By George Lakoff
The American Majority got 2.8 million more votes in the 2016 election than the Loser President. That puts the majority in a position to change American political discourse and how Americans understand and think about politics. As a start, what is needed is a change of viewpoint.
Here is a typical example. Minority President Trump has said that he intends to get rid of 75% of government regulations. What is a “regulation”?
The term “regulation” is framed from the viewpoint of corporations and other businesses. From their viewpoint, “regulations” are limitations on their freedom to do whatever they want no matter who it harms. But from the public’s viewpoint, a regulation is a protection against harm done by unscrupulous corporations seeking to maximize profit at the cost of harm to the public.
Imagine our minority President saying out loud that he intends to get rid of 75% of public protections. Imagine the press reporting that. Imagine the NY Times, or even the USA Today headline: Trump to Eliminate 75% of Public Protections. Imagine the media listing, day after day, the protections to be eliminated and the harms to be faced by the public.
Congressional Republicans called for immediate elimination of regulations from the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Security and Exchange Commission. What would be eliminated? Protections against cancerous poisons in foods, drugs untested for their safety, unsafe drinking water, air pollutants that get into your lungs and can’t get out, fraudulent stack sales, unscrupulous mortgages. That is what our president and Congress are proposing, hiding it behind the word “regulations.” Words have meanings with real effects.
Imagine reporters finding out and reporting all over America exactly what protections would be removed. Imagine Republican officials, and media in their districts (including social media) swamped with calls, letters, emails, and tweets from voters protesting the removal of such protections, day after day. That is only one example of shifting the frame — the word and the meaning of the word — to a public viewpoint.
When you hear Regulations are Protections for the Public, think of the details and the consequences. Go beyond the words. Act positively.
A technique for learning how to think and what to say is taking the Public’s Viewpoint on every issue. Practice. What would increase the public’s wellbeing?
- Take the Public’s viewpoint instead of the corporate viewpoint.
- Shift the frame: always say “protections” instead of “regulations.” “Protections” is a more simple and accurate description.
- Remember that “regulations” represent the corporate viewpoint. It is not a neutral term, and it does not represent the public viewpoint.