A review by rumbledethumps
Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff


Of the three books I've recently read on political messaging and tactics, this is by far the best. It doesn't have the snarky cynicism of Frank Luntz's book, and avoids the "Ends Justify the Means" attitude of Saul Alinsky. Instead, Lakoff recommends that progressives focus on values they truly believe in, and stop responding to the debates in ways that conservatives have framed.

He believes that progressives have "lost" the culture wars because of their inability to properly frame their arguments, and instead have only responded with truth and facts. "It is a common folk theory of progressives that 'the facts will set you free.' If only you get all the facts out there in the public eye, then every rational person will reach the right conclusion. It is a vain hope."

Instead, progressives should do four things to win the culture wars: "Show respect. Respond by reframing. Think and talk at the level of values. Say what you believe." 

It is interesting in that it mirrors much of what Jonathan Haidt argues in "The Righteous Mind." But where he loses me is in defining which moral models of the family progressives and conservatives adhere to. Progressives use the nurturant family model,  where they believe "the world can be made a better place, and our job is to work on that. The parents' job is to nurture their children and to raise their children to be nurturers of others." But conservatives use the strict father model, where "what is required of the child is obedience, because the strict father is a moral authority who knows right from wrong."

He does an effective job at explaining how these models define adult world views, but a less than adequate job of proving these moral models to be true. His idea that "preserving and extending the strict father model is the highest moral value for conservatives" is a bit of a straw man.

Overall worth a read, though, as it does give a different perspective of why people cannot seem to agree about important issues.