Well, not on George Lakoff himself, I don't know the man. On the ideas of his that I've read.
Lakoff is the author of an essay, first published in The Nation, called "Our Moral Values", and two very popular books, Moral Politics and Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.
I tried to read both books at the urging of a hyperactive person on my voter-registration trip. She was a recent convert to activism and couldn't stop talking about Lakoff and his supposedly new approach. I tried to read them... but failed. Couldn't get through either one.
After the election, the "Moral Politics" essay was making the rounds big-time. It was all over the internet, and appeared several times in my inbox. Each time, I had the same reaction. I tried to be open to it, but found myself rejecting it, for reasons I found difficult to articulate.
So when Crabletta recently asked me to share my thoughts on Lakoff, I used it as an opportunity to try to flesh them out. So, some thoughts on "Our Moral Values".
I agree Democrats should not try to act like Republicans. Lakoff and I are in complete agreement there. However...
I am unconvinced that the Democrats lost the election because the Republicans are seen as the party of morals and the Democrats are seen as the unprincipled party of "anything goes". If this were true, how do we account for Clinton's election and re-election?
I am unconvinced that the Democrats lost the election because of gay marriage or abortion rights. It may be true that the anti-gay-marriage fervor increased reactionary voter turn-out. But I still don't think the majority of American voters vote in national elections based on these issues. Those that do would never, ever vote Democrat. Hard-core anti-choicers don't vote Democrat. But most Americans are not hard-core anti-choice. They are ambivalent about abortion and don't think the government should be in the business of deciding individual, personal decisions.
I spoke to thousands of voters in the crucial battleground states, either personally, or looking at the survey results of the phone crew I coordinated. To the question, What issues are most important to you in the upcoming presidential election, an infinitesimally small fraction of them mentioned gay marriage or abortion rights. Those who did generally said they were voting to preserve individual freedom on both issues.
So it's not that I disagree with anything Lakoff wrote. I disagree with the premise on which his essays are based.
It lets the corrupt, corporate media off the hook for its part in swaying the electorate with lies and deception.
It does not allow for the very real probability of fraudulent elections in several key counties.
It assumes the Republicans won the election because they were perceived as more moral. If they won the election at all, it was, I think, because:
- they continued to instill and stoke the public's fear of terrorism, and to capitalize on that fear,
- using extremely adroit media manipulation and complicity, they appeared to be fighting that threat,
- using those same skills, they spread lies about John Kerry, and
- they cheated.
I believe this. There is lots of evidence to back it up.
I'm not absolving the Democrats or saying the Kerry campaign didn't make mistakes. There were problems there, too. But no campaign is perfect. The Republicans made many missteps, but the media helped them recover.
I have a very basic problem with trying to out-moral the morality police. I don't think the government should be in the business of discussing morals. I want to see election campaigns be less about morals, not more. I think if Democrats run around proclaiming "We are the more moral party!", they have already conceded the fight.