For years, George Lakoff has been telling Dems the importance of "framing" - of taking charge of the narrative, rather than allow the Republicans set the terms of debate, and then trying to answer them on their own terms.
In a diary on this site, he has observed
The meaning of every word is characterized in terms of a brain circuit called a "frame." Frames are often characterized in terms of the usual apparatus of mental life: metaphors, images, cultural narratives — and neural links to the emotion centers of the brain. The narrow, literal meaning of a word is only one aspect of its frame-semantic meaning.
A simple example: "Regulate": When you hear the word, is is your immediate reaction to the thought of being regulated negative or positive? I suggest the word has a negative connotation.
So why do we allow the Republicans to set the terms of debate using the word "regulation", with its negative connotations? Regulations aren't an end in themselves, they're a tool for a purpose: the purpose is PROTECTION. (Protection against polluters, against fraud, against foolish speculation by banks, and so on and so on.) Why do we allow the Republicans to come out sounding like the good guys when they say they want to cut the burden of regulation on our lives? Why can't the Dems frame the debate from the beginning in terms of protection, and accuse the Republicans of wanting to do away with protections? Don't even use the word regulation, except to point out that regulation is the mechanism by which protections are enforced.
But, Noooo.... All we get are mealy mouthed "Well, we need regulation for..." responses that work to the Republicans' advantage, because we've let them set the terms of debate. All Democrats should be setting the terms of debate on this particular issue by coming out with a strong "Republicans want to remove protection" message (with examples of protections) - and let the Republicans respond to that.
Will they? I doubt it. Not we have dems like Rahm Emanuel dismissing Lakoff's ideas like this:
What he doesn't realize, however, is that the whole notion that words matter more than reason is the Republicans' frame, and it's the wrong one for the country's future.
Relying on reason isn't enough. If voters cast their ballots based on reason, GW would have got perhaps three votes in 2004: instead he got millions from voters who voted on the basis of emotion.
Will the Democratic hierarchy wake up? I doubt it. Maybe when you hear the word "protection" from their lips more often than "regulation", we'll know they've caught on. But I'm not holding my breath.