Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Lakoff looks at "Obama's new narrative" from the SOTU

Message "framing" guru George Lakoff evaluates Obama's State of the Union speech in The New Obama Narrative Truthout 01/28/2011. He is cautious in evaluating how Obama's "competitiveness" narrative may work, though he sees some possibilities of it working well for the Democrats.

But he also sees that there is a lot missing. For instance:

He failed to say that Social Security has a 2.5 trillion dollar surplus and that it is earned, not given away. What is called a "cut" would actually be theft from those who have paid into it over a lifetime. He needs to go on the offensive on Social Security, not be defensive. The same on Medicare. He failed to mention that it works and has the lowest operating cost of any form of health care by far. He failed to say that pensions are delayed earned payments for work already done, and that the conservative move to allow states and cities to declare bankruptcy is really a move to eliminate pensions for public employees and eliminate as much of public service as possible. He failed to say that "privatization" doesn't eliminate government, but institutes government by corporation for corporate profit, not the benefit for citizens. He failed to say that should have gratitude for immigrants - with or without papers, educated or not - who work hard at low pay to make possible the lifestyles of the middle and upper classes. He failed to defend the right to unionize as the foundation of fair working relationships. [my emphasis]
I would say that Obama needs to go on the offensive in defending Social Security. But he's basically right in that statement.

In particular, as long as we have to worry about the Democratic President himself caving in on defending Social Security, the Democratic Party won't have a realistic possibility of changing the dominant political narrative in their favor. And, as Joan McCarter says of the anti-government part of Obama's new narrative (as embodied by his new chief of staff Bill Daley: "Reinforcing the Republican narrative that government is the problem doesn't do much to put the White House in a good negotiating position for getting this country back on track in job creation." (Daley's debut as White House spokesman reinforces GOP spending narratives Daily Kos 01/31/2011)

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