Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

Posted on April 4, 2019 by Diana Roberts

Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

By George Lakoff 

This is the quintessential know your competitor, know your enemy for progressives. It covers the issues that define our future: climate change, inequality, immigration, health care, and more.  

Once you understand what is behind Republican and conservative rhetoric, i.e., the mind-set, it begins to make more sense why they propose or oppose what they do. Once you understand the “Strict Father Morality” syndrome, much of the confusion in the mind of the progressive listener goes away. That helps in a “Why” understanding in the conversation. It doesn’t offer a remedy or compromise to the problem, but it is a first step and takes some of the pressure off. 

The author, George Lakoff, has written on subjects of preconditioned mindset, linguistics and the effects of framing the debate for years. Don’t Think Of An Elephant is clear, concise and written in everyday common, understandable language. If you are a progressive, you should have this book in your personal library. Among other insights to the conservative mind, Lakoff covers what conservatives want because of their preconditioned learning in the areas of moral order, morality, economics, government, education, health care, same-sex marriage and abortion, nature, corporations, regulation, rights and more… 

It all becomes so clear, as the author organizes what conservatives are about. It is not a conservative bashing, and he makes no judgement. It is about understanding and recognizing where conservative philosophy comes from, so that while the progressive is still asking questions on an issue in the conversation, the conservative already has a prejudgment  vocalized in short order. 

However, in conclusion, Lakoff reminds us about the extremes: 

“Remember once more that our goal is to unite our country behind our values, the best of traditional American values. Right-wing ideologues need to divide our country via a nasty cultural war. They need discord and shouting and name calling and put-downs. We win with civil discourse and respectful cooperative conversation. Why? Because it is an instance of the nurturant model at the level of communication and our job is to evoke and maintain the nurturant model. 

“Show respect 

Respond by framing 

Think and talk at the level of values 

Say what you believe”