Time for Progressives to Grow Up

By Frances Moore Lappé

Beyond Lakoff’s strict father vs. nurturant parent, a strong community manifesto

George Lakoff’s new best-seller Don’t Think of an Elephant has been heralded as the “bible” for battered progressives searching for direction in the post-election doldrums. Lakoff himself has become the Left’s answer to Frank Luntz, the focus-group genius behind the branding of Bush’s “death tax,” “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” initiatives.

“Frames,” according to Lakoff, are the key to understanding how political ideas are received. Human beings don’t absorb information as raw material; we sift input through frames of meaning carried in the language we use.

Lakoff’s central idea is that conservatives see the world through a “strict father” frame emphasizing discipline, self-reliance, forceful defense, while progressives see the world through a “nurturant parent” frame—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 “strict father” frames. Progressives, on the other hand, too often seem to offer laundry lists of issues lacking any overarching moral framework.

So, it’s easy to see why progressives are rallying around Lakoff’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 “framing” issues in ways that Americans can understand them seems like the answer they’ve been praying for. Certainly, much of Lakoff’s advice about communicating progressive ideas is powerfully insightful and right on target.

But two big dangers loom.


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Joining the Team at American Street

I've just recieved an offer from Kevin Hayden to write at The American Street. It's a great honor, and look forward to posting there on a weekly basis.

Comments for $

Aldon Hynes has brough to my attention a rather amazing challenge by Michele Agnew . Michele has come up with a very creative way of donating money to the Tsunami victims. Here's how it works:

The Wall

By Jean-Paul Sartre

Yes... it looks different.

Let me know if you have any troubles seeing this page correctly. Otherwise, we now return to the blogging already in progress.

Sorry for the Mess

So I got bored, and decided I was going to restyle my blog. My last template's colors gave away my ADD too well (much like David Weinberger's template). Since I'm lazy, I've opted to just do the redesign directly on the css file at the smartcampaigns server. As a result, this sites like is likely to change quite a bit over the next hour or so. Feel free to watch; it will be almost as entertaining as watching the courtship of house flys.

Bush's Other Brain

"The American people want a politician who speaks their language, and speaks it badly." - Harlan McCraney, President Bush's senior speechalist.

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