Forget Elections — Framing Should Be the Focus

(2PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

(updated for coherencea and now available at DKOS)

Framing is not everything but it contains all the problems we speak of. I see several aspects of this problem:

  1. History: the left and center-left in America have not created a historical narrative that makes sense to most Americans as an alternative to both the MSM corporate narrative that is radically ahistorical, i.e., they pick and choose historical facts to present a pro-corporate narrative simply because it is there. I include the MSNBC and Comedy Central pundits in this–the accept at face values unproven and clearly false historical facts as being accepted truths. Don’t ask me to list them right now–I’m not trying to prove anything here just to spur discussion and thought.
  2. Class struggle: any framing of issues has to be done within the context of class-struggle which is very real in this country. The Democratic Party is very afraid of this because they are worried about cultural backlash–yes, there will be a severe cultural backlash from people who are obsessed with American Exceptionalism (the new buzzword on the right) but it’s time that progressives and liberals desacralize that concept–the data doesn’t lie, we are a deeply class-divided society with an entrenched oligarchy with relatively static social movement. What movement there is comes form immigrants who start out relatively poor and within a generation or half a generation return to whatever social class they populated in their native country, e.g., a doctor comes to the U.S and drives a cab until he/she can get their credentials here.
  3. Pragmatism: the left/progressive movement should emphasize pragmatism as a deep American value and use it to frame issues as much as the class-struggle frame. The right in America has descended into a moment where it traffics strictly in fantasies. I’ve heard various discourses on the right in this country and they bear no relationship to reality. These notions can be dismissed easily. For example, their views on health-care are easily repudiated–why didn’t the left do its job? The “debate” that occurred had no basis in fact because the left, did not insist on using facts, studies and the scientific method but were suckered into the MSM narrative that the rest of the world does not exist and “nobody” really knows how to “fix” health care. There is no and was no ambiguity! The only way you fix health-care is through making it a public utility like the rest of the world does. The right-wing and centrist counter-arguments are basically the equivalent of saying the world is flat–disproving that contention is incredibly easy. There is no reasonable argument on their side! Now, as a counter-example there is a reasonable argument for Empire, there is a reasonable argument for authoritarian rule and social Darwinism thought the right doesn’t even bother to make those arguments except in private. People need to be forced to choose between reality and fantasy–the HCR debate was a debate that was entirely conducted in fanstasyland and for this the left bears a lot of responsibility.

I see no way of “going forward”, as Obama likes to say, unless we start re-framing issues on the basis of what I just mentioned. like what I described. I emphasize here NO WAY because without some sound basis for arguing it’s all going to sound like bullshit to the American people. When you compromise with irrational people who hear voices and believe insane things you actually give their POV legitimacy. That’s not to say that I find right-wing thinking irrational. In fact I do not. I respect the view of those that follow Edmund Burke or Milton Friedman or Ron Paul or even the Neoconservative movement–all those people presented coherent intellectual arguments that were rational and had some merit. Unfortunately the current discourse of the right is, largely, irrational. I believe that their arguments are deliberately irrational because they are only interested in Machiavellian political manuevering and not discourse. The smarter conservatives have contempt for the people whose votes they seek because they are so easily swayed with utterly ludicrous arguments. In private conservatives believe that the rich and the talented (those that cater to the rich) deserve to have almost complete freedom to act. They believe that the servile classes should be servile in every way and only expect rewards to the degree they serve the oligarchs. This is a rational argument. If you don’t have either religious values or humanist/liberal values then social Darwinism makes a lot of sense. But this is not the argument they make to the body politic. What the voters need to understand is that this is the conservative position and it is consistent whether it is a neo-Tory argument (George Will) or a Tea Party argument (Sarah Palin) it logically comes to the same thing a permanent aristocracy and neo-feudal order. That is the corporate state’s agenda. Personally I believe that agenda is shared by the so-called “centrists” in the Democratic Party who are actually on the center-right (Rahm Emmanuel, Geitner, Summers, Gates, et al).

Progressives should not be, at this point, that interested in electoral politics. Election results follow logically from the ability to frame issues and unless issues are framed no results other than results that follow the corporate/security state agenda will follow. If you can’t de-mystify and/or deconstruct the Global War on Terror concept that both left and right agree on you can never do anything about not only about the Pentagon but the whole panoply of security agencies and “agencies” within agencies that are still growing in power and influence. We are maintaining a global military empire without there ever having to be a debate about whether or not that empire is helping us or not. I think there is a good argument for having an empire but we’ve never had a chance to argue against it because it is a permanent part of political reality in this country that has broad bi-partisan and mainstream media support, and therefore, not open for debate. And that support will continue until somebody starts questioning the assumptions upon which the War on Terror are based. Until someone starts reporting on the history of the state within the state that is the American covert/black operations part of the government (and is one area that few on the left even want to think about) it’s unlikely that any close examination of politics is possible. I assure you there is data on this subject and a host of writers who have written about it in some detail who have never been refuted because the current leadership of the left refuses to discuss the matter and acts as if there were no such thing as the intel community or see it is an “objective” source of intelligence whose murky operations are, obviously (being Americans) for the public good.  

7 comments

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    • banger on November 4, 2010 at 5:18 pm
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    Let me know what you think–this is important–or maybe it isn’t. I’ll put a variant of this on DKOS later today.

  1. but very few actually want change……..

    they do want what they want and they want it now…..

    but for most it is not change that they seek…..

    irregardless of the lip service they give to it…..

    therefore I propose that while framing is constituative to change, it is not determinative……

    • rossl on November 4, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    that utilizes elections as one of many tools for organizing.  Let’s learn from the past, recent and far back.  Recently, we’ve seen that relying solely on the Democrats and elections for societal change is a sure path to failure.  In the ’60s and ’70s we saw that relying solely on a cultural movement is not a guaranteed win by any means.  So let’s try to combine the two in a way that might somewhat resemble the farmer/laborer populist movement of the late 1800s – alternative economies (like co-ops), neighborhood organizing, locally organized alternative parties (that could expand, but we’ve got to start somewhere), mass demonstrations, civil disobedience, and more.

    We’ve got to have a broad-based, uncompromising approach.  Let’s learn from our mistakes.

    I’ll be writing a diary about this soon.

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