Saturday, January 19, 2013

Obama is making real progress with frames

Rachel Maddow had a good report on this Friday. She started with a discussion on the VIX, the volatility index which indicates the level of fear in the stock market. News about the economy is one important factor that causes the VIX to spike. For example, it had a record-high spike in October 2008 when the stock market crashed. It spiked again 5/20/10 after news of the dire European economy. It spiked again on 8/8/11 when the regressives threatened to default on the national debt and the US credit rating was downgraded. The VIX yesterday, just prior to President Obama's inauguration, is the lowest it's been since the spring of 2007.

Why? Maddow thinks, likely accurately, that it is due to the news yesterday that the regressives will not hold the debt ceiling hostage like they've been threatening to do. Eric Cantor said the House will next week authorize a temporary 3-month debit ceiling increase. She thinks they've finally figured out that if they were to follow through on the threats like last time it would once again spike the VIX and the reprecussions would rightly be pinned on them and them only. That this became true is due in large part to the Obama team learning how to frame their arguments better and how to hammer them home with relentless campaigning.

Of course it took the Obama campaign some time to figure this out. Maddow's report recalls that on the very night of Obama's first inauguration a select group of regressives met to plot on obstructing the President at every turn. And the organizer of the meeting was Frank Luntz, the now infamous expert on regressive framing. Hence every time Obama tried to compromise with the regressives the latter made deals and promises that turned out to be blatant lies, for they reneged on all of them and remained unified in being against anything Obama proposed. And they framed it in such a way that it made Obama appear to be the inflexible one.

But on the recent regressive threats on the debt ceiling Obama said he would not negotiate under those terms. He framed it as regressives refusing to pay debts that we've already incurred, and that the US is not a deadbeat who doesn't pay its bills. He said "I will not have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people." Nice frame dude. And it worked. You can rest assured the regressives would not have given up on the hostage chip were it not for their guru Luntz doing extensive polling to prove they'd lose big time if they went down that road again. Public perception was changed on the issue because Obama learned from Luntz, and more importantly Lakoff, on how to better shape such perception.

And his campaign will continue to do so on an ongoing basis on all such important issues by keeping the campaign active, Organizing for Action. Some of those issues are gun violence, climate change and immigration reform. This is what is needed to get the public behind the issues, which is the only way to put enough pressure on the regressives in Congress to act as it did with the debt ceiling. Obama has made great progress due to finally taking framing seriously and it is working. As but one other recent example recall that several Republicans voted to raise income taxes on the 1%, something they would never, every contemplate before, and all due to public perception being shaped by the rich "paying their fair share." This stuff works, but only if we consciously work it.


  1. Lakoff comments on Obama's excellent framing of guns in the following post:

  2. Which framing, by the way, is once again winning public opinion and defeating the NRA, a HUGE accomplishment.


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