Our very own JillWKlausen will be one of the featured panelists on Cenk Uygur's online show "The Point," being recorded later this afternoon. (UPDATE: air date is TBD).
*UPDATE: Check Jill's website Winning Words Project for the info about the taping, as well as a rich resource of framing articles by her and the WWP team.**
The challenge is to make the case for progressives' use of "framing" (or reframing), the communication strategy employed effectively by conservatives to undermine thoughtful, intelligent discussion of important issues (i.e., Death Panels, Swiftboating, Deficit Hysteria, etc.)
From a progressive perspective, the questions revolve around whether focusing on "framing" takes attention away from substance. If Democrats concentrate too much on saying things the "right way," will that take away from efforts to find genuine solutions to the problems facing the nation?
Jill asked us to prep her for tomorrow's show with some good talking points about framing. Join us below the squiggle to hit the bullet points on why framing works, and why it matters.
A lot of concern is based on the idea that "framing" is some coded way of talking about issues, and that it is antithetical to talking substance and policy.
• Democrats need to focus on saying things the "right way" so that the substance of our policies can shine through. Instead what we have gotten from our party leaders is nonsense, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "You'll have to wait until the bill is passed before you know what's in it." Her comment was harshly lampooned by the right (out-of-context, of course). But the fundamental error is spending too much time talking about issues within irrelevant political frameworks. Whatever the question was about what's in the bill, the right answer is that the Patient Protection Act protects patients from insurance abuse, with specifics. That's proper framing WITH substance.
• Framing is defining the location of the conversation. Republicans do this well. If anything, Republicans are guilty of using framing over substance, because the frames they use to control the conversations do not typically have any factual basis. (swiftboating, tax & spend, food stamp president, etc. etc. etc.)
• Reframing is finding an EFFECTIVE way to CHANGE the location of the conversation. Moving it onto OUR ground. We push for that because on OUR ground we have facts, truth, reality to support our messages.
• We've always responded to Republican framing and lies by WANTING to move the conversation over to the side of reason, logic, facts, statistics.
• What many Democrats have failed to understand is that the persuadable audience hears morality and values from their side, compared to dry policy facts and politic arguments from our side -- and we're too boring to pay attention to.
So what we're doing is creating new frames for these conversations about leadership and governance that are defined by OUR moral values. Specifically progressive, patriotic, pro-American values that we all share:• These cut both ways: in our framing they produce pride and affinity with progressive ideas, and produce negative judgment and and disapproval of conservative behavior.
Responsibility. Fairness. Character. Shared sacrifice. Love of Country. Honoring the sacredness of American shared identity and purpose.
• So WHEN we reframe...
WE take control of the conversation by defining the important moral values...
THEN we can start talking substantively about how progressive policies benefit ALL Americans (or at least 99.9% of them)...
And that is where realistic solutions to our country's problems will be found.
• If we DON'T do this, we get stuck in wonkish policy arguments within conservative moral framing, and NOTHING we say about progressive solutions to our country's problems gets any traction. The conversation keeps moving to the right until, for example, we're left trying to stand up for private sector Insurance exchanges instead of REAL healthcare reform.
• So the only way to have an effective forum for progressive ideas about solving problems is in this way:
- UNDERSTAND how their frames control the conversation and move it rightward, making it no-win for us.
- GO ON OFFENSE -- use our moral values to move the conversation back, take control, create a framework that WORKS for us, and therefore for America.
(corrollary -- Stop Playing Defense!)
What do Democrats get wrong?
• Elections aren't won with statistics and policies...
Voters respond to morality, values, emotions
• Too many Democrats fall into the trap of defending government, taxes and spending...
This is playing the Republicans' game. Morals always defeat facts.
• Too many Democrats fear Republican moral framing...
So they fail to stand up for progressive ideas, and the conversation shifts to the right.
• It's good for us to have solid facts and data on our side, especially in the face of their lies...
But persuadable voters need a moral values based reason to even listen, tune in.
• Experts like Jon Haidt and George Lakoff argue that it's not in our DNA to campaign like Republicans...
But they also make it clear that we can retake the center, reframe and take control of the conversations by focusing on progressive moral values that all Americans share.
• I'd like to see Democrats understand the importance of values-based messaging to tell our story to the American public. It matters to the future of the country that we explain why our policies are better than our opposition in a way that is convincing to people. That's just common sense.
Why the Democrats failed on healthcare reform:
Our side's virtuous but wonkish messages failed for lack of good framing. For instance, polling shows that voters like consumer protections. They like knowing there's an agency out there making sure that dangerously defective products aren't finding their way into the marketplace with any regularity. So when Democrats introduced their health care reform law, they called it The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but promptly dropped the value-based part of its name in favor of the economic aspect of its name. And while they kept touting how much money people were going to save ... some day, Republicans were screaming about Death Panels. If Democrats had said what the law actually does -- protect patients from unscrupulous practices by insurance company that prevent them from getting the care they need -- we could have maintained the public support for those reforms that existed before the Republican messaging war had a chance to take hold. So of course substance matters, but how you frame the substance matters because if you do it wrong, you will get the wrong substance out of your legislation.
What's wrong with rebutting Republican framing directly--just showing why it's wrong?
The big mistake is to launch into an issues discussion by repeating the other side's frame. Bad idea. It isn't just Lakoff -- every person who talks about framing from either side of the political debate will tell you that repeating the other side's frame, even if you're repeating it to call it a lie, has the effect of reinforcing it in the listener's mind. And that's because you are the only one saying your own side -- the "debunking" -- but both parties are saying the other side, so the other side is said with more frequency, and with more frequency it becomes more sticky.
An example is the fact that because it has been repeated over and over and over and over, even Democrats mistakenly refer to businesses as job creators when the reality is that while businesses may do the hiring, they only do so when there's increased demand for whatever it is they're selling. So they aren't driving the need to create more jobs, consumers are. And who are the primary consumers? The middle and working class in America. The super wealthy may have more money to spend individually, but even if you added them all up together, collectively they don't put a dent in the nation's automobile market, for example. So the true job creators are middle class consumers. Yet I'm finding candidate after candidate, including President Obama, using that term for businesses. The Republican messaging machine has so embedded that frame that we're having a hard time even getting our own party to give it up! And it's demonstrably wrong. Just ask venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who wrote a piece for Bloomberg and did a TED talk on it. He states outright that while he's hired a lot of people, he has never "created" a single job in his entire career.
Help Jill help us!
Post more questions, ideas and examples of good framing in comments below.
(For reference, a few recent dKos diaries posted by Jill Klausen on framing / reframing:)
Wed Jul 11, 2012 at 8:03 AM PT: Visit the website for our framing project: www.winningwordsproject.com for the latest on Jill's event, as well as more useful articles and resources about framing.