It occurs to me that the two points in the post below — that framing is deeper and more important than just tweaking terminology, and that the green pursuit of Lakoff is a waste of time — might be seen to be in conflict, so a quick clarification.

Of course greens need to be cognizant of framing. Everyone does; even in a one-on-one conversation, it is helpful to be aware of the basic frames your interlocutor is bringing to bear, so that you can actually communicate instead of passing like ships in the night. That’s the thing: Lakoff has not uncovered some super-top-secret political juju heretofore only possessed by the right wing. What he’s done is helped clarify common sense. All you need to be "great at framing" is some empathy and a willingness to listen. (Try it at home!) It’s great that he’s brought some conceptual clarity to the area, but let’s not lose our knickers over the whole thing.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations matched.

Yes, greens need to frame their issues better. But — much like, say, keeping your knees bent when you play tennis — this is not an end in itself. You wouldn’t go to a knee-bending camp, and you wouldn’t pay someone $350,000 to show you how to keep your knees bent. Greens should be framing their issues well as a matter of course, as they go about doing other things — like pursuing actual goals. What’s been preventing them from doing so is a fairly complicated knot of issues: media access, well-funded disinformation campaigns by the other side, structural and cultural impediments in the way the movement operates, and — let’s not pretend — some old, outdated, fusty, or otherwise unappealing positions on issues (you can’t shine shit). What hasn’t prevented them from framing well is some sort of arcane mystery about how framing works, or what frames are effective. An astute, empathetic observer of culture, backed by extensive poll data and personal experience interacting with those outside her immediate social/ideological circle, already knows how to frame the issues. The thing now is just doing it.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.