Monday, September 29, 2008

Moral Politics

¡Hola! Everybody…
Freakin’ Mets broke my heart… AGAIN

On another note, one former CEO of the failure formerly known as Shearson/ Lehman received something like $20 million compensation package after heading the company for 18 days! And will people please stop calling this a “bailout” and call it for what is -- Corporate Welfare?

* * *

-=[ Moral Politics ]=-

“When confronted with evidence disproving a cherished belief, most people will throw away the evidence and keep the belief.”

Most of my readers know how much I detest overly simplistic explanations. Take these for example:

An idiot was voted into office twice? Must be the people are stupid.

The subprime meltdown was the consequence of clueless borrowers.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

I could go on and on with a list of the foolish and narrow-minded shit people pull out of their arses in their quest to form opinions. I believe that the greatest postmodern danger facing us is our inability to apply our sociological imagination. That is, our inability to view issues from a wider perspective -- inclusive of divergent points of view -- is what’s creating our greatest crisis.

We blame “a nation of idiots” on the election of an idiot; conveniently ignoring the massive propaganda machine that idiot is tied to. We blame borrowers in what is the greatest financial scam in our nation’s history, ignoring the decades of deregulation and dismantling of government insight that paved the way, not just for the subprime meltdown, but also Enron and every other corporate malfeasance, since McCain’s involvement in the S&L catastrophe in the 80s.

In fact, it is a common practice of conservatives to set up government agencies for failure (via taking away funding) and then blame any failure, not on deregulation, but the very agencies they set up to fail. We ignore the fact that a gun gives people -- many unstable -- a power to inflict destruction like no other instrument. Sure pencils don’t make people misspell words, but let me see how many people you can shred with one pencil as opposed to an automatic rifle.

::blank stare::

The genius of the conservative movement lies in how they have convinced you that a regressive rather than a progressive tax structure is better for you (they call it “tax relief”). It’s how they convinced a number of you to go along with trickle-down economics -- an economic theory no real economist has ever backed.

In any case, our opinions are most often driven by the beliefs -- or better put -- by the metaphors -- we live by. Conservatives have known this for some time and that’s partly why you voted for Bush and why you vote against your own economic interests. Conservative operatives discovered that people vote their values, not on the issues. Therefore, if you can frame, say, “family values” in a conservative way, you have co-opted the most important metaphor we all live by -- families.

Progressives have labored under the false notion that reason or issues should come first. Yes, issues are important, but people vote on values (frames) and if you can’t connect with people on values, you will never get your agenda on board. Let’s take the following facts as an example:

On the Iraq War, an overwhelming majority of Americans want a timetable for pulling out our troops. On economic policy, most Americans support stronger government regulations to protect citizens. On trade, polls consistently show the public is very suspicious of the free trade agreements that have hurt the middle class. On health care, surveys consistently show that about two-thirds of those asked desire a government-guaranteed universal health-insurance system -- even if that means higher taxes.

If the mainstream is more left of center, then why aren’t these issues on the tale for public discourse? Why? Because they haven’t been framed adequately. One of the ways issues are framed is through repetition. Jon Stewart from The Daily Show has made a career showing hilarious video clips of right-wing leaders using the same words over and over on the same day. McCain used this technique during the last debate. He kept repeating his belief (frame) that Obama is not prepared to lead. His key words included “reckless,” and “dangerous.” This is a very effective way to express and embed an idea. The words come with frames of reference attached. Those frames in turn latch on to and activate deeper, subconscious frames. When repeated over and over, the words serve to reinforce deep frames by actually strengthening neural connections in listeners.

In that way, I can stand up on a stump and yell out catch phrases like “family values!” or “tough on crime!” and immediately in your brain a barrage of conservative-framed issues appear. I can blurt out, “tax and spend” and immediately conservative frames come to your mind.

In the coming days, I’m going to write on how progressives can take back the values game.



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