Updated: 5/16/2006; 2:07:39 PM.

Current events
Post-9-11 events and analyses


daily link  Tuesday, January 20, 2004


George Lakoff political ideas:  A cognitive scientist from Berkeley that offers advice to Dean and others:  ""We have a metaphor of the nation as family," Lakoff explains. Within that family are two types of parents, two models. Lakoff views the conservatives as the strict father model and the progressives as the nurturing parent.

"The strict father family has a background assumption," Lakoff says of the conservative approach. "The world is a dangerous place. It's a difficult place. And kids are born bad and have to be made good." The strict father model, to offer just one applied example, would not allow for social programs because they offer unearned rewards. Within this model, the very notion of such a program an unearned reward would be immoral because it would not serve to raise the "child" to be self-reliant.

The nurturant parent, on the other hand, Lakoff writes, believes "that children are born good and should be kept that way." The two core ideas to the nurturing parent are empathy and responsibility. Lakoff emphasizes that the empathy component within the nurturing model should not be interpreted as weakness.  "The nurturant parent is neither permissive nor weak in being empathetic. Rather empathy-carried-out requires responsibility, both personal and social. Responsibility implies strength, competence, and promoting the value of both personal and social responsibility in others."

The key factor of these two models, as it applies to Howard Dean, is that according to Lakoff, "Most Americans have versions of both worldviews many people use both models in different parts of their lives."   Lakoff believes that either element within the swing voter can be excited. ..

Lakoff thinks [conservatives] have created the notion that they are representative of morality and liberals are not. "Liberals have morality but have not been able to articulate it," he says of their language.  Conservatives, Lakoff believes, have spent millions of dollars and 40 years to develop a language to convey their ideas. The language, exemplified in such terms as "tax relief" and "partial birth abortion" brings with it a moral interpretation that the Democrats have not been able to counter.

Lakoff uses tax relief to explain. By substituting the word "relief" for "cuts" when talking about Bush's tax policies, the Republicans are able to associate a sense of morality with their agenda.  "If you have relief there has to be affliction, an afflicted party," Lakoff says. Once the notion of affliction is activated, even if unconsciously, the parties at play are assigned their roles. The party that relieves the affliction is a hero, while that which attempts to thwart the relief is a villain."  Recently some Democrats have been referring to deficits as a "Bush tax" to reverse the analogy.

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Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 2:07:39 PM.