Friday, July 02, 2004

Successful Politics: facts or values?

Empty Doorway has an excellent post on Lakoff's Moral Politics. I remember reading a similar article (probably by Lakoff) not long ago, about how conservatives are winning the popular vote in the US because of their "framing" skills. They frame an issue in such a way that it appeals to certain moral values of the people, who then ignore the fact that Bush et al are a bunch of rich pricks out to exploit them. The suggestion is that Democrats need to start playing the values game themselves - make more of an effort to show how liberal policies are grounded in shared moral values.

That is all well and good, but one shouldn't overlook the power of blunt facts. There are many polls showing how uninformed most Americans are on important (especially economic) issues. So it's surely worthwhile to bring the real statistics (condensed into easily digestable chunks) to the public's attention. It's just absurd that so many people are voting against their own interests, without even realising it.

What's going on here? [Really, I'm curious, I'm not in the US so I don't know the details.] Are the Democrats not bringing these facts to people's attention? Or are the people just not listening? If the latter, then perhaps Lakoff's moral propaganda approach really is all that can be done. But when the truth is on our side, surely something more could be done to make use of it!?

Update: The Enlightenment Project is more pessimistic: "in American "values" doesn't mean moral convictions--it means constraint, promoted through coercion and backed by punitive policies."

1 comment:

  1. [Copied from old comments thread]

    Lakoff doesn't view his suggestions as a call for moral propaganda. His theory of concepts entails a sort of conceptual relativism. His example, in the political sphere, is "tax cuts." You can frame the issue as "relieving the people of the tax burden," or you can frame it in terms of paying dues for services rendered (his version of the liberal concept of taxation). Thus, instead of being relieved of a tax burden, we are paying for the services that we depend on. The facts are still the same, but the framing is different. For Lakoff, there is no way to present the facts without framing, and no way to frame (in politics) without reference to a moral scheme.
    Hunt | Email | Homepage | 4th Jul 04 - 11:39 pm | #


    Yeah, my choice of words there was perhaps a bit uncharitable. I basically agree with Lakoff, actually, and that tax example makes it clear just why we should. But I was just wondering about the place for blunt facts/statistics also...
    Richard | 5th Jul 04 - 10:28 pm | #


    The ignorance of facts, Democrats not getting the news out there, etc, at least accoring to a very interesting article I read in The New Republic a few months ago, has far more to do with the way Washington (i.e. federal government) news is reported than with the Democrats not trying hard enough. They do try, but journalists simply pay no attention - for reasons having to do with what is considered 'fun' 'sexy' news, not because it's a dire plot.

    It's very frustrating though.
    Ophelia Benson | Email | Homepage | 6th Jul 04 - 1:06 pm | #


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