Every time we casually speak of the Ryan budget without including framing language, we miss an opportunity to mold public opinion. We can all cite facts and figures about the budget, but what really moves public opinion is language that connects to the readers' values. That's what framing is about - the art of selecting language so that the audience realizes that they already agree with you.
Several months ago, the Frameshop group was formed to experiment with crowd-sourced framing. Specifically, the idea is that top-down issue framing, which works so well for Republicans, does not and cannot work on our side of the aisle. Frameshop was created as an experiment to see if issue framing could be done from the bottom up, substituting crowd-sourcing for the focus groups normally used to test candidate frames. More information can be found in the original post here: Frameshop: An Experiment in Crowd-Sourcing a Progressive Message
For a variety of reasons, we got so far as to introduce the concept but never to actually begin the work. Starting with the Ryan budget, we now begin...
Remember that this is an experiment, that we do not yet know what will work and what will not. We will figure out much along the way. But how we start is that the Frameshop group members will pick an issue and develop a number of test frames for that issue. We then ask the Daily Kos readership to weigh in on the test frames, resulting in a chosen frame and specific language that will hopefully be used by as many as possible. By picking a single frame and consistent language, the sheer weight of repetition will hopefully drive our language into the broader public discourse. Well, that is the theory at least.
In this and subsequent Frameshop posts, you will see the following:
1. An issue and some narrative on why the issue was chosen.
2. Multiple test frames of the issue, each specifying a target audience, identifying the underlying values to evoke, and specific language which evokes those values in the minds of the target audience.
DKos reader participation is essential to this effort, and we strongly encourage participation in several areas:
1. Vote in the poll for which frame you find to be most effective at moving the electorate. Not just which frame you think would be most persuasive to you, but which you think would have the most effect on the largest intended audience.
2. Add comments which support or criticize any of the test frames. For each test frame, we will provide a top-level comment to help keep the discussions organized. Readers are encouraged to add comments on a particular test frame to that frame's comment thread, and to recommend the top-level comment of each frame you favor. You are free, of course, to add comments anywhere you find appropriate.
3. Add comments to suggest additional frame candidates.
4. Add comments related to the process, and where it may be improved.
5. Follow the Frameshop group to be notified of new postings.
6. Recommend each Frameshop post so that we gain sufficient front page visibility to gain participants and produce good work product.
7. If you have a general understanding of framing and would like to help in the crafting of test frame or in any other way, please ask to join the group.
ISSUE: The Ryan Budget - This will continue to be a central issue in the campaign right through to the election. Those of us on the left talk about it regularly, but almost always without attaching any language that frames the budget to our favor. Every time we do that is a missed opportunity. If we can settle on a single framing with consistent language, and if that language can reach the general electorate, then even Republican references to the Ryan budget will come with our framing attached. Even though Ryan is the VP candidate and Romney's budget differs (in secret and mysterious ways) from Ryan's budget, framing the Ryan budget helps down-ballot as well. Nearly every Republican running for re-election voted multiple times for the Ryan budget. They are all vulnerable.
Note that I am not advocating that every reference to the Ryan budget be framed in a single specific way. There are many times when discussing a particular aspect of the budget that a different framing is appropriate. The intent here is to identify a specific frame and language that we can all use when we refer to the budget generically. That if we mention it in passing ("Romney's budget is almost identical to Ryan's budget."), we do not do so neutrally, but rather attach our framing to it.
It is in those generic circumstances, when we would otherwise refer to the Ryan budget neutrally, that we seek to now add our framing instead. Here are the candidates:
FRAMING CANDIDATE #1: Kill Medicare
Target audience(s): Elderly voters (D and R); the near-elderly (50-64); voters with elderly parents and grandparents
Values to invoke: Keeping Society's Promises, empathy
Suggested Language: Ryan's "Kill Medicare" Budget
Commentary - For many elderly, Medicare is what is keeping them alive. Killing Medicare is like killing them. This is an effective association on both sides of the aisle. That society is even thinking about breaking its promise to provide healthcare security to retired Americans is breathtaking, frightening, and highly motivating.
FRAMING CANDIDATE #2: Increase the deficit
Target audience(s): Republicans who care about the deficit
Values to invoke: Spending restraint; frugality
Suggested Language: Ryan's "debt-raising" budget
Commentary - The idea would be to use a Republican frame to peel away Republican support for Ryan's budget. It is generally preferable to use our frames rather than theirs since every use of a frame reinforces its value. But there are times where the best approach is to wedge Republicans from their party and their candidates, which is something best done using their own frames. Here, we seek to drive a wedge between Republicans for whom the deficit is the top priority, and Republicans for whom repealing ObamaCare is the top priority.
FRAMING CANDIDATE #3: Bring back pre-existing conditions
Target audience(s): people without insurance, people at risk of losing insurance
Values to invoke: fairness, empathy
Suggested Language: Ryan's "anti-healthcare" budget
Commentary - Under the repeal of ObamaCare that the Ryan budget would implement, Americans with pre-existing conditions that could not qualify for private insurance would once again be denied access to healthcare. This is one of the most popular provisions in the ACA, and repealing it is very unpopular.
FRAMING CANDIDATE #4: winner takes allThanks to everyone for participating!
Target audience(s): lower and middle class Americans
Values to invoke: fairness, opportunity
Suggested Language: Ryan's "winner-takes-all" budget
Commentary - By saying "winner takes all", we are saying that there will be little or nothing left for everyone else. Most people know that their opportunity has stagnated or gone backwards, and this language connects that feeling back to the Ryan budget and those who voted for it.