Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Words of Wisdom

As I've been struggling to understand how so many voters -- not the majority,  we need to keep repeating -- but a lot, could have possibly thought it was in their interest or the world's to make a malignant narcissist, raging idiot and bigot president of the United States, along comes George Lakoff to remind us of how electoral politics really works.

I have noted that most voters have little understanding of public policy. I'm a particularly rational type of person. I try to collect information and work out the logic of problems. I study public policy the way academics do, because that's what I am. But few people have the time or inclination to do that. People live in constructed worlds, what Lakoff calls frames. Any information that doesn't fit in the frame will be ignored, disbelieved, or dismissed as anomalous.

What he is a bit less explicit about, but I believe he would agree with this formulation, is that the frames are built out of words. There are images in there as well but Lakoff focuses mostly on language. The words connect with each other in a web of presumptive causal and affinal relationships, and they have positive and negative connotations. Lakoff also says that frames contain value systems, and he sees a divide in U.S. (and possibly other countries') political culture between a system based on the view of the family as nurturant, and a contrasting view of the family as authoritarian. The family is our fundamental metaphor for the organization of society at higher levels, so these views of the family shape people's political allegiances.

Conservative political activists understand all this better than liberals because they study business and marketing in college, while we're off studying history and biology and useless stuff like that. Marketers know how to reach people, and they are totally amoral. Sell the sizzle, not the steak, the saying goes. Buy this car and you'll get a hot girlfriend. Drink this beer and you'll be a fascinating person. Vote Trump and win, win, win!

We need to learn these lessons. Elections are not machinery for turning people's self-interest into policy. If they were, the self-interest of 5% or less of the population would not continually prevail. We need to get a bit cynical, I think, and start talking to people in their own language.

Anyway, read Lakoff.


JenBob said...

The Butt-Hurt continues.

Mr. Lakoff seems to be just one more of the shocked liberal academic elite that just can't believe that anyone could vote for Mr. Trump. He seems to blame the voters as they're just not smart enough to see things his way. They're somehow captured by their constructs of family, daddy-issues, and other psychobabble.

Tell Mr. Lakoff it just ain't that complicated.

1) Mr. Trump did not ignore the interests of working white people.
2) The Democratic party has demonized white people and politically ignored them for decades.
3) Hillary and the DNC appeared to be crooked (in various issues and incidents).
3) Working white people were energized by someone finally addressing their issues.

Daniel said...

I've read your blog primarily for the posts that discuss science and health science in particular. But Jen Bob has added a new dimension for sure. Given enough opportunity his comments become revealing. Really Jen Bob, the democrats demonize white people?? Trump has finally energized white people?? White what?

Perhaps your Christian health insurance plan has a pharmaceutical benefit. You could use it to obtain the reality enhancing drugs you need.

My use of the Internet is limited to newspapers and topics of science. I've never participated in comments along these lines and promise not to make a habit out of this, but really... white people. Bizzaro!

Cervantes said...

Yeah, Trump didn't ignore the interests of working class white people but he was lying to them. He intends to screw them.

The claim that the Democratic party has "demonized white people and ignored them" is psychotic.

Hillary Clinton has been investigated obsessively for decades by every Congressional committee and law enforcement agency in the country and has been found completely innocent in every single case.

Racist white people were energized by Trump reflecting their racism and ignorance.

JenBob said...

As much as I appreciate your opinions on things not healthcare related, there is a lot of agreement about the demonization of whites and why they reacted the way that they did (hint, it wasn't race).

Here's something that might help you understand more fully what just happened.

Instead of challenging this ideology of shame, the left has buttressed it by blaming white people as a whole for slavery, genocide of the Native Americans and a host of other sins, as though whiteness itself was something about which people ought to be ashamed. The rage many white working-class people feel in response is rooted in the sense that once again, as has happened to them throughout their lives, they are being misunderstood.

So please understand what is happening here. Many Trump supporters very legitimately feel that it is they who have been facing an unfair reality.

Anonymous said...

There is a problem whenever anyone--even Rabbi Lerner--blanket-labels entire groups of people ("white people," etc.). As if all members of a nation, or ethnic group, or race, or political party--etc.--act in lock-step or think or feel the same way. People are individuals. I have a real problem with JenBob speaking about "why the [whites] reacted the way they did." That's just nonsense. I'm "white" and I can see that Trump is nothing but a bigoted, nasty, narcissistically disturbed pathological liar. And many "white" people are racists who voted for Trump because he's one too.

There is no monolithic behavior among various groups. Speaking of which, I sure hope at least ONE Republican member of congress boycotts the inauguration along with the many Democrats who are doing so.

There is a highly disturbing paranoia in the vengeful ramblings of Trump. Perhaps JenBob can relate to the insecurity and rage that Trump exhibits. Regardless, these qualities have nothing to do with race or economics. They have to do with mental illness.

Cervantes said...

JB, that's preposterous. The "left" doesn't blame white people as a whole for slavery or genocide. Where have you ever read or heard anybody say anything like that? A lot of people just don't want to hear that these things happened, that's all. The "left" is well aware of white abolitionists and defenders of native people. However, these atrocities are part of our national history, and must be acknowledged.

JenBob said...

Michael Lerner was once the head of the free speech movement at Berkley, was chair of the Students for a Democratic Society and was part of the anti-war "Seattle Seven". Michael Lerner has been a liberal leader and icon for decades. What does he know, anyway?

Back to the point: This conversation has been "squirreled" away from your original post where you called the president-elect a bunch of disparaging epithets and then blame voters for being a bunch of Hee-Haws.

I simply disagreed with you and offered up a more reasoned alternative that included a viewpoint that a leading liberal icon agreed with.

I think one of the fundamental mistakes was for the DNC to nominate a candidate who was under federal investigation. That was probably a first.

Anonymous said...

JenBob's posts are tiresome and specious. His so-called "more reasoned response" is nothing of the sort. His "reasoning" is entirely polemic. Moreover, as with many so-called "conservative" and "Republicans," he seems incorrigible in his perspective. As I've said, he lacks sense of irony, sense of humor--and just plain sense.

Mr. Lerner is entitled to his viewpoint. It doesn't make it convincing or correct. But at least he writes with passion, unlike JB, who writes from the neck up, and with derision and sarcasm.

As for the DNC nominating a candidate "under federal inquiry," this is also tiresome. The Republicans who are in favor of the continuation of persecuting the Clintons--JB, do you ever actually comprehend what Cervantes writes?--will be digging up the Clintons' bodies in 50 years, investigating them posthumously for non-existent crimes that occurred AFTER they died! Meanwhile, Mr. Trump, who IS in fact guilty of sexually predatory behavior, treason, and no doubt other crimes, gets a pass from the blithering idiots in the corporate media--airheads like Anderson Cooper, for instance.

There was a recent article indicating that people in the US who lean well to the right politically are unable to comprehend ambiguity and tend to see the world in black-and-white. Let's not use "epithets" for Trump, JB, since you don't appreciate them. Let's just call him what he is:

Sexual Predator
Pathological Liar
Reader of Hitler's speeches (what's worse, he denies it)
Would-be fascist
Intensely narcissistically-disturbed individual
Incapable of understanding anyone's point of view

So if your point, JB, is that we need to understand why people voted for him, I agree...but that's ALL I agree with.

BTW, how do we know how many people voted for him in actuality when the Republicans on the courts keep prohibiting--as they did in 2000, when Gore actually won Florida AND the election--recounts? Wonder what they're afraid of. Probably the truth, whatever it is.

I'm sure you'll have a reply, JB. You generally do.

JenBob said...

Hmmm....the butthurt is strong with this one.

So if your point, JB, is that we need to understand why people voted for him, I agree.

Good. We have some common ground.

Academicians and other eggheads that attempt to explain the Trump phenomenon approach it from a conclusion that the voters got it wrong...and then work backwards using excuses such as they don't understand policy or they are caught up in their 'frames' or some other baseless 'reasoning'.

Ever thought about just asking them? You might learn something...

Cervantes said...

I've heard literally hundreds of people explain why they voted for Trump. I explain it all here, if you care to read. Short answer: they've been deceived. Or, they are racists, which is actually a lot of them. Including you, from what I can tell.

JenBob said...

People vote for who they think will pull the levers of power they want pulled.

Only two weeks in it appears that President Trump is going down the list trying to fulfill his campaign promises.

It doesn't appear that the voters who voted for Donald Trump have been deceived at all.

And now, you're probably going to try to marginalize about half the country's views saying they're all 'racists' and their views don't count.

Good luck with that...they counted at the ballot box.