Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bernine Horn at GW

This week, the College Democrats hosted author Bernie Horn, who recently wrote a book Framing the Future - Horn presents his book at as follow-up to George Lakoff's Don’t Talk Like an Elephant. Lakoff does a good job in exposing how Republicans are well versed in the language they use in order to "frame" issues. For example, Republicans know that instead of "estate tax", it is better to "frame" it as a "death tax." Lakoff exposes the Republican framing techniques but does not attempt to provide a language key for progressives. Bernie Horn's book is an attempt at that.

According to Horn, the key for progressives to win is to understand the how elections work. 40% of the public will vote Republican no matter what. 405 of the voters will vote Democratic, no matter what. Thus, in order to win, progressives need to win the 20% - "the persuadables". These voters tend to be less political interested or knowledgeable. Horn demonstrates this was a table showing that, compared to partisans; persuadables consistently are less informed about the politics. In order to win them over, progressives must speak using their values.

The central values of the American politics, according to Horn, are derived from the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable truths, which among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This last part - life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness - are the key values that Americans treasure (and the win elections). In our modern paradigm, life would be equated to security, liberty to freedom, and the pursuit of happiness to security.

The way for progressives to win, says Horn, is to speak with these values in mind. I look forward to reading his book. I am sure it will be as insightful as was the presentation.

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