Tag Archives: luntz

Gingrich, Poor Kids, and Trash

Newt Gingrich, though faltering, is the one candidate for the Republican nomination that embodies the establishment GOP. Last November he made a bold choice to endorse and encourage child labor – he wanted poor kids to takeover the jobs of unionized janitors. This is not a smear campaign on Newt, he stands by the statement and it was no gaff. On Wednesday, Gingrich encountered a former child janitor, in the exchange he not only upheld his previous ideas, but threw in a cold dismissal of real world class differences. Continue reading

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The Hateful Rush to Frame

 

Political framing can find yourself keeping strange company. Progressives might find themselves agreeing with Newt Gingrich this week, here’s a quote from Reuters by Newt,

I am astonished at the desperation of the elite media to avoid rising gas prices, to avoid the president’s apology to religious fanatics in Afghanistan, to avoid a trillion-dollar deficit, to avoid the longest period of unemployment since the Great Depression and to suddenly decide that Rush Limbaugh is the great national crisis of this week

You would think there were no news worthy events last week because coverage focused on Rush Limbaugh and what he does best – get attention via bombastic statements.  He successfully dominated at least one news cycle, if not the better part of a week’s cycle. Rush would not work as a guest blogger here because he uses uncivilized language and tone. A boycott of his advertisers must have had some effect because Saturday he apologized for his crude choice of language – not for the sentiment behind them. Many on the right and left feel that this apology was extracted and strictly about responding to advertisers.  When questioned about the language choice before Saturday, he simply added more insulting words and scenarios to his previous assault – he doubled down.

Rush and his handlers may have overstepped even the mainstream media’s standards of decency, but they certainly did a great job getting attention. Continue reading

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Changing the Frame

The right to bear arms

The last two posts have related to Gingrich’s surge in popularity lately and how he has positioned himself – or been positioned by advisers – to achieve that surge.  No doubt that the Republican establishment could teach the Democratic establishment a bit about good messaging and effective communication. Whether that communication is authentic is another matter and part of another post. Today I’d like to use another Gingrich moment as a jumping off point. He recently used a key tactic when framing an argument – changing the frame.

A few nights ago, the first question at the Republican debate was directed at Newt and it was a personal question relating to the bombshell interview with Newt’s ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich . She had said that Newt asked her for an open marriage and she would not grant it. Obviously this issue is explosive for the social conservatives that make up one of the three factions of the Republican base. As mentioned in Monday’s post, Gingrich and the Ladies, he is painfully aware that his reputation as a cold hearted womanizer does him no favors when running for office. The last thing Newt wants is to headline a Republican showcase with an airing of his dirty laundry. So what did he do? He did the only thing that might divert attention, he changed the frame.

One minute the audience was waiting to see if he would confirm or deny his ex’s story, the next we are hearing about the problems with our news media. Sure enough, most of us realize that there are plenty of problems with mainstream media in America, but the timing of his indignant response served little purpose other than pushing the current issue out of our minds. It reminds me of the comedic “look over there” schtick  – followed by running the opposite direction. However put-on his indignence might be, he did somewhat successfully execute a change of frame.

When a discussion leaves you no room for a position at all – the equivalent of “how long have you been beating your wife?” – it is time to call attention to the corner you’ve been put in and get yourself out of it. It may mean leaving some accusations unanswered, some questions hanging, and not feeling satisfied, but it is necessary to move forward.  The reason you let those unanswered feelings drop is because at that point you are not only spinning your wheels, but you are spinning your wheels while your opponent enjoys controlling the conversation.  Whether Gingrich should be held accountable for his personal life in a public forum is beside the issue; he got himself out of a jam to raucous applause. It is a good technique to know. Continue reading

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Family Values and the “Free Market”

In yesterday’s post, I outlined some of the inconsistencies Newt Gingrich has shown on the campaign trail  – how he got very touchy-feely with moms yet his platform of ideas does not line up to be that family friendly.  The most glaring inconsistency is – once again – about values. Gingrich is all about unfettered capitalism, exhausting resources for short term gain, and upholding what he considers to be traditional American, God fearing family values. So why is he espousing liberal values in front of an audience that was shown to support Obama? Ok, that’s got an obvious answer – because he wants to be the one they support. Their survey basically showed that moms have more liberal belief systems than the social conservatives (all but Ron Paul) in the Republican race.

Luntz starts off his analysis stating simple facts about the survey, but then showed his bias by backpedaling a bit in order to tow the Republican line. In this clip, he speaks with a CafeMom correspondent about the survey that CafeMom did. First he states the facts pretty plainly, moms are feeling very negative about the American dream, their daily struggle, and political parties, but at about 2:40 he begins putting words in these surveyed moms’ mouths when talking about what moms want from politicians:

They need to address the issues, not from an ideological standpoint, but much more from a day-to-day, quality-of-life standpoint.  How can you help moms achieve their goals from the moment they wake up in the morning ’til the moment they go to sleep at night? Now [moms are] not asking for bigger government – that’s not what they’re saying. What they’re saying is understand, empathize, and at least get out of their way and don’t make it more difficult for me.

Luntz goes on:

They need to show [the moms] that they hear the challenges and they have solutions to it, whether it’s helping them feel more secure in their jobs, whether it’s providing more money at the end of the week, whether it’s helping them save, helping them start a business…or even just getting out of the way so they can do it themselves.

Luntz does a sloppy job of quoting, citing survey results, and interjecting his opinion in this interview. You can’t really be sure when he is paraphrasing on the moms’ behalf and when he inserting his own opinion, though he does call attention to actual quotes from moms. Rest assured, if an actual mom had an actual quote that fit his agenda, he would be using it and trying to push it to the spotlight of attention. In the above quotes he takes the leap in outlining what moms are not asking for – a negative catch phrase that Republicans love to use – “bigger government”. To an establishment Republican, that term is synonymous with Democrats – this is a dog whistle. He wants it to seem like moms reject Democratic ideas when there is no question or response that indicates that. He goes on to state that moms want understanding and empathy – nurturing values that are planks of the Democratic party. Then he throws in “get out of their way and don’t make it more difficult”, as if moms actually responded with those words – again, if they did he would’ve quoted it. He is dog whistling again – throwing out a tagline of the Republican party as if the moms put it out there.

In the second quote above, Frank is summarizing the survey and stating what moms have said that they want from a candidate. Look at the laundry list, job security, more money per week, saving (which also amounts to more money) – what does a Republican have to offer for those day-to-day, week-to-week struggles and fears? The “free market” (a.k.a. capitalism). There’s only one problem, the “free market” does not have a human component. It is about money, money, and money. “Free markets” are not sympathetic when you must miss work due to a child’s illness, there are other workers to replace you. “Free markets” don’t care if your 40 hour work week has turned into a 60 hour work week and you no longer have any daylight hours (or energy) to spend with your family – that’s called “productivity”. “Free markets” aren’t giving out pay raises to allow for some breathing room in a family budget – are you kidding, in this job market? This is the progressive qualm with the so-called “free market”; there is no room for humanity to be human. The trajectory for the quality of life of a worker at this time goes nowhere but down.

Luntz suggests the idea that moms may like help starting a business. I’m sure that is true of some moms, but let’s be realistic: if you can’t find a job, live in fear of losing a job, and have zero or low wages, would you really be in a great position to learn what it takes and have the resources to run a successful business? Without these hindrances – or children that need rearing/child care that needs paying – starting a small business is risky enough. The rate of successful, thriving businesses compared to the number of startups is bleak for the long term. Security definitely does not spring to mind when thinking of risking the well-being of the whole family on an entrepreneurial venture ( a craps game is closer to my mental imagery).

Luntz knows, at least in this instance, that empathy is key to this demographic. It almost seems like he is trying to co-opt the term for himself/his clients even though it is not a traditionally top conservative value – it is the top progressive value. He wants folks to vote conservative though the survey shows their values are liberal. Indeed the bigger problem for Luntz – and the Republican party – is that two of the main factions of their party, social conservatives and “free market” advocates, are not very compatible when you get down to the real world application of those values. Once again, the credibility goes back to a trust issue – just like in interpersonal relationships.  Can moms really trust an unrestrained, subsidized corporation to take care of their families and neighborhoods? Is profit-seeking the same as caring for family values?  When the used car dealer tells you it’s a fine piece of equipment just moments before the fender falls off, you take your business elsewhere. Luntz knows this and relies on our short term memories, then plays a shell game with our futures. Gingrich can talk a sympathetic game, but it is inconsistent with the Republican capitalist platform – the core of his platform.  It will be interesting to see if empathy continues to come up on the campaign trail and how Republicans handle these inconsistencies. Maybe corporations will start eschewing profits to worry about our kids’ future – just kidding, I wanted to end with a chuckle.

As an aside, you may wonder why I continually put “free markets” in quotes throughout my post; the latest buzzword is “enterprise”  (perhaps that was a suggestion of Luntz’s as well, it does sound better). “Free markets” use the contested concept of “freedom” and, as the joke goes, freedom is more free for some than others. I’ll do a future post all about the misnomer of “free markets” or enterprise, or whatever the term of the season is for capitalism in our corporate society. Keep checking back in, with CivilTongue – and your own values.

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Gingrich and the Ladies

The man of the hour is Newt Gingrich. He’s getting attention and South Carolina has a reputation of picking THE Republican nominee. Seems a bit surprising until you notice Frank Luntz seems to be his BFF lately. For those not familiar, Frank Luntz is the Republican wordsmith/ focus group guru that helps them pick just the right words to say and the frames they work in – Words that Work (his book). I promised earlier that I would analyze a portion of the CafeMom focus group that Newt and Frank participated in; this is a good time. My suspicion is that Luntz has been retained for the duration of the campaign and was hired once Newt realized he had a big problem with his image among women. Social conservatives don’t take kindly to serial marriage – or divorce. They also don’t like hearing about an open marriage, his alleged multiple mistresses, or the story about hassling his soon-to-be ex-wife on her “death bed” (for the record, she was recovering from a tumor removal surgery – also for the record he admits to one affair). It almost doesn’t even matter, the nuances of truth or rumor in these tales, because the picture – or frame – has already been painted. You can’t un-hear something, un-see it, or un-imagine it. Once a frame has been locked in, it is very hard to shake. This is why the wordsmith has likely been called in. Luntz is working hard to get Newt to seem more likeable to women – to an insulting degree in my opinion. Newt is fast on his feet anyway, but Frank can point out his weak areas and teach him to relate a bit better, and answer the tough questions by resetting the frame of the conversation.These tactics are working.

CafeMom sponsored an event where the guest of honor was Newt Gingrich and the facilitator was Frank Luntz. I can’t quite figure out what the reason for the event was other than Newt wanting to speak to moms and this seemed to be a good forum. The set up is already suspicious on my radar – were moms clamoring to really connect to Newt? Like a practiced volleyball game Frank Luntz sets up Newt over and over and Newt spikes the ball; Newt painstakingly ingratiates himself. Not only does he pander to the audience, but the crying babies and crying candidate (yes, Newt cries) tap into our audio consciousness and push those motherly empathetic buttons all over the place. For the folks in the audience it was probably even more sensory overload, baby smells, pinchable baby cheeks peppered throughout the audience, coffee talk, and mom as the unsung hero – but wait, I thought Newt was a hard nosed authoritarian? Continue reading

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