Don’t Think of an Elephant

If language is the key to political power, the “framing” of the terms of debate is the lock; and whoever frames the debate owns the key. In Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, cognitive linguist George Lakoff argues that conservatives have spent the last 40 years figuring out how to connect with voters through the politics of personal values and identity, cleverly “framing” the issues through language that many people can identify with. Facts and common sense should be enough to cause people to vote in their own interest, but history and psychology have proven otherwise. People have what he calls a “frame,” and if the facts don’t fit in the frame, the facts will be ignored; framing trumps facts. Lakoff’s operating metaphor is that politically, conservatives speak like a “strict father” and liberals like a “nurturing parent.” The reason the strict father model is now in vogue is that conservatives have carefully planted the frame in the public mind. This book is a manual for liberals to “reframe” the debate.