Politics is about morality. It’s about right and wrong… You [and conservatives] have different views of right and wrong. ~ George Lakoff
Cognitive linguist George Lakoff points out that both conservatives and progressives are moral and want to do what is right. Their morality, however, springs from two very different models — and it may be helpful to keep this in mind when discussing politics with a conservative, or vice versa.

According to Lakoff, conservatives hold a “Strict Father” morality — a hierarchy of power, which flows something like this:

  • God
  • Man
  • Nature
  • Rich over poor
  • Employers over employees
  • Adults over children
  • Western culture over non-Western culture
  • America over other countries
  • Men over women
  • Whites over non-whites
  • Christians over non-Christians
  • Straights over gays

Lakoff observes an “in-group nurturance” among conservatives. They value help and care at the individual level. He says the question is, “How do you expand the in-group? How do you get them to be concerned about a larger group?”

Progressives, on the other hand, hold a “Nurturant Parent” morality. They encourage questioning and independent critical thinking. They more easily embrace the concept of Common Good.

Framing the Progressive Message

How can progressives and conservatives talk productively with one another about politics? In the video below, Robert Reich begins by asking George Lakoff how the Democratic Party might frame a progressive message that is palatable to conservatives. Their conversation expands from there! This is a must-watch video for anyone intrigued by politics or communication.

Renowned linguist George Lakoff stopped by my office to discuss Trump’s rhetoric and how to effectively communicate progressive messages.

~ Robert Reich


Talking Politics

%d bloggers like this: