Reframing the Debate

Today’s lightning bolt is an interview with George Lakoff in Salon. I hope you’ll read it, but I hope you’ll continue reading what I’m about to say before you jet off to Salon. The short version: The festering pile of slime won the election because he knows how to work the media. The Democrats lost because they let him walk away with it. The only way to keep this country from crashing and burning (perhaps literally) is to get out in front of him and reframe the debate.

Even before the election, I could see it happening. I get most of my news from Huffington Post, which in theory is a liberal outlet. But day after day, week after week, in the run-up to the election there were four or five times as many photos of the oozing pile of pus who is now our president as there were of his smart and possibly well-intentioned but undeniably cautious opponent.

Can you say “free publicity”? I thought you could.

The same dynamic is still going on. That’s what the stream of outrageous tweets is about. It’s a deliberate distraction, and it’s more free publicity. Every time you go over to Facebook and post a link to an article slamming President Steaming Dog Turd for his latest preposterous tweet, you’re strengthening him. You’re giving him free publicity, and you’re allowing him to put up a wall of distractions between ordinary people and the real issues. You’re letting him frame the terms of the public discourse.

Don’t do it. Just stop.

What we need to do instead (and by “we” I mean our political leadership, but ordinary folks can help) is get out in front of the debate with our own messages. We need two kinds of messages, I think. First, we need positives. As the Republicans attempt to dismantle government in order to turn everything over to private enterprise, we need people — specifically, the leadership of our allegedly liberal Democratic Party — to stand up and say, “Look at all the good things government does for us!” Make it clear to everyone that we need strong government.

Just in case you feel inspired to start the conversation, here are a few talking points.

  • Today I’m eating food that’s free of poisons and harmful bacteria, because government inspectors are on the job, making sure food is prepared and distributed safely.
  • Today I’m driving on a street that was paved by the government. There are very few collisions, because the government keeps the stop lights in good repair, and because people who break the traffic laws are arrested.
  • Today I’m using the Internet, which was first developed by the government.
  • Today I have clean air to breathe, because the government has and enforces laws against air pollution.
  • Today I’m free to worship in whatever church, synagogue, or temple I choose, because our government and laws give equal respect to all religions.
  • Today the government helps take care of those who are old and sick.
  • Today if I have an emergency, I can call 911 and well-trained emergency responders will arrive at my door quickly, courtesy of the government.

Okay, that’s enough for starters. You get the idea. Make up some bullet points of your own, and spread them around. Don’t let the other side get away with peddling the idea that smaller government is good.

On the other side of the coin, I’m willing to consider disseminating some hateful rhetoric of our own. This morning some yobbo or other was spotted referring to last week’s protest event as “the million skank march.” And guess what? He got picked up by Right Wing Watch and then splashed all over Facebook. How about we try giving these folks a dose of their own medicine? How about, rather than Nancy Pelosi and Al Franken wringing their hands and trying to be civil, they come out swinging? How about, “Too many of our Republican legislators are rapists and drug dealers. But I’m sure some of them are good people.”

Just a modest suggestion.

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