Tag Archives: framing

An Honest Conservative’s Response

Some of you may be following along and know that I’ve recently done a presentation on some of the concepts I try to talk about on this blog. One of my principles in modern political discourse is that people will relate to and follow along with values more easily than policies or programs, so values is where you need to begin connecting with your audience.
For the presentation, the room was full and I had several interesting conversations following the program. One was with Mike Butrum, the Government Affairs Director of the Asheville Board of Realtors, a self proclaimed conservative. His response relates to the discussion from last week, Authority Rules (or does it?). He offered me some constructive criticism, see if you agree with some of these excerpts…

Rest assured, I was very much intrigued by the subject matter and by your presentation. The political discourse  certainly needs a more “Civil Tongue” for sure. I think there is real substance within the presentation. I also think you are open minded in as much as you asked for feedback so I’m taking the time to offer some from my perspective. Keep in mind, I’ve always thought it doesn’t matter as much what as person says  but more important what they hear. I also fully subscribe to the notion that what a person says is generally not the way it’s heard. With that said, let me try to explain what I heard.

I do not agree at all that conservatives see authority as a basis for structure in their lives or in their discourse. I think conservatives value freedoms and private rights. It’s been my personal belief that too much authority is  wrong particularly in the executive branch of government.. Now, if the prescribed answer to this is, I don’t realize how progressive I am, then I have a bridge for you to buy in Brooklyn. That’s demeaning. If it’s possible to spin freedoms and private rights  into some form of authority then I would be all ears. We have sufficient and proper authority and it’s called the Constitution of the United States. Of course the debate over this document that the Constitution is not and is not designed to be a living document is one worth having. The founding fathers purposely made it difficult to change the document but it can be changed and it has been 27 times. To allow a temporary executive to change the document on a whim would merely allow another temporary occupant to change it again.

He does not like emotion in the political discussion and decision making process:

…I was in a war and unlike today, I did not volunteer. My daughters husband has volunteered and has made 13 appearances in Afghanistan and Iraq as a member of the U S Army Special Forces Aviation Unit. He volunteered, took his chances defended America and is proud of his service and so is his family. To be against the war is to be against the warriors mission.  He help bring down a dictator, an enormous task and incredibly worthwhile to the world and especially to the people of Iraq was necessary and important. If the current administration doesn’t totally demean the efforts of hundreds of thousands of veterans, we will give another country the taste of freedom and the ability to join with all other free nations to develop their economies that end up helping all that participate especially America. It’s not emotion that works. It’s common sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not very common. Have American’s become so complacent that we no longer have an obligation to others that need our help? Do we offer them our cold shoulder? How many lives have been lost due to complacency?  Is it because we feel that we need to pay more attention to our own problems. After 16 trillion dollars of debt, mostly given to Americans, how much is enough?

Emotion in political discourse is bad. Passion is good. Crying and laughing to me are emotions. If you laugh at the supposed ignorance of the other side in the political debate, that’s wrong. If you cry because your candidate lost, that’s wrong. Passion on the other hand allows for a vigorous debate without resorting to degrading your opponent. Passion will allow for a person to live with their losses and offer compassion to the other side all the while critiquing there efforts and trying to improve their arguments. As I stated in our brief discussion before I left on Wednesday night, bad manners are innate. Good manners are a learned trait.

Allow me to point out a classic example that occurred that night. I sat down in the front of the room(I’m somewhat hard of hearing) and I was drinking a beer which I sat down on the table in front of my chair. I stood up to engage a friend in conversation in front of the table. A lady came and sat down in the seat next to the one I was occupying. She placed her bag on by seat. I noticed this and politely said that’s by beverage and my seat. She said nothing. During my conversation, a gentleman sat down at my seat and spilled my beer. He asked if he had done that. I stated, that was my beer. I went on to say that apparently, I’ve lost my beer and my seat. Neither said anything and I went to the back of the room where I missed some of your presentation due to the bad acoustics. My point is, and this is real not fained, although no one has a lock on bad manners, liberals are the worst. I advocate on behalf of the REALTOR Association before city council, county commission, state legislature and at times our congressmen. I take no political side in these discussions. I advocate for the REALTORS and let the chip fall way they may. Liberals are not generally nice people in the debate. No sense of manners or even half truths. Anything goes. I’ve always wonder where does their sense of decorum go when they debate politics. They despise conservatives with a visceral hatred. Is it a sense of entitlement? Is it because their mothers never taught them manners? Are the just bad to the bone? What is it? It’s virtually impossible to have a meaningful discussion with zealots and disciples from either political party.

At this point some people would point out that conservatives do the same thing and I would agree. However, the contempt that progressive liberals have for their opponents can only be learned and having the opportunity to have hired hundreds of young people in my career, I have come to the conclusion that colleges and universities are the grounds on which these emotions have been spawned. Extremely disappointing. In my day, we would enter college with a mind full of mush but come out thinking for ourselves. Today, and for the past three decades and more, student’s come out truly believing that liberal concepts and anti capitalism is the better way. They loose love of country in the process. They loose a need to join a church, they raise environmentalism to the level of a form of religion. But there is hope. To me it’s like potty training a baby. Babies are adamant against this necessary basic need at first but they finally get it. At least most do. Some remain committed to the cause their entire lives never understanding the simple concept that dumping where they live is harmful and has no redeeming value. Interestingly, after the 60’s anti government movement, most of the combatant’s turned their significant aptitudes toward accomplishing something. In the process the finally “Got It”. Capitalism is what has made America what it is. Warts and all. A democratic Republic. Most of these people flourished in the process.

Without capitalism, America cannot and will not work. America is unique. American’s believe that you have to do and pay your way. We are teaching people that this is no longer necessary. If anyone has the slightest doubt about this concept, just look where we are headed. If you have the slightest doubt that the direction of the country could be wrong, you have an obligation to do something about it. America and Americans have been given this power. It’s called the vote.   I know some people hate America  but so far, in all of humane mankind, America represents the best hope. I have traveled the world many times over. I can assure you, the most downtrodden people in America, live a higher standard of life then most of the people in the world. If the bleeding hearts really were serious about helping the most needy, then join Mother Theresa’s church, go to India and make an effort. If environmentalism is your calling then go to Russia to the yards where they have parked their old nuclear fleet, dip one cup of water and dispose of it properly, you would do more good then anything going on in America.

Lastly, as I stated when we spoke on Wednesday, I would suggest that you consider doing this worthwhile presentation with a conservative offering a point counterpoint message. Rehearse so that both of you find something you can compromise on. Something of substance. Doing this will allow you make the same presentation without pandering to the audience. The audience will always discount a pandering message. It would also give the presentation substance and credibility. Singing to the choir is not very fulfilling. …

I appreciate the thought put into the feedback, and permission from Mike to reprint. I know that we are not going to totally agree, but we have to be able to talk to each other.

I am especially interested in the challenge to the idea that authority is not the driving value for conservatives – that freedom and private rights are a higher priority. Conservatives definitely have a social conservative bent (faction?, branch?) that is not about freedom. GLBT rights would be a non issue if conservatives embraced their freedom of expression and freedom to live under the same protections and benefits as the rest of us. In a local school district, religious conservatives have pushed the idea of “religious freedom” a la religious literature and representation in school so far that kids will find freedom from religion to be difficult. Encouraging small town monopolies – like Wal-Mart – actually lessen the options and quality of life for folks in the surrounding area. Polluting industries that go unchecked and unregulated reduce the freedom that health gives us.

These are the values worth exploring, what do you think?

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The Republican Brain – the podcast

Chris Mooney has written a book The Republican Brain, that is getting a lot of attention. I have not gotten a chance to read it yet, but it is on my short list. Mooney is a journalist who takes a special interest in psychology and ideology. He has studied the studies and comes up with some interesting findings – they support the principles from which this blog is founded, mostly picked up from the work of George Lakoff. He supports the values based approach of communication. Mooney does a pretty good job of being respectful, conversational, and realistic when talking about academics – I’ve included a podcast from him below.

“Arguing facts when the divide is about values doesn’t work” Mooney says (start listening around 29min – 31 for a good explanation of this). Think about news sources you actually trust; the news is relevantbecause of that trust, it would be irrelevant without it. When you hear an unbelievable news story cited, the first thing you want to know is “who says so?”, so that you can determine whether or not it is information to believe.

The recording is rather long so I will give you the very shortened version of the Cliff’s notes. Conservatives and Liberals tend to self select stories that support ideas they already believe in, however, liberals are much more willing to accept new information and be open to change. Liberals relish nuance, conservatives crave decisiveness. Liberals are messier, conservatives want order. Mooney talks about belonging to a club of sorts, and how the language we use philosophically indicates what club we’re in. If we can avoid that language, we are more likely to keep minds and doors open to change destructive ways.

The podcast is about fifty minutes, so if you have some drive time or similar – it’s an interesting discussion for armchair political scientists. If you want to hear some of the meat, hit it at about 29 minutes, then try again around 41 minutes for a bit of advice on how to connect from the perspective of a secular group. Here is the piece –  Chris Mooney Center for Inquiry The Republican Brain.

The bottom line is emotion. Everyone first thinks with their emotions. Those politicians that connect on that level will do better than those that don’t. These could be fear based or positive, but nuance and facts are still not winning elections. It is not against liberal values to show emotion, to show passion for what you believe in, even in the case of atheists. We can all find our moral code and work on a language to talk about it honestly and connect with folks no matter their political stripe.

We live in dynamic political times, you never know what meme will catch on – maybe it will be one that you created. Make it one of values, make it count.

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Obama As Progressive

Obama’s announcement about his feelings towards gay marriage signals a shift in American cultural history. The conservative reactions range from accusations of “radical social engineering” to schadenfreude at how foolishly Obama is behaving. Why does it all matter? There is no action implied – no legislation or acts in process.  It matters because of the values enforced. Obama is signaling a shift in what is considered to be normal. He is the authority of the land, and conservative’s top two values are authority and tradition.

A progressives top value is empathy; that is why the President’s announcement was such a happy moment. It really isn’t that everyone knows a gay couple lining up to get married, the issue is one of civil rights. It’s also a testament to a “live and let live” attitude that is part of the American identity.

As the general election heads our way, much of the progressive base was grumbling a bit about Obama. This announcement gives progressives something to point at, we all know in our gut when something goes mainstream. Gay marriage just went mainstream. It’s okay for families to be themselves. This offer of goodwill does so much to energize the base because it strongly reinforces the empathy value. If instead Obama had spoken of some thin legal line that GLBT families could walk to to get some rights, the reception would have been cold. This is an issue based on principles and they are not very complicated.

In hard times, you’ve got to feed your base, otherwise they will become disinterested or disconnected from what is happening. Trying to appeal to the “middle” is no use and while it might look ok on a political calculator the reality is that playing to the middle deactivates both sides of the debate. The middle is imaginary. Averaging positions out over a broad range of socioeconomic issues is not an effective measure of ones political stance; the linear concept of left to right is flawed. Most voters tend to be left, right, ambiguous, or ignorant on each individual issue. People don’t advocate “mostly killing” criminals on death row; they either believe in the death penalty or not. Nuances of the law may also be accepted or rejected, but each decision can be broken down into yes or no answers. All of these answers will not line up neatly on the spectrum of liberal to conservative. That is why when speaking in an empathetic manner, many of those “switches” around issues will be flipped simultaneously to an empathetic perspective. When you change someone’s mind at the very root of their thinking, the cascading effect is exponentially successful to trying to win each individual policy nuance. This is why walking the middle is counterproductive for either side of the debate.

I wrote a previous post about this here.

Even though compromise is necessary to govern, rhetoric goes a long way to building expectations and values as a people. Obama’s move will produce more good than harm because at its root are those empathetic, all American values of peace, prosperity, equality, opportunity, love, and even tradition. We all can relate to that and most of us can attest to a moral code that honors love and committment.

 

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Life Begins When?

Abortion is such a polarizing issue and hard to talk about with those that disagree. Leave it to the funny people with John Stewart to add some levity while making a point. At issue is the recent bill in the Oklahoma state senate that passed declaring that life begins at conception. The implications of this bill obviously would relate to abortion and birth control laws. Most women don’t know the moment that they become pregnant, so this bill covers something happening inside of women’s bodies that a woman is likely still unaware of. Several female state lawmakers have proposed bills in response to this far reaching legislation and the imposition it means for women. In Oklahoma a bill was put forth that got some men a little miffed.

Check out the video: Bro-Choice.

Go ahead, I’ll wait (the video is not compatible with this format, so I couldn’t provide it here, but it’s really funny so take a few minutes to watch).

It is funny hearing a Republican representative making the argument for men that is made for women when talking about personal liberty and privacy. The “investigative” comedian is hilarious and gives us a chance to laugh at ourselves.

Truly the jesters are the only ones who can tell the truth, point out the obvious, and mock the stalwarts and get away with it.  One unspoken value of America is our comedy. We’ve got all varieties and a whole lot of it isn’t funny, but it takes all kinds. Laughing together, at ourselves is one link to our shared humanity. Thanks to the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, SNL, and lots of others for bringing us together for a giggle. Long live the jesters!

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Stand Your Ground = Kill at Will

“Stand Your Ground” is brilliantly framed. The NRA pushed this bill into politics, and surely their wordsmith/marketers tested this title plenty – what’s not to like? Creating a motto or meme is a very basic technique of framing. Many times the mantra is the only bit of verbatim on a topic that is memorable, that many people can recall and discuss/ refer to. Think about the frame, “Stand Your Ground” – what imagery does it conjure up? I think of a manly man defending his property and/or family. The guy that pops into my head is clenching a cigar in his teeth and his gun is either smokin’ or dead eye leveled at some threat. I think John Wayne and someone saying, “this here street ain’t big enough for the two of us…”, in wild west fashion.

Reminiscing about westerns is a little nostalgic, but then you remember that all the violence in those movies was fake with blanks. When you take real live sherriff wannabes, and insert them into the scene with real ammo – the scene looks more like a real life nightmare, for the victim’s family, for the shooter, for the shooter’s family. Continue reading

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