George Lakoff on the Santorum Strategy: Why we’re all in trouble if this strategy is successful in 2012.
George Lakoff wrote an article recently in the Huffington Post describing what he calls the Santorum Strategy. He began this article by stating, “The Santorum Strategy is not just about Santorum. It is about pounding the most radical conservative ideas into the public mind by constant repetition during the Republican presidential campaign…It is about guaranteeing a radical conservative future for America.”
A perfect illustration of pounding radical conservative ideas in our heads can be seen by examining the speech Rick Santorum gave in Missouri after winning the Minnesota primary. (Pay particular attention to the amount of times the words listening, he knows better, rights, and freedom were used)
Rick Santorum began his speech by thanking your average Fox news viewer and all of the “smart idiots” for helping to build the conservative party. “Tonight was a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea party people, who are out there every single day in the vineyards building the conservative movement in this country, building the base of the Republican Party, and building a voice for freedom in this land.”
This was immediately followed up by continuously repeating language to evoke the “frame” that President Obama “knows better” than you. This is illustrated by the overwhelming number of references being made to President Obama not listening to the voice of the American people (14X’s), because he knows better than you (5X’s), and is using the Government to run your lives by taking away your rights (10X’s), and freedoms, (12X’s).
In addition to the linguistic framing mentioned above, Rick Santorum is also literally “framing” President Obama for his actions, since it is Rick Santorum who believes he knows better. I would argue that this too, is part of the Santorum Strategy, since it represents another common tactic the George Orwell Party (GOP) uses against the American people to convince them of a radical conservative view of reality.
In order to fully appreciate the Orwellian nature of this literal frame, take a look at what happens when we make a couple of substitutions to this frame.
Rick Santorum is not listening to the voice of the American people because he knows better than you and is using his radical conservative evangelical religious beliefs to run your lives by taking away your rights and freedoms.
The problem, as pointed out by George Lakoff, is that continuous repetition of language expressing radical conservative values leads to more and more people accepting those values and becoming politically active, as alluded to by the opening lines in Rick Santorum’s speech. The unfortunate reality according to Lakoff is that, “Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems.” (For more on these individual moral systems, see the article)
In reference to how Conservatives were able to get a majority of Americans to vote against President Obama’s health care plan, for instance, George Lakoff points to the Conservative effort to re-frame this issue by claiming that this plan will lead to a “Government takeover” and will include “Death panels.”
As indicated by George Lakoff, President Obama’s health care plan had strong public support. This is primarily due to fact that it helped solve the major problems people experience when dealing with health insurance companies, such as their refusal to cover pre-existing conditions, and denying coverage in order to reap enormous profits at the expense of people’s health.
George Lakoff notes that conservatives never argued against any of the realities associated with the provisions designed to help the American people, “Instead, they re-framed; they made a moral case against “Obamacare.” Their moral principles were freedom and life, and they had language to go with them. Freedom: “government takeover.” Life: “death panels.”Republicans at all levels repeated them over and over, and convinced millions of people who were for the policy provisions of the Obama plan to be against the plan as a whole. They changed the public discourse, changed the brains of the electorate — especially the “independents” — and won in 2010.
Bottom line: If the Santorum strategy is successful in 2012, we’re all in trouble, since our rights & freedoms will be taken away by the very conservatives who mistakenly “frame” us to believe we should blame Liberal Democrats, (who are actually trying to prevent such actions from occurring). The only way to ensure that freedom and liberty are protected is to advocate for a progressive vision for all Americans, not a radical conservative future advocated by the modern day GOP, where only the “privileged sector” prevails