The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Is Lakoff Overrated?

Probably.

But some of the posts over at the Rockridge Institute leave me scratching my head. I absolutely agree that Democrats need to check their values and that this can take some work since they are often more focused on policies and forget the reasons why they take the positions they do. My own effort to do this was enlightening for me and it took me a while to peel back the onion.

But check out the following:

Rockridge Institute - Conceptual Levels: Bringing It Home to Values

Speak your values, not specific outcomes

“I want to make sure every child has access to immunizations.”
Better: “I believe the vulnerable should be protected.”

“We need harsher penalties for slumlords.”
Better: “Every family deserves a safe and healthy place to live.”


As a fully accredited policy wonk I have to say that I am disappointed that our political conversation is supposed to become more debased in this country, and that we are to talk less and less about the actual policies. But as a political hack I am skeptical as well. My diagnosis of the Party's woes are that people do not know what Democrat's values are but that the way to right this problem is to become specific about articulating policies. For instance, I don't believe that voters know what Democrats would DO once elected (if elected). And I don't know that you bridge that gap with some platitudes about your values.

For one thing, the statements characterized as 'better' above are so bland as to be meaningless. I mean, who doesn't believe that the vulnerable should be protected or that people deserve safe and healthy places to live? It's defining what those things mean and how you accomplish them where Democrats and Republicans differ. Although some Democrats would disagree, it's not as if Republicans believe everyone should have bad health care and Democrats believe that everyone deserves good health care. Where the Parties disagree is on how to achieve these goals. Republicans are confident that a properly structured market can accomplish this goal while most Democrats are skeptical that the market can deliver this or even that the market should deliver this kind of good.

My enthusiasm for a midterm Democratic Convention stems from my confidence that defining an agenda would do much to assure people about what Democrats would do once in office. And doing this indirectly and yet strongly establishes the underlying values that would drive a Democratic ascendancy. When the details of an agenda are clear, the underlying values that drive you are implicit. By taking a stand, you also demonstrate and communicate commitment and a willingness to stand for something -- perhaps the most valuable value of all.

My own sense of better (re above) would be: "It is because I believe the vulnerable should be protected that I want to make sure every child has access to immunizations.”
Better: “.”

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