- Know Your Values and Frame the Debate
- Communicating Our American Values and Vision
- Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century American Politics with an 18th Century Brain
- The essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic
The above list is of the subtitles for four books. Books on understanding how the brain works and it’s effects on winning in politics I’ve read three of them and am reading the fourth.
Winning political campaigns is a lot of hard work. It’s about building/training a team, access to voter databases, tools for identifying likely supporters from those databases, making phone calls, knocking on doors, getting funding for a non-profitable endeavor, and inspiring your supporters to get out and vote.
Republicans are wining elections because they do all of the above. Democrats have been failing and their main weakness is inspiring the supporters to go their polls and vote. Facts and policies alone don’t inspire. Vision and what’s morally right for America do.
The four books above discuss how and why Democrats are in this situation of losing the messaging/inspiration game. What does it take to inspire supporter to vote? Here is a partial list:
- Inspiring supporters requires a communication network for the party’s moral messages. Democrats don’t have one.
- Inspiring supporters requires moral messages that reach the hearts and basic beliefs of your supporters. Democrats are mostly about facts.
- Inspiring supporters requires respecting fellow Democrats and not dismissing their efforts to further the cause< ./li>
- Inspiring supporters requires consistency in the moral message. Getting Democrats to be consistent and unified is like herding cats.
- Inspiring supporters requires that you frame your message around your moral values. Democrats would rather just negate Repub values.
- Inspiring your supporters means understanding what inspires your opponents supporters and why.
- Inspiring your supporters means avoiding frames and moral values used by Republicans. Democrats need to learn how to reframe the debate and avoid inspiring votes for their opponent.
- Inspiring you supporters means knowing both your moral values and the moral values of your opponent, and why your moral values are right for all Americans and theirs are only right for a few Americans.
All four books discuss the above list and much more.
Some might say that learning about how the brain works, and framing and reframing are too academic for the average Democrat. However, until we learn what the Republicans know about inspiring voters, Demcrats will continue to lose political races. We have something to learn and we have a teacher to teach us!
Also, as a college grad, my greatest difficulty with reading the one technical book in the bunch was that it was my first attempt and I found I was having to re-learn what my basic moral values and basic beliefs were. What was the right set of moral values for America? What were the moral values of America as written in the preamble of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and what do my moral values say about the moral values I want for America? So, I don’t recommend the first book I read, The Political Mind, as a staring point. Instead, I suggest that if you are going to run as a Democrat for any office, or you know someone who intends to, you should read the updated version of Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff.
Professor Lakoff is a cognitive linguist. In other words, he studies how the brain works with respect to language. Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract with America inspired Lakoff’s research into the workings of the brain as it responds to words and phrases. As a progressive, and as an expert on language, he was puzzled that he didn’t understand why a large group of people would respond positively to this document. What was it about the brains of the individuals for whom this document made sense, but made no sense to him.
One last point. President Obama’s campaigns made good use of reframing and reaching out to the hearts, moral values, and basic beliefs of his supporters. He did more that build and train a team. He did more than find supporters and contact them. He did more than just list facts and talk about his policy. He was inspirational.