Progressives have gotten a little better at telling stories. We have started to understand that the conservatives have undermined us on family, future, government, jobs. The good news is that the future is actually catching up with them. (The future has a liberal bias!) We saw this with marriage deregulation – all their rhetoric couldn’t prevent it from just happening. But we can help accelerate the future. And we can do it with language.
Let’s do a thought experiment.
Conservatives and people who aren’t dyed-in-the-wool liberals believe that principles A, B, and C are important for making good moral decisions. What the right wing has done is say their policies are aligned with A, B, and C. And they say progressive policies are against A, B, and C. (Irrespective of either the facts about the policies or of how well the policies actually align with A, B, and C.)
On the other hand, liberals say “We think principles A, B, and C are illogical, small-minded, and unimportant. We’re not even going to try to address them. In fact, we’re going to ridicule you for believing them. We’re going to present our policies as aligned with D and E, which are clearly the logical and meaningful ones.” Again, irrespective of whether A, B, and C really are important to consider and whether progressive policies do align with A, B, and C or not.
(The hilarious sub-story to this is that liberals often use those same principles A, B, and C in other domains than politics to inform their decisions, totally blind to the fact that they are being inconsistent between domains.)
There would be six aspects to addressing this thought experiment:
- Recognize that this is happening.
- Realize that working within the A, B, and C framework is going to be more fruitful. This is the point of this site, and other sites like Talk Like A Liberal and the Winning Words Project.
- Formulate expressions of progressive policies that align with A, B, and C. While not forgetting about D and E.
- Showing how right wing policies actually fail to align with A, B, and C.
- Rebutting anything from the right wing about our policies not aligning with A, B, and C
- Getting others, especially Democratic campaigners, to take up the work we do in 3, 4, and 5 and use it in the field
Principles A, B, and C are not just made up for the sake of this example. They are actual dimensions of moral decision making, as discovered by various researchers including Jonathan Haidt (see his TED Talk on this topic). They are:
- A. In-group loyalty
- B. Respect for authority
- C. A sense of purity and sanctity
Principles D and E are not just made up either, they are:
- D. Fairness and reciprocity
- E. Prevention of harm to oneself or others
This is a simplification and only part of the story. But it’s basically correct. The rest of the work of this blog is to do steps 1-6 above related to this:
- Convince you that it’s true.
- Convince you that it’s important
- Give you tools to make use of the information.
We progressives can make a lot of progress just focusing on this use of language. Let’s do it.