â€œFrames,â€ according to Lakoff, are the key to
understanding how political ideas are received. Human beings donâ€™t
absorb information as raw material; we sift input through frames of
meaning carried in the language we use.
idea is that conservatives see the world through a â€œstrict fatherâ€
frame emphasizing discipline, self-reliance, forceful defense, while
progressives see the world through a â€œnurturant parentâ€
frameâ€”supportive, nourishing, emphasizing mutual responsibility. Lakoff
claims that thirty-five to 40 percent of Americans fall into each camp,
although most are some sort of mix.
The Right, Lakoff points
out, is extremely good at selling their policies in clear, easy to
understand â€œstrict fatherâ€ frames. Progressives, on the other hand, too
often seem to offer laundry lists of issues lacking any overarching
So, itâ€™s easy to see why progressives are
rallying around Lakoffâ€™s call to arms. Since polls show majorities
actually agree with the progressive agenda on many key issues,
including corporate power, the environment and abortion, focusing on
â€œframingâ€ issues in ways that Americans can understand them seems like
the answer theyâ€™ve been praying for. Certainly, much of Lakoffâ€™s advice
about communicating progressive ideas is powerfully insightful and right on target.
But two big dangers loom.