Daily Dose: Why progressive values and education are critical to our society - and winning elections

August 28, 2017

In the last "Daily Dose" I provided constructive criticism for the Evers campaign in regard to their initial messaging approach, especially as concerns education. Today I'll present the progressive "WHY" for education, which is one of the most critical messages to winning elections, since so many Republicans share progressive values about their community schools.


But first, a little insight. Lest you think that these ideas about cognitive framing strategies are unknown to Democrats, they are not. Especially over the past 5 years, Democratic leadership in Wisconsin have been counseled in person by both George Lakoff and myself about creating a cognitive strategy. In fact, back in 2013, Lakoff and I held a private meeting with Democratic legislative leadership in Madison and offered to help them put together such a strategy in the buildup to the gubernatorial election. Not only were these offers rejected, but some attempts by members to launch such an effort were directly undermined by leadership. 


Why? There are two primary reasons. The first has to do with cognitive framing itself, and the fact that progressives tend to view themselves as "rational", and therefore believe everyone else is as well. You can read more about this cognitive effect in one of my post-election blogs.


The second reason occurs at the national level, but is also very relevant in Wisconsin. There is an entire infrastructure of politicians, candidates, organizations, pollsters, consultants, and fundraisers that depend on maintaining the status quo in messaging strategy. In a column that went viral after the 2014 election disaster, George Lakoff laid bare the system that feeds on itself, and denies science. 


So as I listen to the recent one minute radio spot launched by the Evers' campaign, I'm again looking for a sheetcake to scream into:


 Here we go again. The first thing you hear is "Donald Trump and Scott Walker $3 billion deal for Foxconn..." Immediately evoking the conservative frame, free market metaphors discussed in my last "Daily Dose". Then a whole bunch of facts as to how it's a "bad deal" (still reinforcing the conservative worldview). Do people vote facts? Science says no. Do facts inspire and motivate people? Again, science says no. Worst yet, the commercial reinforces the conservative idea that the reason for education is to get a job (investing in education creates jobs and grows the economy).


So why is education important in terms of our progressive values? First, our progressive values say that democracy (and government) is about people caring for each other (empathy), to ensure people have what is necessary for freedom and a prosperous life. If we just act selfishly, there is no democracy. This means all of us working together to provide public education for everyone is a moral responsibility. There's more...


Public education is necessary for freedom. Public education provides all children (not just a few privileged) with the opportunity to learn what is possible in life. Public schools are important to the future of everyone, and our communities. How many of us knew what we wanted for our lives in 4th or 5th grade? And how many of us have been inspired by a teacher to be more than we thought we were? 


These messaging ideas evoke a great deal more that's important about education than to just "get a job."


Since we are hard-wired with empathy to care for others, these are powerful messages. Especially for Republicans who care about their community schools. Communicating a message of public education in terms of moral responsibility to care for others and democracy (as above) is actually a foot in the door to consistently evoking real progressive values.


Tomorrow - what the disaster in Houston has to do with a message for progressives.

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