...
>
>

And many republicans left their party too. Both partys have become more and
more radicalised by the fringes. But more so in the Republican Party by far.
Look at McCain an obivious future choice for President although he could
never get through the Reactionary Rapture-rightists of his party now.
McCain is now a LEFTIST? He's a LIBERAL? Because as Rove and Bush will
tell you. You are either a Conservative Republican or you are a Liberal.
That's it. You either support every reationary position that ROVE and Bush
have or you're a LIBERAL.

You walk in lock step to all the propose or you are a LIBERAL. You support
Jeb in 2008 or you are a Liberal.

I love the predictions people make about the demise of their opponents. It
always gives me a chuckle. Nothing lasts forever. And the biggie will be
after 2006. Not necessarily the the mid terms either. I'm thinking the
Medicare Drug benifit kicks in and seniors find they have been screwed since
it covers basically nothing. Then the Iraq War. Eventually we have to
declare victory and go home only to watch a Civil War insue.

Who gets the blame for Medicare's Drug Benefit when it blows up in Seniors'
faces....LIBERALS?

Who gets the blame if Iraq goes through a Civil War...LIBERALS?

And the Conservatives will with straight faces tell everyone just that, even
though they control the house, senate, whitehouse, and the courts it's the
NASTY Liberals who did this. It was they that screwed up Medicare's Drug
benefit. It was Liberals that LOST Iraq.





G*rd*n
2005-07-22 22:22:15 EST
"Dan Clore" <clore@columbia-center.org>:
> >>News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
> >>http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
> >>
> >>The New York Times
> >>July 17, 2005
> >>The Framing Wars
> >>By MATT BAI
> >>
> >>After last November's defeat, Democrats were like aviation
> >>investigators sifting through twisted metal in a cornfield,
> >>struggling to posit theories about the disaster all around
> >>them. Some put the onus on John Kerry, saying he had never
> >>found an easily discernable message. Others, including Kerry
> >>himself, wrote off the defeat to the unshakable realities of
> >>wartime, when voters were supposedly less inclined to
> >>jettison a sitting president. Liberal activists blamed mushy
> >>centrists. Mushy centrists blamed Michael Moore. As the
> >>weeks passed, however, at Washington dinner parties and in
> >>public post-mortems, one explanation took hold not just
> >>among Washington insiders but among far-flung contributors,
> >>activists and bloggers too: the problem wasn't the substance
> >>of the party's agenda or its messenger as much as it was the
> >>Democrats' inability to communicate coherently.

Stan de SD:
> > And of course they miss the obvious reason, like everyone in the 1960's
> > comedy movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" looking for the big W and
> > missing the crossed palm trees. A growing number of Democrats are realizing
> > that their party is being taken over by the lunatic fringe - people who
> > would jeapordize their own country merely to get back at George Bush - and
> > realize that you and your ilk lack the integrity, maturity, psychological
> > stability, and even basic mental faculties to run the country.

c*e@columbia-center.org:
> Much more likely, the Democrat's problem was their lame, and
> now usual, Republican-Lite strategy, trying to portray
> themselves as basically like Republicans, just not quite so
> bad, never making a peep that might offend the regressive
> rightists, when they needed to make it clear that they
> presented an alternative to them. By trying not to alienate
> the regressives, they failed to appeal to the progressives,
> in other words.
> ...


They didn't have to; Bush scared most "progressives" and other
semi-rational people into holding their noses and voting for
Kerry, I would say. It was astounding to go to an anti-war
demonstration (like the one that just preceded the Republican
convention in New York City) and see people carrying Kerry
signs -- he was both the anti-war and the more-war candidate.
I think that was quite a political feat and should be given
due recognition. However, most of the American electorate
were okay with war, war crimes, lies, bullshit, a nascent
police state, and a lackluster economy as long as the
candidate was the Marlboro Man. We've been there before.


Dan Clore
2005-07-23 06:07:17 EST
G*rd*n wrote:
> "Dan Clore" <clore@columbia-center.org>:

>>Much more likely, the Democrat's problem was their lame, and
>>now usual, Republican-Lite strategy, trying to portray
>>themselves as basically like Republicans, just not quite so
>>bad, never making a peep that might offend the regressive
>>rightists, when they needed to make it clear that they
>>presented an alternative to them. By trying not to alienate
>>the regressives, they failed to appeal to the progressives,
>>in other words.
>>...

> They didn't have to; Bush scared most "progressives" and other
> semi-rational people into holding their noses and voting for
> Kerry, I would say. It was astounding to go to an anti-war
> demonstration (like the one that just preceded the Republican
> convention in New York City) and see people carrying Kerry
> signs -- he was both the anti-war and the more-war candidate.
> I think that was quite a political feat and should be given
> due recognition. However, most of the American electorate
> were okay with war, war crimes, lies, bullshit, a nascent
> police state, and a lackluster economy as long as the
> candidate was the Marlboro Man. We've been there before.

You could be right. Another strategy that they didn't follow
(as implicit in what I wrote) would be to hit Bush territory
with strong negative ads to erode his support. I could
imagine an ad quoting Dubya over and over, "I don't care
about finding Osama Bin Ladin"--"I don't think I said I
don't care about finding Osama Bin Ladin"--"I don't care
about finding Osama Bin Ladin"--"I don't think I said I
don't care about finding Osama Bin Ladin"--etc. etc. etc.

But instead Kerry just dropped the subject after Dubya said
that.

--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction, _The Unspeakable and Others_:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1587154838/thedanclorenecro/
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Strange pleasures are known to him who flaunts the
immarcescible purple of poetry before the color-blind.
-- Clark Ashton Smith, "Epigrams and Apothegms"



The Pervert
2005-07-24 04:19:22 EST

"Stan de SD" <standesd@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:Z7%De.2012$0C.796@newsread3.news.pas.earthlink.net...
>
> A growing number of Democrats are realizing
> that their party is being taken over by the lunatic fringe - people who
> would jeapordize their own country merely to get back at George Bush - and
> realize that you and your ilk lack the integrity, maturity, psychological
> stability, and even basic mental faculties to run the country.
>
> Zell Miller was right, as was Ronald Reagan a half a century earlier: they
> didn't leave the party, the party left them...

I agree with everything you're saying above, but a reasonable argument can
also be mounted that the GOP is being taken over by the lunatic fringe on
the right, especially the Religious Right.

It would be nice if we could have more in the Sensible Center rather than
both sides seeing how far they can go to their respective fringes. Sadly,
Bill Frist and Tom DeLay are as bad as Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Hillary
Clinton and Ted Kennedy. I'd rather see more like Arlen Spector, Barak
Obama, Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, and two of my all time favorites, former
Senators Alan Simpson of Wyoming and Howard Baker of Tenn.




The Pervert
2005-07-24 04:24:23 EST

"Karl" <karlwtz@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:42e12337$0$23521$892e7fe2@authen.white.readfreenews.net...
>
> "Stan de SD" <standesd@earthlink.net> wrote in message
> news:Z7%De.2012$0C.796@newsread3.news.pas.earthlink.net...
> >
> > "Dan Clore" <clore@columbia-center.org> wrote in message
> > news:3k0tc2Fqnm0pU1@individual.net...
> >> News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
> >> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo
> >>
> >> The New York Times
> >> July 17, 2005
> >> The Framing Wars
> >> By MATT BAI
> >>
> >> After last November's defeat, Democrats were like aviation
> >> investigators sifting through twisted metal in a cornfield,
> >> struggling to posit theories about the disaster all around
> >> them. Some put the onus on John Kerry, saying he had never
> >> found an easily discernable message. Others, including Kerry
> >> himself, wrote off the defeat to the unshakable realities of
> >> wartime, when voters were supposedly less inclined to
> >> jettison a sitting president. Liberal activists blamed mushy
> >> centrists. Mushy centrists blamed Michael Moore. As the
> >> weeks passed, however, at Washington dinner parties and in
> >> public post-mortems, one explanation took hold not just
> >> among Washington insiders but among far-flung contributors,
> >> activists and bloggers too: the problem wasn't the substance
> >> of the party's agenda or its messenger as much as it was the
> >> Democrats' inability to communicate coherently.
> >
> > And of course they miss the obvious reason, like everyone in the 1960's
> > comedy movie "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" looking for the big W and
> > missing the crossed palm trees. A growing number of Democrats are
> > realizing
> > that their party is being taken over by the lunatic fringe - people who
> > would jeapordize their own country merely to get back at George Bush -
and
> > realize that you and your ilk lack the integrity, maturity,
psychological
> > stability, and even basic mental faculties to run the country.
> >
> > Zell Miller was right, as was Ronald Reagan a half a century earlier:
they
> > didn't leave the party, the party left them...
> >
> >
>
> And many republicans left their party too. Both partys have become more
and
> more radicalised by the fringes. But more so in the Republican Party by
far.
> Look at McCain an obivious future choice for President although he could
> never get through the Reactionary Rapture-rightists of his party now.
> McCain is now a LEFTIST? He's a LIBERAL? Because as Rove and Bush will
> tell you. You are either a Conservative Republican or you are a Liberal.
> That's it. You either support every reationary position that ROVE and Bush
> have or you're a LIBERAL.
>
> You walk in lock step to all the propose or you are a LIBERAL. You
support
> Jeb in 2008 or you are a Liberal.
>
> I love the predictions people make about the demise of their opponents.
It
> always gives me a chuckle. Nothing lasts forever. And the biggie will be
> after 2006. Not necessarily the the mid terms either. I'm thinking the
> Medicare Drug benifit kicks in and seniors find they have been screwed
since
> it covers basically nothing. Then the Iraq War. Eventually we have to
> declare victory and go home only to watch a Civil War insue.
>
> Who gets the blame for Medicare's Drug Benefit when it blows up in
Seniors'
> faces....LIBERALS?
>
> Who gets the blame if Iraq goes through a Civil War...LIBERALS?
>
> And the Conservatives will with straight faces tell everyone just that,
even
> though they control the house, senate, whitehouse, and the courts it's the
> NASTY Liberals who did this. It was they that screwed up Medicare's Drug
> benefit. It was Liberals that LOST Iraq.

Sadly, you rather completely illustrated Stan's point above and excerpted
below. Sad.

> > A growing number of Democrats are realizing that their
> > party is being taken over by the lunatic fringe - people who
> > would jeapordize their own country merely to get back at George Bush....


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