By Scott Wittkopf
Frame For The Future (9/6/17)
It’s time for our representatives in Congress to choose a side – a moral side, not a partisan side. After all, politics are moral. And the outcome of the debate on The Dream Act will say a lot about who we are as a people and society.
Progressives and Democrats would do well to make the debate about what we value and believe. It would be a mistake to make the Democratic argument based on statistics, policy that favors one group of people over another, or about “job creation” – because none of those ideas reinforce our core values based on empathy. In fact, to a point, they will all reinforce authoritarian morality.
Unfortunately, there are some high profile Democrats who are already making just such an argument. Meanwhile, conservative Republicans are making the DACA debate about something that strongly triggers their moral worldview – protection and homeland security; as well as the idea of “putting America (and Americans) first.” There is also an intentional evoking of fear of loss, which draws people to the “protection/security” idea.
It’s an American value to want all people to have the freedom and opportunity we have in this nation, and to help them achieve it. We have words for people who want to keep freedom and opportunity just for themselves – greedy and selfish.
The best path to victory for progressives is to counter with a stronger moral frame, one based on hope (which overcomes fear) and caring for other people (empathy). Which brings us to the all-important “moral” debate, necessary for Democrats’ success on this (and every) issue.
Virtually everyone understands the moral idea behind “The Golden Rule” – to do unto others as you would want to be done unto you. In addition, the vast majority of people accept and understand the moral idea behind “The Good Samaritan” – to help those in need, even those you do not know. Most of us are hard-wired to accept and act on these moral ideas – just look at people responding to help hurricane victims.
These two moral ideas are strongly progressive in nature, being based on empathy. It is these two ideas that ought to be at the forefront of how we as progressives communicate what we believe about The Dream Act. The message goes beyond dreaming – it’s about life and freedom. Just as we genuinely care about our family’s’ life and freedom, it is moral for us to care about the lives and freedom of all people. It’s an American value to want all people to have the freedom and opportunity we have in this nation, and to help them achieve it. We have words for people who want to keep freedom and opportunity just for themselves – greedy and selfish.
Living by the Golden Rule
So it’s time we asked our representatives in Congress to choose a moral side – are you with all of us as “Good Samaritans” who live by the Golden Rule and believe that all people should be free to pursue meaningful lives; or are you on the side of greed, fear, and selfishness?
All people should be free to pursue a life of freedom and prosperity. And our government has the moral responsibility to protect and empower all people’s freedom.
(Campaign consultant Scott Wittkopf’s Frame for the Future website is a resource for effective messaging. He has recently begun his Daily Dose column to look at current political issues from a values perspective. The columns are behind a membership pay wall, though Scott is generously making one column a week available to Commoner Call readers. You can learn more about his work at www.frame4future.com .)