2/27/2005

The problem with framing

From Jesse at Pandagon:
Let's get back to the beginning. Republicanism is not dictated by a coherent ideology. It makes no sense that Republicans are both "small government" and pro-corporate welfare, that they're anti-nanny state and advocates for both national security regimes that restrict rights and crypto-Christianized governments that force highly restrictive religious mores on the general populace.
The issue is not so much that Republicans have a coherent ideology as it is that they can consistently answer "why". The answers themselves may not be coherent, but they are consistent and at least, on some level, logically assembled (even if the specifics are not true or, in fact, logical). When people wonder why Republicans are doing something, there is at least a reason given that you can bandy about - stop trial lawyers because they're driving up insurance costs; insurance costs are increasing the costs of business; increasing business costs drives businesses out of business; capitalism is so sexy!
The Democratic response is generally along the lines of "don't destroy people's right to sue". Why? Because it's bad. This isn't about framing, about clever political calculations designed to shine a path of light through the corroded kaleidoscope of Republican lies and display everything wrong with their positions. It's about the basic nature of politics. Democrats, just like Republicans, are advocates for using the power of government to accomplish certain goals. That's easy enough to understand.
But why? And what do we want to accomplish? I've asked this question at least half a dozen times, and each time I get a lot of people who give me a list of items/catchphrases that would be great if the assumptions behind them were made transparent, but instead veer towards reading like the results of a randomly assembled foray into a Gingrichian phrasing memo. "Um...competence, fairness and, ah...opportunity, okay? We're left-center-left today, representing true American values like competence. And fairness. And...that other thing." It's not even a question of policy, or, if you're averse to the sort of pissing contest intellectual pretension that can come from deciding who knows their liberal philosophy the best, it's not even a question of that.
It's a question of "why". I have my why, but it may not be something the Democratic Party wants to rally behind, or that you all want to carry the banner for. But as a national political force, we can't persuade with an answer to that question. Put down the Lakoff and stop carping about the DLC versus the DNC versus the third Democratic abbreviation. Think about why you care about any of this, and start talking about it. (And no, dammit, this isn't a call for a new national strategy, it's a call for us to just start talking to each other.)

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