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June 3, 2014

I have been reading and hearing over the past few years, and especially over the past few months, that more people when polled are increasingly identifying themselves as liberals, but they are still fewer than those who identify themselves as conservatives. Time after time conservatives have been found to agree with liberals on an issue-by-issue level but have at the same time insisted that they were conservatives in their political outlook and have voted for conservative candidates, as polling shows.
I have been amazed at this seeming inconsistency and have chalked it up to a possible reluctance on the part of those conservatives polled to admit they are liberals but who do not wish to publicly identify themselves as such because of the great success the Republican party has had in publicly vilifying liberals as wimps on foreign policy, welfare giveaway artists etc. (this from a party which gave hundreds of billions of dollars to Big Pharma and huge tax breaks to corporate America along with a trillion dollar war in Iraq on our credit card and support of off-shoring and trade treaties that have had such a big role in bankrupting America with exploding deficits, ongoing unemployment and middle class decimation).
As the reader can see, I am primed and ready to go to the mat with any conservative who wants to lecture me on big spending and historic deficits, since it was they who ran our deficits into the stratosphere. Lest we forget, Clinton left Bush, Jr. with a budget surplus and Bush Jr. left America with trillions in current and long term deficits. Those are facts, so who are the big spenders? Undeniable answer – but one you will not find in the business pages or Fox News – conservatives. There is a silent propaganda at work; they don’t want to talk about it. They prefer to discuss liberal shortcomings with their slash and burn tactics: not the slash and burn tactics they used in bringing America to near default.
I now find that at this late date that I may have been wrong in my approach in arguing with Republicans on such issues, not on the undeniable facts, but on my approach to their presentation. To quote an old phrase: “I’ve been framed.” How could that possibly be, since I am demonstrably right on the facts? After all, it was Republicans Reagan and Cheney publicly advised us that “deficits don’t matter.” What!
Enter George Lakoff (whose books I am now reading), who explains that Republicans have been successful in elections by the way they “frame” the issues and that we Democrats (though right on the facts presumably leading to the formulation of policy) have been suckered into arguing with them on the turf of debate they have concocted. Lakoff is a cognitive scientist and expert on how the human brain works, a professor at UC – Berkeley. He speaks to such framing (which has enjoyed dominance in the media) with examples of how Republicans have outsmarted us via their successful spreading of everyday conservative thought and language. For instance, he writes that “We can see this in the use of everyday conservative language and the ideas that go with it: illegal immigrants, not illegal employers or illegal consumers; war in Iraq, not occupation of Iraq” etc. He also points out in this connection that conservatives have concocted issues and framed them (thus robbing them of their real content) by “characterizing defenders of traditional American ideas like civil liberties, the welcoming of immigrants, and public education as extremists.” Conservatives who vote for candidates who oppose such American values are voting for values they do not themselves believe. Why? Lakoff thinks the answer lies within the workings of the human brain itself. Part II will discuss this fascinating possibility. GERALD E


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