When The Republican President crashes, will we be ready to pick up the pieces?
Week one of our new Republican President’s term in office began with the largest mass protest in American and world history. The crazy is only just beginning and as it mounts there is the very real probability that Trump will, at any moment, say or do something so ill-conceived and dangerous that citizens will turn away from him and demand his head on a platter.
This should absolutely terrify progressives.
First, Republican leaders at that moment will feel they have no choice but to distance themselves from Trump and his actions. Because they have done such effective messaging based in their core worldview, they will likely just pull all their voters with them. (For this reason we must start today to be sure there is no daylight between The Republican President and Republicans.)
Second, and more pressing, is that progressives are wholly unprepared to communicate to voters our better alternative in any effective way.
Liberals fail at communication over and over. Think about what we all do when confronted with the latest Republican absurdity or The Republican President’s latest tweet. We haul out facts by the busload, point to them and say “See!?” and expect voters to instantly reason to the same conclusion we have. But facts and reason do not work. It’s not that humans can’t reason, it’s not that you and I shouldn’t know -or ever speak- the facts; it’s that humans -all humans- simply do not make most of their decisions using reason. Study after study in Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology, Linguistics and Economics over almost an entire century come to this very same conclusion.
If people are not going to listen to reason, then why are we reasoning with them?
Too busy flinging facts, we have not done any sort of job telling people what we really believe and why. (Worse, the Republicans, being no dummies, have happily stepped in to do the job for us; many, if not most citizens now define us by the straw man created by conservatives.) We need to develop the skill of forming well framed messages that evoke the core values in our worldview.
It’s not terribly difficult and it takes just a little studying up a little (check out the links on our Workshop Resources page or pick up The Little Blue Book by George Lakoff. Our workshops address framing in detail). In a nutshell, the progressive worldview is “We all do better when we all do better”. Our worldview is rooted in caring and empowerment. Our messages need to evoke these core values -those brain cells need to light up in peoples brains. Over and over.
To help you get going, think Stop, Drop and Roll:
Stop and think about what is being said. What frames and codewords are Republicans using? Look deep: what is the real issue? (Hint: it’s usually not what they’re saying). What core value is behind what we believe about the real issue?
Drop Republican frames and words. Using their words and frames lets them set the agenda and keeps us off ours -and don’t think they don’t know that! We must know their frames well enough to stay out of them. We need to also drop the fact flinging and debunking. It may be true and satisfying, but it doesn’t work.
Roll with effective messages. Use the most appropriate moral value frame to craft a message for the real issue. That frame should not only address the issue but reinforce our core values and our larger worldview.
It will take some study and practice, but it gets easier if we if we build it into our culture -as Republicans have done- and we need to do it as least well as they have.