Review of Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, by George Lakoff

Copyright by John Birkbeck, 2/4/05

  If you've read Professor George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives" and seen the companion DVD (both available as BuzzFlash premiums), you'll want to read the second edition of the seminal book that laid out his premise for the "framing" strategies he is now recommending. 
  "Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think" is Lakoff's 471-page analysis of the archetypes that many American voters bring into the voting booth. A Berkeley progressive, Lakoff, ironically, is probably the most perceptive analyst of the underpinnings of the Republican strategy to dominate politics through "value" issues. "Moral Politics" is all the more amazing because the first edition was written in 1996, which makes Lakoff a bit of a seer, to say the least.
  This is a rich, thoughtful, breakthrough academic (but readily readable) work that is essential to understanding what has been going on with the right wing since Goldwater began the modern "moral values" revolution. In fact, the book can help illuminate a dichotomy in America that goes back a bit further, as in the basic perceptions of family and nation that led to the civil war.
  The modern extremist Republican Party, BuzzFlash is arguing, is heir to the pre-Civil War Southern view of the patriarchal family structure, where the father ruled the roost, whatever his flaws. The status quo was an entire perceptual edifice, even if it was based on fundamental hypocrisy. Southerners also had a stronger sense of blind loyalty to military authority, as is still much the case. 
  This is what Lakoff would call the "strict father" model of families and nationalistic outlook. Perhaps that explains why in a late January Pew Research Center poll, 66% of Republicans agreed with the statement, "We should all be willing to fight for our country, whether it is right or wrong" So 2/3s of Republicans would fight for Bush, even if he was wrong. That's the strict father model. "Daddy told us to do it, and he's the father, so we'll do it, right or wrong."


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