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The [incomplete] progressive view, mostly [inadequately discussed] in the [historically mildly effective] Democratic Party [from the 1950s-1970s], is that democracy depends on citizens caring about each other and taking responsibility both for themselves and for others. This yields a view of government with a moral mission: to protect and empower all citizens equally. [Perhaps Greens can articulate this mission much better.  For Democrats...] The mechanism for accomplishing this mission is through what we call The Public, a system of public resources [often ignoring the poorest of the poort, but otherwise] necessary for a decent private life and a robust private enterprise: roads and bridges, education, health care, communication systems, court systems, basic research, police and the military, a fair judicial system, clean water and air, safe food, parks, and much more [but mostly for the middle- and upper-classes].

Conservatives [today and with increasing ferocity for the last 35-40 years, as their forefathers were in the 1920s only to become silenced by FDR's New Deal] hold the opposite view: that democracy exists to provide citizens with maximum liberty to pursue their self-interest with little or no commitment to the interests [and well-being] of others. [IMO, this is a perversion of "totally selfish and self-centered -- but moral and neighbor-loving - right-wing libertarianism," call it the extremist's Ayn Rand point of view, justifying the "let all who disagree with me die" attitude -- and as expressed as often vicious vocal hatred -- of many on the right today.] Under this view, there should be as little of The Public [Good] as possible. [Universal Health Care, free education, more frequent affordable and on-time public transportation, social security, a minimum safe healthy standard of living -- including housing and food -- for all.] Instead, as much as possible [of that public good] should be relegated to what we call the Private. [A.k.a. private sector, a.k.a. privatized for the profit of private companies and corporations.] The Private is comprised of individuals (private life), businesses owned by them (private enterprise), and institutions set up by groups of individuals (private clubs and associations). The Private is, for conservatives, a moral ideal, sacrosanct, where no government can tread, whether to help or hinder, regulate, or even monitor. No one should have to pay for anyone else. Private [selfish] interests should rule, even if that means that corporate interests, the most powerful of private interests, govern our lives through a laissez-faire [unrequlated] free market. Citizens are free to sink or swim on their own.  [This is what cut-throat unethical capitalists call "caveat emptor," or "buyer beware!"  As in: we don't need to tell you the truth about this or that product or service, or the enormity of the risk you accept in buying it.  We just need you to buy it! This also is what the the Ayn Rand conservatives call Social Darwinism, with no apologies to Charles Darwin who had an entirely different understanding regarding the well being and survival of a species, not just of the individuals who are members of that species.]


Each moral worldview [of political party members] comes with a set of issue frames. By frames, we mean structures of ideas that we use to understand the world. {In the case of Greens: we would use our worldviews to understand how the world really works, which more of the public realize is what Carl Marx was talking about 150 years ago and socialists still talk about today, and to realize our world could work so much better for the greater common good.  Furthermore it could work better by "our greater influence on governance" than have the horrible compromises the Democrats have conceded to Republicans in the last 30-40 years.] Because all politics is morally framed, all [public] policy is also morally framed, and thus the choice of any particular policy frame is a moral choice. Americans are now faced with two sets of moral choices, [the lame Democrat's tattered liberal choices, and the radical right Republicans scorched earth choices,] each leading the nation in [more polarizing] opposite directions. [When there is increasing polarization, the only "politics" remaining is "who will dictate policy?"] Nowhere is this [polarization] clearer than in the issue of health care, so let us look at this example in some detail.


Rudolph Giuliani, in his 2008 run for the presidency, likened health care to a product, using the example of a flat-screen TV. Not everyone, he argued, deserves a flat-screen TV. If you want one, work for it and save up for it. Similarly not everyone deserves health care, but you should be free to buy it if you want it. Like a flat-screen TV, health care is in this view a product. If you want a product, you can make the money for it and buy it, and if you can't afford it, too bad. But if you don't want a product, no one, especially not the government, should be able to force you to buy it. The should be unconstitutional -- outside the powers of government.


The problem, of course, is that this is a metaphor.  Health care is not literally a product built in a factory and transferred physically from a seller to a buyer. It cannot be crated and shipped. You cannot return defective health care and get a refund. Yet the metaphor of health care as a product survived the [2008 Obama] presidential campaign and was even adopted by the Democrats.


Giuliani introduced his TV metaphor in the spring of 2008, but after the election that fall, Barack Obama, a former professor of constitutional law, [a would-be Gandhi-like mediator who first tries to find some common ground in the differing beliefs of waring parties,] used the same [Republican] metaphor while reasoning to a different conclusion.  [I.e. Obama was trying to leverage the GOP-created "common knowledge" their propaganda machine had created among the majority of the US citizens, irregardless of their party affiliations,] and [reinforce the] understanding of health care as [a commercial] product, not a public necessity,] so he appealed to reason while still using the right-wing reframed propaganda language.  This turned out to be a very unrealistic and counter-productive tactic that reinforced the public's belief in the "right-ness" of the right-wing's moral frames.] In formulating his health care act, [now the enacted Affordable Care Act attacked relentlessly by a Republican Congress since Obama signed it into law,] President Obama placed the product metaphor in the context of the commerce clause of the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, which gives Congress the right to regulate commerce. If health care is a product that is bought and sold across state lines, then Congress can regulate the selling and buying of it. The Affordable Care Act is based on that metaphor and Obama's interpretation of it.  [This seems very reasonable on the surface of the argument.  But that is not how devious Republicans "reason" these days.]


What that did was impose a [moral economic] frame [the GOP cut-throat capitalist frame] on health care -- a frame from the market economy. Notice what is not in the frame: if health care is a product, it is not a right. Providing health care is thus not a moral concern; it is [entirely] an economic matter. The word affordable [in "Affordable Care Act"] fits the economic frame, as do words like market, purchase, and choice.


Obama seemingly did not even consider a Medicare-for-all model of national health care. Medicare involves a tax, and conservatives had vowed not to raise any taxes, seeing them as the process by which the government takes people's hard-earned money and wastes it.  Obama also did not think he could replace the powerful private health care industry, so he chose to work with it. Doing so, however, would require regulating it, and the most straightforward constitutional [legal] basis for congressional regulation is the commerce clause. This meant [to Obama] that health care had to be framed in terms of the market.




Economists have long observed that there is an economic equivalence between a tax and a required purchase. The equivalence lies in the concept of fungiblity. In any business balance sheet, the loss of a credit (e.g., [by] a tax paid [to the government]) is equivalent to the gain of a debit (a purchase [is] required [from the government]). That all occurs within an economic frame, where economics is all that is considered.


Conceptually, however, a tax is normally understood in terms of a frame very different from a necessary purchase. Purchasing is in what we can call the commercial-event frame of buying and selling products, while what the government does is a credit-debit exchange and is necessarily in the taxation frame.


From a [ultra-] conservative perspective, nearly all taxation is governmental oppression, and therefore immoral, but purchasing is perfectly fine because it is based in the market, and conservatives [in general, not just the "ultras,"] have a moral preference for the market. Obama, hoping to avoid conservative opposition to taxation and needing a basis for regulation, chose to use the power of the commerce clause, which required [he use] the "health care is a product" metaphor. The metaphor was, as usual, taken literally. [Which possibility perhaps Obama failed to consider]


At first, Obama favored the public option, in which the government would be seen as a business competing with other businesses and selling health care at a lower price with better offerings. Medicare, run by the government, has only a 3 percent administration cost, while most health care corporations have administrative costs between 15 and 20 percent, mostly to verify and seek grounds to deny claims. Adding in profit demands, private health care spends about 30 percent of its total budget not on care but on administration and profit. This is a large part of what makes the U.S. health care system the most expensive in the world, though far from the best. The public option did not require a large, expensive staff to administer, and possibly deny, claims, nor did it have to make a profit. [To have Medicare-for-all] The government could have used the savings from administration, profit, and advertising to cover everyone. [However closing down private health care providers to replace it with Medicare-for-all would have increased the unemployment numbers from 2009 through 2014 by more than 5 million people overnight back in 2009.]


Crucially, however, in the public option, the metaphor of health care as a product was preserved, and conservatives [deceptively] objected that the public option would result in unfair competition. Given the market frame [predominant in the electorate's subconscious care of the right-wing propaganda in the news media], this was a position easy to argue for, and conservatives eventually prevailed, forcing the president to abandon the public option.  [Greens arguing for the public option made no difference then.] With the public option defeated, the president reframed. He went with a plan he took to be more favored by conservatives: the individual mandate, backed by [Democrat] Hillary Clinton and [Republican Mormon] Mitt Romney and proposed originally by the conservative Heritage Foundation. What the Heritage Foundation and Romney liked about the individual mandate was that it forced everyone to buy [private] insurance, thus giving the insurance companies tens of millions more customers and more profits. This version of health care was passed into law [as the Affordable Care Act that has by 2015 insured 7 million more individuals who had no insurance coverage until the ACA was passed].


Conservatives never argued against any of the law's specific provisions. For example, they never said that there should be preconditions or caps. Instead they reframed. They made a moral case against "Obamacare." (In choosing this name, they made Obama the issue, not the people and their health.) [This tactic also exercised, energized, made more influential on conscious choices, the sub-conscious racism of their base and of very many other U.S. voters especially those in the southern states.] The conservative moral principles applied were freedom and life, and they had [their reframed] language [so widely used and superficially all about by the electorate] to go with them [i.e. to support their points of view and subconsciously persuade others of the correctness of their points of view]. Freedom was imperiled by "government takeover," [all human] life [threatened] by "death panels." Republicans at all levels repeated this language over and over, changed public discourse [to use it as well], and thus changed the minds of the electorate, especially the independents. By 2010 Obamacare had become a dirty word, and the most radical Republicans won their elections and took over the House with a promise to repeal it. [Then look what happened to the U.S. House and Senate in the General Election of 2014!  The Republican's took over both houses of Congress and their say-no-to-any-government policy expcept military expenditures, adventures and increased surveillance of the public destroying more personal rights to privacy.]


What the Obama administration missed [in 2009 and 2010] was the opportunity to argue on the basis of the same moral ideals of freedom and life. [Perhaps if he had done so, Greens and progressive libertarians would have formed some more politically successful coalitions then.]  Serious illness without health care takes away your liberty and threatens your life. Forcing people to live without health care is an infringement on their liberty. But the White House did not choose to frame the issue with that moral counterargument [and seldom if ever did the Green Party]; instead they [the White House] discussed technical policy details. [The Greens and other progressive's call that all people should be covered cradle to grave, met deaf ears of the majority of the electorate then.]

Conservatives, meanwhile, were arguing their values. People should not be forced to pay for other people's goods [or in this case for others' well-being via affordable high quality health care]. The Public [Good] should be kept to a minimum. And the individual mandate constitutes a government takeover [conservatives claimed]: if the government can force people to buy particular products, it can force them to do [or buy] anything at all. Liberty [by this reframed, faulty, deceptive, and cruel logic] is imperiled.

In all of this, the Obama administration's [very poorly informed and essentially stupid] rationale inadvertently helped its opponents by adopting the product metaphor and placing health care in a market context. [Where it remains as of 2015 with few public efforts to reframe that discussion in favor of universal health care.]

In 2012 the Roberts Supreme Court took up the conservative frame. The conservative justices, taking the product metaphor literally, again argued that the individual mandate forces people to buy a particular product: health care. If the government can do that, it can force you to buy burial plots or cell phones or even broccoli! The government would no longer be regulating commerce but bringing it into existence. [Which supposedly would cut private enterprise out of the new health care products creation business, which it would not.] Citizens would be forced to pay for other people [i.e. for their welfare, their improved health care, their better education, their prosperity and thus for their having greater opportunites to realize in this life their full potential and apply their greater abilities and opportunites to help others in their community for the greater common good.  But instead such nefarious mandates were], thus denying individual liberty [by the cruel and selfish, self-centered logic of the market frame metaphor].  The result [therefore] would be a "government takeover."  [On pausing to reflect on that irrationality in 2015, who could have believed such garbage then?]

At this writing [of the authors in 2012] the Court [SCOTUS] has not yet decided, but one can see where this is going. Medicare and Social Security are likely next in line [for subversion and destruction], as is environmental legislation, [all of] which serves the public interest over the private and thus threatens the use of private property [and the continued take over of public lands, like state and national parks, and property like school buildings and public hospitals for private for-profit use... where expenses and greater profits now come from government taxes on the public plus the pubic's payment of higher fees for private services.  How insane is that?] At stake is the very idea of The Public [i.e. of the Public Good, of the common-wealth and our collective well-being living in a civilized society]. At stake is the view of democracy as a system in which citizens are bound [and required and inspired] to [help and care for their] fellow citizens, with each individual bearing social as well as personal responsibility [for others and for their community -- a small-c christian point of view for centuries, if seldom realized].

[Lakoff's Conclusions:]
This state of affairs should never have come to pass. Health care should never have been a market issue. The Constitution gives Congress the right to "provide for the... general welfare of the United States."  [Do the facts that the 114th Republican dominated Congress, io be in power from 2015-2016 opposing Obama's every move, has already and will continue to try harder to undermine the ACA and the "general welfare" consitute an impeachable offense that in a fair minded court of law would remove these offenders from public office?] That [constitutional] right should have been, and should be, the moral and conceptual basis of health care law [and all other laws undermined by the radical-right]. But because it was not, because the [HEALTH CARE] issue was placed with a market frame, the general welfare of the United States is [now] in [grave] danger. Do we care about each other? Are we proud that we have contributed to the liver transplants of those who need them? Are we proud to save the lives of our fellow Americans on a daily basis? Will we recognize that, without the Public [i.e. without the common goal of the Greater Public Good], we have no reasonable private lives or private enterprise?

[These details of the consequences of "reasoning solely within the market frame metaphor" [that the radical right prefer] need to be emphasized by [REAL] progressives [like the Greens in the Green Party of the USA and repeated] over and over which as of mid October 2014 they were not.  Neither did the Democrats and hence their loss of both houses of Congress in November 2014.] And w Will we recognize that the dismantling of the Public [Good, i.e. of those social and governmental institutions and norms which have benefited the Greater Public Good for almost a century] exposes us to corporate [private, privatized, unregulated, and maximumly monetized] control over our lives -- not for our [personal and collective greater] well-being but [solely] for [greater] corporate profits, and [profits made by unrequlated and increasingly unethical business practices, practices] not under the [monitoring and] control of a government we elect and can change but under the control of corporate managers [and their expensive lobbyists in Congress and state legislatures who tend to be imperious in the extreme and all of whom] we did not elect and cannot change?  [IS THIS WHY YOU FEEL SO MUCH MORE POWERLESS LATELY?]

We [authors Lakoff and Wehling] are writing this book [originally for other Democrats of like-mind] because the centrality of this issue is not now in public discourse [even in October 2014 or at this re-editing by Green JGW in March 2015], and we hope the [progressives in the] Democratic Party [but also the Real Progressives in The GREEN PARTY and in other real progressive parties in the U.S.] and its [all such real progressive] candidates bring it [i.e. these more compassionately framed issues] to the fore. To do so, they [we all] need to use language appropriate to the moral views they [we real progressives] believe in.

Language is not a matter of "mere words" or word-smithing. Words mean things [ideas, concepts, ways to limit or expand one's abilities to think about things]. They are defined by conceptual frames. In politics those frames are morally based. They are the same morally based frames that under lie -- and precede -- our [debating an making of public] policies. To discuss political language is to discuss morality and policy.

This fundamental truth contradicts a long-standing myth about political communication, a myth that comes from the advertising world. The word messaging is defined of that myth, namely, that morality and policy are independent of messaging. In this myth messaging is just word-smithing, finding the "words that work" to sell the policy, conceptualized as a product being [and to be] marketed.

There are two problems with this idea. First, communication and policy are based on the same moral frames. Policy doesn't come first, followed by communication, as the health care example shows. Second, the messaging myth is fundamentally undemocratic, placing politics in a business marketing frame, where any marketing that "sells" is sanctioned and preferred [and the marketing process is thus off-limits from criticism or challenges]. In this view, citizens are [merely] consumers of politics, [not more active participants in the shaping of those politics,] and politicians are [merely] looking for ways to "sell" them ideas [thereby insulting the intelligence and good intentions of "the masses" that are the electorate they would sell a bag of rotten fruit]. This is in direct contradiction with the Democratic understanding of how democracy should work, a view that is shared by most Americans[, those huddled masses devoutly hoping to be free, have greater opportunities in life to live life better and to be more prosperous].

Our [Lakoff's and Wehling's] view is communication [should be] based on moral and conceptual transparency.  [Values completly ignored and never mentioned by the US mass media outlets.] Know your values and say what you believe. Will this work [with under two years left in the 2016 election cycle?  It didn't work in 2014.] It depends on how well it [the consciousness raising about framing and how to re-frame] is done [and by how many]. Moreover we believe that most Americans care about their fellow citizens. That is the moral basis of Democratic thought, and we think the public will respond to it.

Finally, a caveat. This book is not intended to be exhaustive. It's too short, and a book much bigger would probably be too long. We will cover a great deal [in subsequent chapters of this book] but far from the full range of topics. We jump in with the most pressing challenges facing Democrats and with hands-on communication advice. [Whereas JGW, editor, highlighter, and annotator of this Introduction, has much more to write about these practical applications continuing to do so primarily on this CAGI web site.]

Next [in Lakoff's books] we [and they of a Democrat liberal-mind will] explore the effects, especially the hidden effects, of extreme conservatism. Third, we [will] turn to [and elaborate upon the] ideas that Democrats need but that are not yet in public discourse, along with the new language needed to express those ideas. Finally our "Phrasebook for Democrats" covers the most controversial areas in current politics, providing relevant background and introducing new ways to talk. [Meanwhile we Greens like this editor, JGW, will be awaiting those books to rephrase them all in Real Progressive language and with real progressive moral and political values that get more Greens elected to public office.  For the further progressive education of the CAGI web site reader who has now read this edited introduction please note the existence of many articles and examples of reframing and of "better progressive slogans," all be they not that well organized or presented.  That is my job, primarily, to make the material on CAGI more easily find-able and accessible as the site users wish to best filter and see that content to acheive their unique learning goals.]

Our [the authors'+ JGW's] job here is to go beyond policy and punditry and the same old [Democrat and Progressive] ideas [and ways of expressing ourselves]. We hope it [the revised, more progressive Introduction and the Lakoff-Wehling book] will change the way you see, understand, and discuss American politics.

[And for that larger, longer editing and rewriting effort, more editing help will be needed. So the more thoughtful and articulate Green progressives who read this, please sign up for accounts on this web site a.s.a.p. so we can work together in 2015 and 2016 to improve Lakoff's and Wehling's ideas for the benefit of real progressives in the Green Party of the US if not also of Greens world-wide.]

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Category: Reframing: How To Do It, When and Why
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