Time for Progressives to Grow Up

‘Framing’ is all the rage these days. In his book Don’t
Think of an Elephant
, professor George Lakoff, a linguist and
darling du jour of Democratic strategists, argues that
liberal and conservative politics derive from people’s differing
views on child rearing — the conservative ‘strict father’ versus
the liberal ‘nurturant parent.’ Conservatives have mastered the art
of framing issues in strict father terms. To start winning voters
back, he says, liberals need to come up with better frames that
reclaim the family from the Right.

All this talk of families misses the mark, says Frances Moore
Lapp?, author of Diet for a Small Planet. Especially in
wartime, if progressives try to answer Right-wing rhetoric with
softer family metaphors, they’ll continue to lose. Instead, they
should speak in terms of strength and protection: like ‘strong,
safe communities.’ ‘If the Left is indeed stuck with nuclear-family
metaphors, they’re seriously out of luck; in scary times like these
‘strong father’ will win out over what is seen as ‘soft mother’
every time.’ Besides, she adds, parenting metaphors are inherently

Progressives should speak in terms that ‘frame’ them as equal,
mature adults and evoke the growing sense of community that’s
spreading across the globe. ‘A ‘strong communities’ frame might
require progressives to stop, for example, talking about the
‘environment,’ which non-progressives can hear as a ‘soft’
distraction in war time, and frame ecological challenges as threats
‘to safe air and water and food.” From the open-source software
movement to the food security movement, notes Lapp?, people are
realizing the value of mutual support and cooperation beyond the
immediate family. ‘Let’s choose frames that capture what most
people intuit: We all share one small — shrinking — planet, and
our real hope therefore lies in creating strong communities.’
Leif Utne

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Time for Progressives to Grow Up

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