Monday, August 08, 2005

The Resignation Frame

Here's the thing I don't get about George Lakoff, called "the father of framing" by the New York Times. Lakoff understands the severity of the current American condition yet he continues to offer his services to the Democratic party. I do not see him as a shill. He is genuinely progressive and sincere in his passions. I am simply dumbfounded that he looks out at the world and thinks his best chance to improve it is by working with people who are resigned to many aspects of the status quo.This last bit is what got me thinking about this. Yesterday I attended my first Communities for Peace meeting in a while and I heard the report back from Humboldt's two latest Peace Ambassadors. Thanks to Carol Brannan and John Shaefer for representing our community in the name of peace. In their report they mentioned meeting with Congressman Mike Thompson. Carol described asking Thompson about what could be done to curtail war profiteering, adding that the war would be over right quick like if nobody was making any money off of it. She said he looked at her like she had six heads. He has resigned himself to accepting war and war profiteering.

My instinctive reaction was to shout out that he should resign if he is resigned. Aside from the momentary outburst, I now see this as a new kind of Tilt Strategy. Another example quickly followed. peterph54 posted this to the J30 listserv today:
I spoke with BOE directors Charles Miller, Tuscarawas County [OH]. The Board there chose Diebold, he didn't seem to be in agreement but didn't openly state that. I don't want to crucify this guy, but he said that ES+S (their vendor for the past several years) "could be throwing out every third vote, and he wouldn't know the difference".
From this account it appears Charles Miller is complicit in the dismantling of democracy. I don't want to crucify the guy either - I just want him to take his resignation toward his hopeless job and resign. If he cannot imagine things getting better and will not work toward that end, he must get out of the way so his office can be occupied by someone willing to work for change.

There are others also in this indefensible position. This is the hallmark of the tilt target, the person who can maintain his untenable spot only because nobody has challenged him for it. When we seek out these targets it must be to bring the novel challenge that causes one either to bear the continued shame of such exposure, or be "tilted" into taking a stance more closely aligned with specific preferred remedies being suggested, in this case resignation.

I first wrote about the Tilt Strategy three years ago while working on a now-defunct project called Reinventing Activism. During that time I was referred to the book "Moral Politics" by fatherly framer Lakoff. He is a linguistics professor at UC Berkeley and this is a text book. It was a valuable read in that it helped me understand how and why people hold the mosaic of political views that they do. I doubt if Lakoff would remember the few e-mails and phone calls we exchanged but I was glad to find him so accessible after finding his book to be so important.

Three years later Lakoff's star his risen considerably. As the Times story notes, an excerpt of "Moral Politics" has sold over 200,000 copies as a paperback called "Don't Think of an Elephant!" Lakoff has also set up his own consulting firm, he is in high demand as a speaker, and he has been a highly regarded strategist for the Democratic party.

Except for that last item, it is an impressive pedigree worthy of a progressive leader in the peaceful revolution. But Lakoff must first resign himself to the fact that the Democrats are part of the problem, not the solution; and that they are cooperating, not competing with the Republicans. On accepting the ruthlessly honest truth about simulated competition, Lakoff can resign from the Dems and join We The People.

We have always had the winning frame like Dorothy who could have clicked her heels to go home again. The government has no "just Power" without our bestowing it upon them. So We The People must withdraw the Consent of the Governed. The Voter Confidence Resolution gives us the frame to call the government's legitimacy into question, town by town, until the inevitable time when it is no longer a question - the emperor has no clothes, the government has no legitimacy, and the Consent of the Governed has been withdrawn.

It has been 16 months since the GuvWurld Blog was launched on this premise. Never before has there been this much momentum (scroll through some other recent entries) for this frame. The resignation frame is a totally consistent secondary tack that we should now pursue simultaneously. Even if we do not get a single resignation this is still a valuable frame because it will contribute to undermining the general sense that the status quo is acceptable.

I wonder what Lakoff has to say about all this; I'd also like an opinion from Dr. Jeffrey Feldman whose Frameshop blog is all about dissecting language for the frames.



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