BY VERN TURNER
What? No, we’re not trying to put a frame around a puzzle, rather we’re trying to solve a puzzle, then re-frame the conversation for the purpose defining and creating a political environment that is less partisan, less divisive and more engaging for the citizens. Said another way, “How did we get this way and what are we are going to do about it?”
The puzzle that keeps confounding progressives/liberals is why people vote against their own best interests. Progressive/liberals cover these people up with logic, facts and truths, yet they vote against the greater good as well as their own future well-being and support systems. This kind of cognitive dissonance is even harder to explain when we look at polling data on critical issues to that wellbeing.
Roger Smith published a lengthy feature article in the January 2017 Washington Spectator [Lou DuBose, editor] summarizing Pew and Gallup research over the last several years, mostly between 2011 and 2016. One of the first things that caught my eye, as it relates to the framing of issues, is the lie that America is a conservative country. It is not. Here is the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll data November 2014 that supports this statement:
|Reduce student loan cost||82% 18%|
|Increase infrastructure spending||75% 25%|
|Raise Min. Wage to $12/hr.||66% 34%|
|Limit carbon emissions||59% 41%|
|Raise SS retirement age to 69||33% 66%|
These were the results following the record flip of Congress from Democrat to Republican.
The next myth that explodes is that the public has an aversion to politics which applies to both parties. As of April 2016, Congress’ “approval” rate was 12%, the lowest in history. Democrats received a net disapproval rate of 32%, while Republicans were rated at 68% net disapproval. Here is a table with some category breakouts:
|Is too extreme||54% 37%|
|Is tolerant of diversity||32 65%|
|Cares about middle class||43% 61%|
|Has good policy ideas||45% 53%|
There is plenty of conversation about social issues being the driving force between how the votes fall. Here is some polling data that addresses that topic:
Same-sex Marriage: Gallup’s 2016 poll shows 61% approval vs. 37% disapproval.
Immigration: Trump’s attacks on immigration have driven up support for immigrants being a strengthening factor to our society by a 59% to 33% ratio.
Legalizing Marijuana: Gallup 2016 poll shows 58% approval for legalization.
Health Care: The original 58% disapproval came from both liberals [no single payer, not liberal enough] and conservatives 43% disapproval [too libera]). Today’s polls show 58% general approval in spite of the dreadful introduction problems and the constant attacks by Republicans. That 58% want a single-payer, universal health care system … like Medicare for everyone.
Crime: Remember Trump’s diatribes about violent crime in our cities? Well, since 1990, violent crime has declined by 37% with the murder rate being half of what it was 25 years ago.
Equal pay for women: Even though 84% of the people support the progressive legislation for this concept – including Republicans – Senate Republicans have repeatedly filibustered this law since 1998. Democrats have insufficiently framed this issue to get these laws passed even when they had the majority in the Senate.
These data, and other surveys, show that there is a significant majority of people and voters wanting liberal/progressive outcomes from their government. And yet … the answers to this question are lengthy and complex, but they begin with how Democrats and progressives have framed the debate and the arguments so poorly.
The Republicans and conservatives have invested heavily in promotion and propaganda to have their way with the minority poll numbers such that people appear to be voting against their own best interest. This phenomenon is typical of a party winning the propaganda war, the framing-of-the-argument war and the control of certain media that broadcasts their ideology. In this case, it’s the Republican-sponsored groups, think tanks and foundations like ALEC that do the work for the people and convince them that what is good is bad and vice-versa.
There are two basic political models operating our ideological wars. According to George Lakoff, an esteemed professor and author of several best-selling books on the subject, we have the authoritarian model that reflects me-first attitudes toward governing with branches that include no regulation, self-service, money as the No. 1 meme and, above all, strict adherence to the doctrine. That doctrine, of course, is produced and sold by the highly organized and massively funded propaganda infrastructure that includes such nefarious outfits as the Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute and inter-state “stink” tanks like the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
The other model, the one most liberals and progressive Democrats follow, has to do with longer-range societal issues like health care, unemployment compensation and other safety nets for the whole population; it’s an ideology of sharing wealth and prosperity for the good of all. The above poll numbers show that the significant majority of our citizens are in this camp. But this group is not nearly as well-funded, not nearly as well-organized and not nearly as adroit at framing the issues such that they catch the voters’ fancy and actually see them vote for the candidates and laws that are in the best interests of the vast majority of people. Liberals believe that rising economic seas do indeed raise all boats. The people agree with that.
So, the trick is to get to work framing issues so that they are unique to the liberal causes and “marketed” sufficiently so as to generate votes. At the same time, candidates must be developed and trained to present these frameworks such that they offset the so-called conservatives’ propaganda machinery.
We have much work to do and, in light of the coming horror show of the dictator-in-chief administration, we have little time to get it right. We may have to change more than just the framework and the way we work altogether to save the country from shooting itself in the foot again and again.
– Vern Turner lives in Marble Falls, TX and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.