Newt Gingrich is at it again, you can’t really blame him, he is trying to win in Florida and needs a hook. It’s time to get out the zoom lens. The “zoom lens” is a mental exercise and visual trick that helps to see both a progressive and conservative point of view; it’s another way to see the multiple causes that form a progressive opinion vs. the few causes that form conservative ones. While the lens is trained on Newt you see a candidate that needs votes and needs to tell the electorate something that will make him more desirable and set him apart from the field. Newt knows that he must cut through the media chatter – people don’t want to get bogged down in policy talk or quibbling. Newt wants to be seen as a big, bold idea man. He’s put forth an edgy idea and he’s channeling Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy at the same time. He’s calculated his position and is taking a gamble on the desperate needs of the unemployed; especially the Florida unemployed.
Like lot’s of Americans, Newt is a space fan and has been for a long time. He was a youth when JFK made the press to go to the moon and I’m sure moon-talk was the uber-cool, cutting edge, techno geekspeak of the day. JFK – the still wildly popular Democratic president- created a bold challenge for Americans and gave it a deadline. Newt really needs a fresh idea to jump start the economy so he is dusting the cobwebs off of the idea of space exploration and is trying to do what Kennedy did – it just so happens that he’s pushing it in a state that has lost thousands of jobs to the shuttering of the space programs. Gingrich is channeling one of the most popular Democratic presidents in history and one of the most popular Republican presidents in history too – Ronald Reagan. Both of these presidents had big ideas that saved their butts. Reagan’s ideas were big because he crafted our current economic down turn with his deregulation plans, rejection of “do-gooders” (empathetic/altruistic people), and desire for “morning in America”. It is almost irrelevant what either president was talking about, what was really important is how they made Americans feel.
Feeling is more important than thinking when we make decisions.
We “go with our gut”, have “funny feelings”, or think “I just like that guy” when we vote. We may evaluate the issues, but even when a candidate aligns with issues, if we don’t trust that candidate, don’t like that candidate, or just think there’s “something fishy” about them, we will hesitate to support them. We always make our facts fit the frame.Your opponent can cite factual detail after factual detail, but if they are not talking from within your accepted frame, you disregard everything they are saying – you don’t necessarily trust them, you have not accepted the frame of their argument.
Newt’s challenge is to be bold, offer solutions for this ailing economy while being seen as a big thinker that doesn’t just blow hard. Let’s employ the zoom lens: zooming in, you see a candidate running for president offering ideas, making claims. You may like his style, his confidence, his ability to handle questions in a commanding way. His demeanor may build confidence around his decisive nature – something desirable in a president. Now let’s zoom out a bit, he is in a field of candidates that he needs to differentiate himself from, he needs an angle, a strategy, a distraction or defense against all that is coming at him. Zoom out a bit more and we see he is in a state that needs jobs and has recently lost space related jobs. Offering a path back to those good jobs is like dangling meat in front of a ravenous beast. All humans have to think of survival before nuances of policy; when basic needs are not being met, as humans we are programmed to get them met as quickly and easily as possible.
Let’s zoom out some more. Newt is framing himself as one of recent history’s greats – he harkens to both the Democratic and Republican heydays; he wants to be seen in the light that we revere them. Conveniently for him they are both dead and can’t protest to these comparisons or point out differences. Zoom out again and you see the American dream itself dying – Newt knows this, he’s heard from focus groups that tell him as much. He’s got to do more than create jobs, he’s got to give Americans hope for the future (without using the word “hope” – he doesn’t want us to recall Obama’s schtick).
Zoom out again and you realize that he isn’t talking about the government establishing a space program, so who would establish this moon colony? Blackwater? KBR? Would any private entity actual even be “American”? To my knowledge, private industry is only as loyal as their funding; would this be a case of funneling money to another major corporation to add to our debt? What would be American about this moon colony and how would private industry profit from being there? Would this just be a foot in the door to militarize space? I don’t think we would bother colonizing space just to open a visitor’s center. Let’s keep zooming out and look at the state of our planet, humans are suffering due to a lack of basic needs being met – food, decent housing, inability to support themselves, environmental devastation, resource depletion, health problems related to all of the above. Will space profiteers really address any of these needs? Ok maybe for a small group in Florida it could help with some of these issues, but the zoom out shows us that it does very little for the majority of the world or even Americans. We need to look to a leader that can consider global problems because global problems – “free trade” fallout, pollution, resource shortages, multinational corporate power, war – are at our doorstep.
Zoom out yet again and you see this, the orbiting trash dump around our blue marble. We have been to space for less than a century and not given a thought – as humans – to how we have started junking up the final frontier. We are doing a pretty terrible job of taking care of this planet and show no restraint in rhetoric when assuming that we should also “own” any other celestial body that we can poke a stick in.
This idea of moon colonization is another example of short term thinking at it’s worst. We need a new paradigm in American, not an old one with a new salesperson. Newt knows that he is speaking to the rawness that surrounds the hurt pride of joblessness and inability to support our families, when he promises jobs. The truth is that so much of the tech sector is automated now that didn’t used to be, that the actual job prospects for such a program are questionable. What Newt is offering is a feeling, not an actual plan. You can use your internal zoom lens on any issue to help see the big picture and all of the factors that play into any one topic. Seeing these factors can help explain to others and support your point of view even if you are not current on the nitty gritty details of a particular proposal. Asking questions from a range of perspectives helps activate all of our brains and keeps us from parroting talking point or being reactionaries. Your lens is your frame of thought; with practice, you can adjust your frame – and the frames of others – to support your values and make your case. Don’t expect immediate conversions, there is a bit of pride involved, just encourage civilized discourse and support your arguments. Tuning out the bickering and thinking for ourselves, we can build a citizenry that works better.