George Lakoff of the Rockridge Institute believes that values are more important than issues in carrying elections. He also believes that this nation was pretty much founded on progressive values. He believes that the protagonists central to the development of our nation were citizens, then later perhaps, citizen revolutionaries, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Or maybe they were citizen abolitionists like Frederick Douglas or Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks. Or suffragists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and naturalists like John Muir and Rachel Carson. The list goes on.
And then there was Franklin Roosevelt. From Lakoff:
…he permanently established government’s central role for using the common wealth for the common good by launching the New Deal. It was more than a set of programs – it was a movement imbued with the core progressive values of empathy and responsibility, with the idea that government should not only care about people but also act on that caring.
Regrettably, the past several decades have seen the Republican right trampling all over these historical values and have offered up instead a stingy worldview based on authoritarian political values. Compounding the menace of the political authoritarianism was the increasing power of religious authoritarianism as defined by the Religious Right Movement. In almost lock step formation, these movements sought to denigrate progressive values and principles.
With the help of a well developed form of social control called Ritual Defamation, they trampled all over liberal members of Congress reducing them to practically forced apologies for crimes not committed. The obligatory apology by Senator Durbin for his remark comparing the Abu Ghraib torture behaviors with Nazi behaviors during WWII comes to mind. Ritual Defamation involves the tool of character assassination (and in the case of the contemporary right wing, relentlessly repetitive character assault) with the goal of censorship and repression. For a comprehensive definition of Ritual Defamation, I have included this link. I think we relabeled it Swiftboating in 04. I definitely recommend the read. [ http://www.lairdwilc… ] The following from TomPaine.com:
The political cost to progressives, for their inability to properly deal with this tactic is greater than they realize. It is a potent demonstration of pure power to force others to insincerely condemn or apologize for something, particularly when the person who is forcing it is also insincerely outraged. For a political party that suffers from a reputation for weakness, it is extremely damaging to be so publicly cowed over and over again. It separates them from their most ardent supporters and makes them appear guilty and unprincipled to the public at large,
For some time it seemed as if the cacophony of right wing Talking Points Babble had completely obliterated the progressive voice of our nation, but then they had a running start. Real organizing to this end began with NeoCons some thirty years ago, and if Lakoff is correct in his position that values are more important that issues, then the gift the NeoCons received in the form of Ronald Reagan was priceless. Never let it be said that I admired Ron, but according to Lakoff, he communicated well and so connected with people. They felt the (love) authenticity; they trusted him and came running. Well that was his job history after all, getting into character and playing a role. But it worked. As for the issues, in the case of Ronald Reagan’s affair with the people, it became whatever he “communicated”.
Progressives have been at a disadvantage in this game. We always want to talk about the issues, but we have had difficulty in communicating a vision. We need to remember that it is about values as well. It’s about how to articulate those values and not come off sounding defensive. It’s about dumping the disconnect. Watch Hillary. What she says is measured and reasonable. But it is not authentic. Certainly she is not connecting with me. When I watch Hillary, I see her wearing someone else’s values. There is definite dissonance. On the other hand, it’s definitely a crush on Chris Dodd. When he came out the other day unabashedly blocking the FISA travesty, he did so with all the authenticity of the original statesman. There was no doubt what he was communicating – love of country. He surely connected with me and I am sure countless others. His numbers jumped. It’s a start and quite a treat, I might add.
So, the challenge for you, citizen commentators, is to take Dodd’s example and run with it. Remind our guys in the big white houses that our basic values were and still are values of empathy and responsibility. Repeat those values ceaselessly and unabashedly. Make their restoration the heart and soul of our vision for the future. Articulate, authenticate, communicate and connect! Oh Yes, and give Chris Dodd three big cheers!