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


Joe Biden was inaugurated this week, and it was a perfect time to read this book, because Biden and his predecessor illustrate the contrasting moral frameworks that form the basis of Lakoff's theory and really crystallized the idea for me.

Biden epitomizes the "nurturant parent" moral framework that liberal & progressive people gravitate to. In 2017, when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he talked about leaning on his wife and children during difficult times, and joked that "we've never figured out who the father is in this family." With my moral framework, I see his humility, vulnerability, and self-deprecation as signs of strength. A conservative with a "strict father" moral framework would see them as weakness. They believe the father should dominate the family and make all the decisions with absolute authority. This is how Donald Trump leads his family, and that's why Republicans see him as strong when to me he appears weak. Trump would never describe himself as dependent on anyone, or admit to not knowing what to do in a given situation, even though the results of his decisions show that he is frequently at a loss for the right answer. Biden has said that in a way his sons raised him—a horrifying concept to a strict father conservative. Trump's children are there to serve him, do his bidding, and reflect his glory back at him. A conservative would say this is exactly how it should be, while I find it sick and degenerate. (His hyper-narcissism and sociopathic cruelty are separate issues—few people of any orientation exhibit these traits to such an extreme degree.)

Lakoff theorizes that we all have both of these frameworks, we just tend to favor one over the other. Both frameworks can and are used to manipulate the people who identify with them, and both groups will reject facts that don't fit their frame. Lakoff argues that over the years conservatives have done a much better job of exploiting these frameworks to their advantage. Obviously, I feel that one is objectively morally superior to the other, but the real point is that it helps to understand why people believe the things they do, and how to respond.