Saturday, September 10, 2011
Lakoff on Obama's Jobs Speech
I figured Lakoff would like it, as my impression was that Obama framed the situation perfectly. Lakoff knows that politics is a game of influence, and that influence is effected through rhetoric that reaches deep into our core values which reside in our bodily emotions. Too often liberals, and even Obama (no liberal), frame their values in policy-speak, technical terms that appeal onto to the more intellectual among us. But let's face it, most of the voting public is not that smart and they are the vast majority at the ballot box. So speaking in their language, in plain English with emotionally charged and motivational rhetoric, is the way to get those votes. And Obama came through in flying colors with this speech.
Obama made clear that while individual drive and responsibility are key factors in America's past success there is another strain running through our blood, collective action and concern. We don't just want to help ourselves but to help each other. He provided one concrete example after another to drive this home: building bridges, highways, dams and airports; investing in public high schools, community colleges and research universities; programs like the GI Bill. All of these things contribute to us as a people, benefiting society as a whole and making life better for us all, not just one class. This highlighting a key difference with the conservative moral view of the survival of the fittest, where only the rich and powerful deserve what they get because they worked harder and better. It is a stark contrast of views and one that must be drawn and redrawn until naïve Tea Partiers get it; conservatives manipulate them to not serve in their interest but the maintain their own power and money. They use rhetoric to lie, plain and simple.
In the end though we need much more than speeches; we need action and one committed to fighting for the beliefs behind the words. To date Obama has not followed though on his supposed beliefs, leading many of us to question whether he truly hold them or whether he just uses such speeches to placate his liberal base. Time and again he gives in, and way too easily, to the conservatives on these issues. And all in the name of rational compromise, that the way forward lies somewhere in between the liberal and conservative ideologies. This is deadly and false reasoning and only leads to a further backward slide into regressive policies that further enrich the already wealthy and powerful. We need actions to back the words. We need him to fight for what he just laid out in this speech. And we need him to stand firm to the values he spoke, to take this argument to the American people and get them to demand such changes in such overwhelming numbers that the conservatives cannot refuse. If he doesn't do this then it's just one more example of his bogus and manipulative rhetoric that hangs on nothing but an empty moral vacuum, just another pack of lies like his opponents.