Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Valuable and important... but

George Lakoff is a worthwhile thinker and presence -- and his latest discussion of the proper way to frame political discourse in America makes a valuable contribution. It would certainly be good if Democrats did what he suggests. It would indicate movement back toward being capable of political success and the capacity to turn that into a better world -- the capacity actually to govern.

However, his argument only goes so far. In the interest of reinforcing the long-term "brands" of these competitors, he tends to ignore the existing context -- the climate and zeitgeist within which these philosophical and moral struggles are playing out. I don't mean the issues du jour, much less the distractions and gaffe-mongering. I mean the broad trajectories.

Simply put, when things are heading south and people are unhappy -- are more fearful or angry than hopeful -- it's hard for an optimistic frame to resonate. And not surprisingly, nobody is offering one today. People keep chastising both Romney and Obama for not doing so -- but how could they? Nobody would hear it. What people are actually eager for is somebody to blame for how they feel. The Republicans have their candidate -- government. Obama and the feckless Dems have been reluctant to finger theirs -- the malefactors of great wealth, Wall St., the 1 percent. 

It's not surprising that Lakoff is happier these days with Obama. Our president is, finally, articulating a Lakovian frame -- the idea of the public. But unless the Dems effectively finger the opponents of that idea -- the enemies of the public -- it won't do the work it needs to do.

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