Framing Values

Philocrites has a great essay by Jake, a Jake, a Unitarian Universalist minister in Tennessee, on the different ways that liberal and conservatives talk about values.

Here's one of the things that struck me:

Liberals use facts and policies; conservatives use “frames.” Frames are metaphorical ways of thinking about complex matters. For example, our vast, diverse nation is sometimes spoken of in terms of “family.”

While not literally a “family,” the concept makes intuitive sense, and captures much of the complexity of our relationships to each other. Speaking in terms of frames works. Conservatives know this; liberals don’t.

Jake also points to this essay by William Saletan.

Here's a couple of his insights on how the Democrats can regain the language of values:

  • Go back to being the party of responsibility. I'm not talking about scolding people. I'm talking about rewarding them. Be the party that rewards ordinary people who do what they're supposed to do—and protects them from those who don't.

  • When a Republican president runs a TV ad accusing you of failing to protect us from wolves, you should be able to point out that he's the one who emptied our shotgun into a fox, leaving us helpless against the wolves.

  • All the issues Democrats like to run on—education, the environment, the deficit, energy independence—would be vastly more powerful if united under a single theme. Clean up your mess. Take care of your children. Pay your debts. Stand on your own two feet. It all comes down to responsibility.

Bob Graham had some similar sentiments in today's New York Times. Democrats need "to move the debate on values beyond God, guns and gays to tolerance, concern for others, love."

None of this may matter if this anonymous senior Democratic official is right:

"I do believe there is a cultural shift going on in this country," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the intraparty debate. "I think the country is becoming more conservative. I think their base is growing.''


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