Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Pay Attention!

OK, I've been thinking for a week what to write about the election, what its result tells us, and what to do about it,.... and now I just found it is already written, almost point by point, and by no less than the Rockridge folks:

What is a "Swing Voter"?

by The Rockridge Institute

This Rockridge framing analysis reveals new approaches for reaching swing voters — and shows how conventional wisdom has it all wrong.

There are clear distinctions between the Nurturant Parent (NP) family and the Strict Father (SF) family. The logic of the models are contradictory, but we all have both models present in the synapses of our brains—either actively or passively.

Progressives who can understand an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, whether or not they enjoy it, have at least a passive version of the SF model alongside the active Nurturant Parent model that defines their politics.

Similarly, any conservatives who can understand the Bill Cosby show, whether or not they appreciate its parenting approach, have at least a passive version of the NP model in addition to the Strict Father model that shapes their political outlook.

According to George Lakoff of the Rockridge Institute, many people — often, enough to decide elections — have active versions of both models that they use in different parts of their lives. They are called "swing voters" when they have not decided which of the two models to use in a particular election.

For instance, there are strict fathers on the job who are nurturant parents at home. There are strict fathers in the classroom who are nurturant in their family lives. Among these are so-called Reagan Democrats, blue-collar workers who are strict at home, but are nurturant toward their co-workers. A significant number of executives are strict in their financial dealings and nurturant at home.

Women tend to have active nurturant parent models, but a significant number may accept the authority of the strict father, or be strict mothers in practice. In politics, one may be nurturant on social issues and strict on economic ones, or nurturant on domestic issues and strict on foreign policy. The military is strict in its discipline but provides housing, health care, schools, the PX, and so on, for its families.

What determines how we vote is which model is active and dominant for understanding politics at that time.
Most people have a politics defined almost exclusively by one of these two moral worldviews. Current polls consistently show that:

Our goal is to activate the progressive model in the non-aligned voters. Activation is done through language—by using a consistent language that reflects and activates progressive values. The same language that rallies a base activates the same worldview for those in the middle.

Conservatives have already figured this out. What they have learned about winning elections is that they have to activate the Strict Father model in more than half of the electorate. Fear is a good way to trigger the strict father model, making it active in our minds, because fear reinforces the basic ideas that the world is a dangerous place and that strict discipline is therefore needed for safety.

For instance, the 9/11 attacks allowed the conservatives to declare an unending "war on terror." The frame of the War on Terror presupposes that the populace should be terrified, and constant reminders keep the "Terror" frame active. Fear and uncertainty then naturally activate the Strict Father frame in a majority of people, leading the electorate to see politics in conservative terms.

Hope is the opposite of fear. Speaking of hope, optimism and a positive vision for the future triggers the Nurturant Parent model in our minds. This works because optimism and hope reinforce the idea that the world is basically good, and can be made better. Hope is therefore an essential theme for progressives.
There is one exception to this discussion, and that is the use of Orwellian language . When conservatives feel that they are weak on an issue with swing voters they use deceptive language to make it appear as though they hold nurturant values when in fact they do not. This manipulative strategy is exemplified in phrases like "compassionate conservative," for policies that are anything but compassionate. The intentional use of deceptive language is an effort to appear "good enough" to swing voters since they know most would not support conservative policies, beliefs, and goals if they were stated and framed honestly.

Fallacy: Progressives can gain more voters by moving to the Right.

There is a myth that voters are lined up in a left-to-right line, and that to gain the support of swing voters, you must move to the center. When progressives move to the right, they lose in two ways, setting up a self-defeating double-whammy:

1) Moving to the right alienates your progressive base.

2) It actually helps conservatives because it activates their model in swing voters.

Notice that conservatives do not gain more voters by moving to the Left. What they do is stick to their strict ideology to activate their model in swing voters by being clear and consistent in policies and messages framed in terms of conservative values.

Moral: Voters are not on a left-to-right line. Stick with your ideals, frame what you believe effectively, and say what you believe. Say it well, strongly, and with moral conviction.

posted by Bora Zivkovic @ 1:13 AM | permalink | (0 comments) | Post a Comment | permalink