Last week George Lakoff wrote a diary outlining the problem with the language Democrats use. Every time we use Republican language, it reinforces Republican frames. The examples he used were "tax relief" and "entitlements," both Republican frames with the former presumably planting a positive message about the GOP and the latter planting a negative seed about the Democrats. It really ought to be required reading, in case you missed it.
After I finished reading it though, I was disappointed by something. He pinpointed exactly what we should not be doing, but he didn't give any examples of what we ought to be doing. Having contemplated that a bit, I came to realize that by leaving a void he served the community better than if he hadn't. A good teacher doesn't spoon feed his students the answers.
So here's my homework assignment.
There's a gender gap among voters.
Women back the Democrat 52 - 34 percent while men back the Republican 49 - 38 percent.
Which isn't surprising when you consider how the Republicans have hammered on the meme that Democrats are weak. They've driven the meme to the point where no one has to mention national security or Republicans' penchant for
warmongering reckless use of the military (* frame), voters automatically associate the Dems with weakness. Even in subtle ways, mysogynistic and homophobic jabs accumulate in the minds of men ("Bawney Fwank").
What ever happened to the notion of Union Strong? They've chipped away at that, too.
We need to reinforce the notion that the Democrats make America strong. Our economic principles of giving more spending power to the consumer make America strong.
Our safety net keeps people (like myself, young, disabled and on dialysis) sheltered and off the streets until they can pick work back up again, and that makes America strong.
Our idea of healthcare for everyone regardless of their current state of health makes America strong.
And every thing the Republicans do makes America weak. They've expended our military, our economy, and our national infrastructure beyond their limitations. They raided the savings and now they're coming after the equity (Social Security).
Their social programs, or lack thereof, make America weak. Deregulation of financial markets makes America weak. Stripping environmental protection makes America weak. Failure to maintain bridges and levees
makes made America weak. Sheltering the income of billionaires makes America weak. NCLB, which rewarded schools instead of investing in them, took an already weakened education system and was practically designed to deliver a coup de grace to it.
But this message is no good. In a back and forth name calling match using the word weak, Republicans will win because weak is already established in the Republican lexicon. It's true that the Republicans are weak, but calling them that only reinforces the frame they've created. Good luck undoing an already created frame.
So we have to take it up a notch.
This is the frame that I'm going with. The responsibility meme is fresh territory, and it's an argument the Democrats can win easily without reinforcing Republican frames.
The Republicans are like a car owner who never changes the oil - they're running this country into the ground. Either because they think these things just take care of themselves, or because they think someone else will deal with it. Or maybe in their reckless abandon they never give it a second thought. They are not the responsible party - they are the reckless party.
Whether it's extending tax cuts for millionaires or protecting corporate interests, the typical GOP response to claims that we need fair taxes or corporate responsibility is to shout 'Communist!' 'Socialist!' 'Marxist!' and the typical Democratic response is to explain in painful detail how the three terms are mutually exclusive, so much so that the other person is an imbecile, Q.E.D. The Democrat wins the argument, but the Republican wins the frame game because he got his opponent to use the terms Marxist, Socialist, and Communist a dozen times in his retort.
But if a Republican were to try to defend his party against charges of irresponsibility, he will only serve to reinforce that frame. One would almost think they've been intentionally avoiding it with the foreknowledge that it's a frame they'll lose. They tried to create a masculine meme when they labeled the Democrats the "party of mommy" but since mommy is traditionally the one who does all the cooking, cleaning, feeding and dressing the kids, etc., they themselves started to create the meme that Democrats are more responsible. I think we should take that and run with it.
Seen through the lens of Irresponsibility™, one begins to see over-arching patterns of Republican behavior. Mark Sanford goes AWOL with his mistress - that's not infidelity, that's irresponsibility. John McCain selects Sarah Palin for his V.P. candidate - that's not stupid, it's irresponsible. Tax breaks for corporations who are making record, historic profits - that's not greedy, it's irresponsible. Drawing a line in the sand that triages schools instead of fixing them, that's not policy, it's Irresponsibility™. Etcetera, etcetera.
Cross-posted at Newsvine.