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As a "student" of George Lakoff's writings I was astonished by an e-mail from the Rockridge Institute today. It said:

Today from a prominent blogger at  Pensito Review: The Secret of Obama's Success and Why He'll Keep Winning-He Listens to George Lakoff.

There you have it folks.  Now that the secret is out, what will happen next?  Oh, and for those of us whose candidates are out of the running now, it is surely related to their failure to follow Lakoff as closely as Obama. Come look below the fold and jet us explore this further.

She says it like this:

Had my guy, John Edwards, followed their advice and like Obama, gone lighter on the policies and heavier on the values, he might be where Obama is today. Dennis Kucinich would have won a primary or two. John Kerry might be president now. Al Gore would not have needed the Supreme Court in 2000.

In an earlier diaryAre we really dumb?...with an update  I suggested that there is a relationship between Susan Jacoby's analysis of anti-intelectualism in our country and Lakoff's ideas about framing issues. This blogger, Trish, seems to be on the same wavelength.  She says:

Are Lakoff and Rockridge saying that personality matters more than positions? Pretty much. Because if you don’t have the right kind of the former, you will never get to act on the latter.
Issues are secondary—not irrelevant or unimportant, but secondary. A position on issues should follow from one’s values, and the choice of issues and policies should symbolize those values.
One misunderstanding, common among progressive circles, is that the Reagan and George W. Bush elections were about "personality" rather than anything substantive. Nothing is more substantive than a candidate’s moral worldview—and whether he or she authentically abides by it.

 The magic word worldview appears and rightly so.  My previous diaries on worldviews link people's attitudes towards science, religion, and politics to the way they deal with causal entailment in their world.  I expand on Lakoff's distinction between "direct cause"  and "systemic cause"  in the context of a deeper study of causality by Robert Rosen.  In a nutshell, it is a matter of how you choose to explain events in the world.  Direct cause is a model that links every happening to a single causal agent.  Reductionist science, religion, and a lot of political rhetoric fit into a worldview that relies on direct cause to explain what we observe happening.  The other extreme, what Lakoff calls systemic cause and I have elaborated as "complex cause", deals with a worldview that recognizes that the "one size fits all"  model using direct cause is a construct that has no realization in complex reality.  Instead, causality is a system of interrelated events and more often than not, these causal networks involve closed loops of causality.  

After having had you read that, it is not hard to for me to make a case that the direct causal surrogate is going to be more popular.  Who cares if it gives a somewhat false picture?  Yet, judging from the responses to the polls I included in those worldview diaries, progressives often are more comfortable with complex models and incomplete information.  The issue Lakoff addresses is the simple fact that these complex ideas turn voters off.  Why?  Susan Jacoby explains it by focusing on a lack of knowledge and further, an actual pride in that lack.  I don't know about you, but for me this really is a disquieting idea at best.  If we are going to win elections by promoting a view of the world that wipes away its complexity, how will we ever solve the problem of the core anti-intellectual nature of our population?  How can we hope to lead our nation towards a respect for learning and thinking with an approach that reduces everything to sound bites?  Isn't this just a fancy way of saying what Senators Clinton and McCain are using to criticise obama?  The blogger says:

Those calling for more steak and less sizzle from Obama should give it up. The senator’s instincts are perfect, and there’s only one thing better than perfection: hope.

 Well, maybe so, but once the bed is made one has to sleep in it.  Why do I get a creepy feeling when I see anyone suggest that Bush has done it the correct way?  Maybe it is merely a reason why academics should stay away from the nitty-gritty aspects of politics.  My world view is one in which complex problems are everywhere and for those complex problems to be dealt with rationally and effectively, sound bite strategies are going to fail big time.  I'll leave it for you to judge whether or not Obama's success rests on his ability to follow Lakoff's advice.  I really hope there is more to it than that.

Originally posted to don mikulecky on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 05:47 PM PST.


The reason Obama is winning

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45%21 votes

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Comment Preferences

  •  TIP JAR (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jorndorff, flagpole, Ralphdog, JG in MD

    and a rec?

    An idea is not responsible for who is carrying it. It stands or falls on its own merits.

    by don mikulecky on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 05:47:28 PM PST

  •  nah. the secret is a terrarium full of hypnotoads (0+ / 0-)

    (-2.75, -4.92) | Barack Obama: Best chance in a long time

    by Addison on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 05:51:11 PM PST

  •  There's a lot of bullshit here. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, don mikulecky

    "Framing" is certainly important, but it sure as hell isn't the whole story. George W. Bush got a total wet-kiss free pass from the corporate media during the 2000 election. No attempt was made (except by Paul Krugman) to parse the immense disconnect between the folksy image he projected and the plutocratic reality of the policies he was promising. He didn't get within 500,000 votes of winning by "framing"; he did it by flat out lying to the American people, with the aid of Big Media.

    Given the threat to the corporate order John Edwards represented, do you seriously think that any framing he might apply would have penetrated the corporate media's wall of silence regarding his campaign?

    Obama has gone from strength to strength not because of his framing, but because he was right from day one about Iraq, and because he is able to articulate a passionate, positive vision of America like no one since JFK. And it's about fucking time.

  •  Arguing from Fact to Right (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JG in MD, don mikulecky

    The Republicans have understood for a long time how to sell their candidate and their policies.  (Of course it has helped that they have had a media eager to help in the sales job.)  But because it works doesn't make a particular tactic admirable.  

  •  I don't know what you're asking (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JG in MD, don mikulecky

    So I'll answer whatever question I want... very Bush-like.

    There are two currents operating here -- one involves how any President will be viewed compared to Bush, which is another way of saying anyone would be better than Bush.  Obama will have a nice honeymoon at the beginning.  The other current is how people compare what he does as President to what he's given them as a vision of the country.  Doubtless, there will be many who won't be satisfied with more success than we have nowadays.

    Given these two opposing forces, I think Obama will do very well as President.  He'll have both steak and sizzle, and in four years, he'll still be sizzling when Republicans send up another hypocrite to challenge him.

    ... false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. Obama 2008

    by BasharH on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 06:15:45 PM PST

  •  I think he pays much more attention to Reagan. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JG in MD, don mikulecky

    Generally, elections are almost never about "issues." To the average voter, the issues are a sort of blur. They really don't care on a macro level. Hard partisans on both sides are the people who care about "issues."

    The average presidential year voter votes for the person whom they have the most positive impression of.

    So, a candidate's #1 job is to make a positive impression. The rest is academic and tactical.

    I'm black, and therefore automatically vote exclusively for black candidates. You're white and choose only based on the issues.

    by brooklynbadboy on Wed Feb 20, 2008 at 06:16:10 PM PST

  •  Teaching, Leading (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    don mikulecky

    I'm envisioning Obama as president doing a lot of educating.

    He has to deal with complex issues that have a moral dimension, fight the corporations and the lobbyists, cajole congress, and with any luck expose the truth (as much as he can) about the Dickbush era. The American people will have to be informed if they are to accept his leadership.

    Without education his presidency will seem like an onslaught, no matter how welcome.

    Obama is a teacher and an activist. It's a good thng, because he needs to educate the American people, introduce change, show us what we need to do in order to manage the new directions society will take, and get us to accept and take action for the common good and for ourselves at the same time.

    All that and play with his kids while they're still young.

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