Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tweet Better Using Frames With Winning Words

In this installment from The Winning Words Project, we're going to help you learn how to think about re-framing tweets to avoid using and repeating right wing frames. Using right wing frames and having them re-tweeted potentially hundreds of times, actually conditions us to think using right wing frames instead of our own.

As described in "The Debunking Handbook" by John Cook of the Global Change Institute, University of Queensland and Stephan Lewandowsky with the School of Psychology, University of Western Australia:

To test for [the] backfire effect, people were shown a flyer that debunked common myths about flu vaccines. Afterwards, they were asked to separate the myths from the facts. When asked immediately after reading the flyer, people successfully identified the myths. However, when queried 30 minutes after reading the flyer, some people actually scored worse after reading the flyer. The debunking reinforced the myths.
Hence the backfire effect is real. The driving force is the fact that familiarity increases the chances of accepting information as true. Immediately after reading the flyer, people remembered the details that debunked the myth and successfully identified the myths. As time passed, however, the memory of the details faded and all people remembered was the myth without the “tag” that identified it as false.
Social media is now among the most referenced sources for news and information in the world, quickly overtaking traditional media outlets. Ordinary citizens broke the news of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound and Whitney Houston's death. This makes each and every one of us who participates in social media, a critical component in information dissemination—nearly as important as any cable news commentator or newspaper editor. We, the people, are finally in a position to shape the message instead of having it spoon-fed to us with what has been long-standing conservative media bias. This makes it extremely important that we get the message right.

So how do we do that? Let's look at some examples, starting with this tweet:

Sample Tweet—Did President Barack Obama Double Our National Debt?

What stands out here?

President Obama Double Our National Debt EXCELLENT.

The juxtaposition of President Obama and doubling our national debt—even if it's in question form—is certainly not the connection we want people to have in their memory, not the least because it isn't true. So how could this tweet have been written using a better frame? Looking at the linked article (which is filled with "don'ts" when it comes to progressive message framing, by the way!), we find this:
"[O]f the $5.1 trillion added to the National Debt from 2009 to 2012, only $1.5 trillion is due [to] legislation signed by President Obama.  Of that $1.5 trillion, only $500 billion in incremental spending carries past 2010. The rest of the debt, or $3.6 trillion, can be directly attributed to legislation passed under previous administrations."
What if this was tweeted instead?

Sample Tweet—Bush legislation led to 71% of the increase in the national debt from 2009-2011.

What stands out in that tweet? Bush legislation National Debt Increase. Much, much better, no? Not a single thing that could be misconstrued, or misremembered, as Obama increasing the national debt!

Let's look at another example.

Sample Tweet—Governor Walker was giving a Defender of Freedom award by the NRA last weekend.

The unintended take-away?

Governor Walker, Defender of Freedom. But is Governor Walker a defender of freedom? Absolutely not! He is near the top of the list of governors with the worst record ever on defending workers' freedom to collectively bargain and women's freedom to have sovereign control over their own bodies. So why not say that instead?

Sample Tweet—Contrary to the NRA award, Governor Walker is a Denier of Freedom (workers, women).

Now take a look at this tweet. What does it actually say?

Sample Tweet—GOP your plan to save medicare is going to cost seniors a fortune.

The very first thing it announces is that the GOP has a plan to save Medicare! Sure, it goes on to say that it will cost "a fortune," but it's still a plan to "save" Medicare according to this tweet. The reality is exactly the opposite. It's really important to say that.

Like this:

Sample Tweet—GOP budget plan will destroy medicare, cost seniors thousands. The Democrats will save medicare.

When you are ready to compose a tweet, or have clicked on an article that pre-fills the tweet for you, consider the following things:
  • What words stand out most prominently, and would those words evoke positive or negative feelings or impressions?
  • Can you rephrase the tweet to say the same thing using Progressive frames instead of right wing frames?
  • Does the pre-set headline tell the story you want it to tell? If not, don't use it. Just because a site suggests that text doesn't mean you have to use it.
  • Are you using "Winning Words" with progressive moral frames? Are you talking about Obama's successes? Are you reminding people how the Patient Protection Act protects their health, their pocketbook and their freedom? Are you firmly establishing the fact that Medicare and Social Security are earned benefits? Are you promoting the economic reality that government spending is an investment in our future (education, infrastructure, research) that actually returns a profit for the country?
If you have a tweet you'd like assistance rephrasing, let us know in the comments section below.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Governor Chris Christie Gets The Party of the Paternalistic Daddy State Dead Wrong

Gov. Christie: Nation turning into 'people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check'

"It’s because government’s now telling them, stop dreaming, stop striving, we’ll take care of you. We’re turning into a paternalistic entitlement society. That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally," Christie told Bush, Henry Kissinger and an assortment of Republican governors in a theater at the New York Historical Society.

There's something really offensive about a wealthy white governor denigrating poor and working class Americans to a room full of wealthy white men.

Especially seeing how Governor Christie got it very, very wrong as to just who the "entitled" class are in this country. Let's enumerate for you, Governor Christie:
  • $74 million in unemployment checks for people with $1,000,000+ AGIs.
  • $21 billion in subsidies for gambling losses.
  • $9 billion in Social Security Retirement Benefits to millionaires and billionaires who don't need it to survive.
  • $316 million in farm subsidies.
  • $89 million for preservation of ranches and estates.
  • $75.6 million in residential energy tax credits enacted so low-income families could afford to pay their electric bills.
  • $18.15 million in child care tax credits for millionaires and billionaires who can afford full-time nannies to raise their children for them.
  • And the grossly unfair 15 percent tax rate on non-labor Capital Gains income, costing the country over $12 billion a year.
According to (deeply conservative) Senator Tom Coburn in his report, "Subsidies of the Rich & Famous" (pdf document) (emphasis mine) ...

The government safety net has been cast far and wide, with almost half of all American households now receiving some form of government assistance. But most taxpayers will be asking why when they learn who is receiving what.

From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes, and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Multimillionaires are even receiving government checks for not working. This welfare for the well-off – costing billions of dollars a year – is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and IOUs to be paid off by future generations.

This is not an accidental loophole in the law. To the contrary, this reverse Robin Hood style of wealth redistribution is an intentional effort to get all Americans bought into a system where everyone appears to benefit. ...

We should never demonize those who are successful. [aside: that is not what Occupy or the 99% are doing. G-d love the rich; more power to 'em. But ...] Nor should we pamper them with unnecessary welfare to create an appearance everyone is benefiting from federal programs. ...

The government’s social safety net, which has long existed to catch those who are down and help them get back up, is now being used as a hammock by some millionaires, some who are paying less taxes than average middle class families. Comprehensive information on the full range of government benefits enjoyed by millionaires has never been collected previously. This report provides the first such compilation. What it reveals is sheer Washington stupidity with government policies pampering the wealthy costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
Let me repeat so we're really, really clear here, Governor Christie:

"This welfare for the well-off – costing billions of dollars a year – is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and IOUs to be paid off by future generations." You've got a lot of nerve, Governor.
"A 4 percent solution, a 4 percent growth is not gonna be achieved if we don’t deal with Medicare," Christie said. "A 4 percent growth is not gonna be achieved if we don’t deal with Medicaid. A 4 percent growth is not gonna be achieved if we don’t deal with Social Security."
That's right, Governor Christie, let's "deal with" Social Security why don't we. Why don't we stop doling out the "entitlement" checks to the millionaires and billionaires whose incomes over the first $106K don't contribute a single penny into the system they take it out of? Or better yet, why don't we start making them pay into the system on all their income, exactly like working families in America?

And yes, let's do "deal with" Medicare. Let's institute a national health care policy that is more efficiently-run than private insurance, and then let's go after the for-profit insurance industry for the economic hardships they cause to working families who have the bad fortune of getting sick in this country!

Now, if you'd like to talk about which party is really turning this into a "Paternalistic" society, Governor Christie, I'm up for that conversation.

Republicans have spent the last 10 years legislating Daddy State policies all across this country.

Republicans are using their state legislatures to reach into every aspect of our lives; from restricting our access to basic health care; giving our employers the right to pry into our personal medical needs and refuse us insurance coverage they "morally" object to; and forcing women to endure invasive and unnecessary medical procedures against their wills. Republicans are legislating government control of women's health care all across this nation. And Democrats see this as a gross violation of the freedoms and liberties that we love about living in America.

The Republican Party would love nothing more than to turn this great country into a Daddy State, where "the man of the family" not only gets to set the rules, but they get to punish us when we're "bad" in their eyes.

You want to tell us what kind of sex we can have (lest we make the mistake of believing we have "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.") You want to tell us who we can marry (as if we were still teenagers "living under your roof"). You want to force us to listen to sounds from an invasive probe inserted into our vaginas, for having the temerity to figuratively stick our fingers in our ears and yell, "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" when you crank up the volume on calling us baby murderers. You'll show us, right, Governor? You'll just take the door off the hinges so we can't slam it in your faces anymore!

It's that "Strict Father" mindset that all you radical conservative regressives use in your own families, and now want to rule all of the America with, by implementing The Santorum Strategy over our lives.

Well we've got news for you and your ilk, Governor Christie: You aren't our Daddies and we aren't going to let you act like it anymore.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Health Care Reform — Framing Language Redux

Following on the framing philosophy of professional linguist and distinguished professor, Dr. George Lakoff, I have talked previously about how Democrats, Liberals and Progressives need to start talking about our health care reform legislation. Whether you believe this legislation falls far too short, or was too deep a compromise to the for-profit insurance industry, it is the legislation we have, so it is the legislation we have to support right now. And especially if you don't like this law yourself, the only way we will ever be able to improve on it is if we regain majorities in both Houses of Congress.

It is imperative to understand that the conversation isn't just about the health care law itself. It's about giving the Democratic, Liberal and Progressive candidates in this critical election a fighting chance to take back the House of Representatives. And given how the Republican Fright Machine has poisoned the minds of even those who support the provisions the law contains, those people will be more likely to vote for a Republican who says they now want to "fix" this law than a Democrat who supports this law.

Democrats up for reelection won't support Obamacare II

The political consequences will be severe for the Democrats if the Supreme Court kills the entire Obamacare law. The fallout will not just affect the president. There is no way Democrats in Congress, or anyone else on the ballot with the president in November, will want to commit to supporting Obamacare II.

And we cannot allow that to happen. And it will, if we don't find a way to re-frame this law in clear, straight-forward terms that, at the same time, expose the lies of the right and replaces them with positive messaging that will bring former supporters back into the fold.

I don't think anyone here wants to see a repeat of 2010. But that is what we will have if we don't get this right this time. Our party leaders failed us the first time around, allowing Republicans to get away with their "death panel" rhetoric. It's going to be up to us to turn that around. The only way "Winning Words" turn into "Winning Elections" is if they are repeated, repeated, repeated.

George Lakoff on the Santorum Strategy: Why we’re all in trouble if this strategy is successful in 2012.

A perfect illustration of pounding radical conservative ideas in our heads can be seen by examining the speech Rick Santorum gave in Missouri after winning the Minnesota primary. (Pay particular attention to the amount of times the words listening, he knows better, rights, and freedom were used)

Rick Santorum began his speech by thanking your average Fox news viewer and all of the “smart idiots” for helping to build the conservative party. “Tonight was a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea party people, who are out there every single day in the vineyards building the conservative movement in this country, building the base of the Republican Party, and building a voice for freedom in this land.”

This was immediately followed up by continuously repeating language to evoke the “frame” that President Obama “knows better” than you. This is illustrated by the overwhelming number of references being made to President Obama not listening to the voice of the American people (14X’s), because he knows better than you (5X’s), and is using the Government to run your lives by taking away your rights (10X’s), and freedoms, (12X’s).

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

The Santorum Strategy

Liberals tend to underestimate the importance of public discourse and its effect on the brains of our citizens. All thought is physical. You think with your brain. You have no alternative. Brain circuitry strengthens with repeated activation. And language, far from being neutral, activates complex brain circuitry that is rooted in conservative and liberal moral systems. Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called "independents," who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened.

This point is being missed by Democrats and by the media, and yet it is the most vital issue for our future in what is now being discussed. No matter who gets the Republican nomination for president, the Santorum Strategy will have succeeded unless Democrats dramatically change their communication strategy as soon as possible. Even if President Obama is re-elected, he will have very little power if the Republicans keep the House, and a great deal less if they take the Senate. And if they keep and take more state houses and local offices around the country, there will be less and less possibility of a liberal future.

The Republican presidential campaign is not just about the presidential race. It is about using conservative language to strengthen conservative values in the brains of voters -- in campaigns at all levels from Congress to school boards. Part of the Republican strategy is to get liberals to argue against them, repeating conservative language.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.

So who's ready to apply these principles to our own language — right now?

If you are, then join me using this "Winning Elections" way to frame health care reform:

The Republican party's plan for health care would put us on a Path to Poverty steeper than the one they've already set us on with their tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class, the poor, and our precious seniors.

  • The Patient Protection Act does just what it says — protects patients.
  • The Patient Protection Act protects patients from losing their coverage when they get sick, while the Republican plan that leads us on a Path to Poverty would remove this protection.
  • The Patient Protection Act protects patients from being refused coverage because of a pre-existing condition, while the Republican plan that leads us on a Path to Poverty would remove this protection.
  • The Patient Protection Act protects patients by allowing young adults to remain on their family's policy while they are earning a degree before earning a living, while the Republican plan that leads us on a Path to Poverty would remove this protection.
  • The Patient Protection Act protects patients from having their hard-earned income line the pockets of insurance executives instead of paying for their actual health care, by legislating that at least 80-85 percent of a patient's premiums go directly toward their care.The Republican plan that leads us on a Path to Poverty would remove this protection.
  • The personal responsibility clause of The Patient Protection Act protects patients from ever-increasing premiums that are necessary to cover free-riders who refuse to carry insurance and wind up costing taxpayers billions of dollars to cover their unpaid medical care.

    Unlike the Republicans, Democrats believe strongly in the rights of all individuals to be protected from the whims of big corporate insurance companies who are more interested in their bottom line than the health of our great nation.

Please help by forwarding this message to all of your Representatives in Congress, to any candidates running for Congress in your district, to Democratic Party leaders and the media.

And repeat, repeat, repeat!

Use these lists to find out how to contact the above:

Tweet the House.

Tweet the Senate.

Tweet the Media.

Call or Email your representatives.

Thank you!

The Word Cloud for this post is:

(For more on the importance of framing, how and why it works and why "truth-telling" doesn't, please read Let's Take Back Control Of Political Language by Kos diarist Nils Davis.

This post is part of a series on framing with Democratic moral language for the 2012 elections. See also:

  • 5 Words And Phrases Democrats Should Never Say Again
  • The Most Important Words Democrats MUST Start Using Immediately
  • 3 More Words And Phrases Democrats Should Start Universally Using
  • 3 Things Democrats Should Immediately Go On The Offense About
  • Sunday, April 1, 2012

    3 Things Democrats Should Immediately Go On The Offense About

    One of the biggest problems Democrats face in the messaging wars that Republicans have been waging for more than 30 years, is the fact that we are always playing defense. Republicans ascribe a label to us and we quickly scramble to explain how that label isn't true and why. But as we all know, our message gets lost in the middle of the rebuttal.

    The best way to combat this is to start taking control of the dialog ourselves and put Republicans on the defense for a change. Democrats need to start calling Republicans out for who they are and what they stand for politically. To do that, we'll need both new terminology and the ability to turn their own memes back on them.

    Here are three things we can begin going on the offense about immediately:

    1. Republicans are legislating a Daddy State.

    Republicans across the country are using their state legislatures to reach into every aspect of our lives; from restricting our access to basic health care, giving our employers the right to pry into our personal medical needs and refuse us insurance coverage they "morally" object to, and forcing women to endure invasive and unnecessary medical procedures against their wills. Republicans are legislating government control of women's health care all across this nation. And Democrats see this as a gross violation of the freedoms and liberties that we love about living in America. (Adapted from words used by Rep Steve King re the Patient Protection Act.)

    The Republican Party would love nothing more than to turn this great country into a Daddy State, where "the man of the family" not only gets to set the rules, but they get to punish us when we're "bad" in their eyes.

    It's that "Strict Father" mindset that radical conservative regressives use to shape their own families. And they want to bring that structure to America as a whole, by implementing what George Lakoff calls The Santorum Strategy.

    Well we've got news for them, right, Dems? They aren't our Daddies and we aren't going to let them act like it, either!

    2. Republicans are the Party of Gut and Spend.

    Republicans continually gut services to the poor and needy to spend on the wealthy elite with tax breaks for their gambling losses; unemployment benefits going to millionaires; and reimbursements for property damage on estates that should have been covered by insurance, that the wealthy could afford but chose not to carry. (Source for millionaire handouts: Subsidies for the Rich & Famous by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) pdf.)

    Gut and Spend takes money out of the pockets of hard-working families in America and gives it away to the rich and powerful. Gut and Spend policies have decimated the middle class, leaving a bigger and bigger gap between the used-to-haves and the have-more-than-the-99-percent-put-togethers.

    House Republicans passed a Gut and Spend budget that made deep cuts predominantly on low-income families at a time when millions are still out of work and have to rely on their earned benefits to survive, while not eliminating a dime of entitlements that are handed out to the wealthiest among us, and at the same time lowering their burden of taxes to its lowest level since Herbert Hoover.

    The Republicans' Gut and Spend policy is a Path to Poverty and bad for America.

    3. Republicans are the Party of Large Corporate Government. Republicans don't want smaller government, they want an Unelected Corporate Government that they can collude with outside the system of fair elections. The more successful they are at continuing to build this Large Corporate Government, the less voters will have a say in how schools are run, how prisons are run, or even how our most precious asset — our military — is run. Now Paul Ryan is conditioning America to believe that our Generals are lying to us! What better reason to replace them with the contractors of the Republican Party's choosing once they're in a position of power to hire them? We must prevent this from happening at all costs. Turning our government over to Unelected Corporations is anti-Democratic and un-American.

    I urge you to contact your representatives in the House and Senate and ask them to start talking about the Republican Party in these terms. How we frame their positions will be critical in preventing their efforts to create a radical conservative future for America.

    Tweet the House.

    Tweet the Senate.

    Call or Email your representatives.

    Thank you!

    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    3 More Words And Phrases Democrats Should Start Universally Using — And — A Call To Action

    This post is a continuation of what will be a series on re-framing the language Democrats use in a way that clearly illustrates that we have the moral high ground on issues of policy for the nation. Part One can be found here. If you haven't read it, we recommend starting there, as it provides some important background on this topic, as well as the first set of words and phrases we believe Democrats need to adopt to win the fight to preserve our democracy. 

    This and future installments are a collaborative effort of Jill W. Klausen, Dr. G. Thomas (Tom) Ruebel of The Winning Words Project, and the community at large who have so helpfully provided their input and knowledge to this project.

    I think Democrats need much better positive messaging, expressing and repeating liberal moral values — not just policies — uniformly across the party. That is not happening. One of the reasons that it is not happening is that there is a failure to understand the difference between policy and morality, that morality beats policy, and that moral discourse is absolutely necessary. This is a major reason why the Democrats lost the House in 2010.

    Consider how conservatives got a majority of Americans to be against the Obama health care plan. The president had polled the provisions, and each had strong public support: No preconditions, no caps, no loss of coverage if you get sick, ability to keep your college-age child on your policy, and so on. These are policy details, and they matter. The conservatives never argued against any of them. Instead, they re-framed; they made a moral case against "Obamacare." Their moral principles were freedom and life, and they had language to go with them. Freedom: "government takeover." Life: "death panels." Republicans at all levels repeated them over and over, and convinced millions of people who were for the policy provisions of the Obama plan to be against the plan as a whole. They changed the public discourse, changed the brains of the electorate — especially the "independents" — and won in 2010.

    … It is vital that Democrats not make that mistake again.

    ~ Dr. George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics, UC Berkeley in, Why the GOP Campaign for the Presidency Is About Guaranteeing a Radical Conservative Future for America
    So what is the morality of Democrats if Republicans have appropriated "freedom" and "life" as their own? Dr. Lakoff suggests "empathy" and "responsibility," and he makes excellent arguments as to how those two basic principles form the backdrop of our positions.

    However, he ends his lecture without giving us the tools for describing those moral positions. And if we hope to win over the people who have both "conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains" and aren't beholden to either of the two extremes, it is absolutely critical to get the language right.


    1. Stop using "Privatize" and start saying "Profitize."

    From our schools to our Social Security, our prisons, and our military, Republicans want to turn most of our government over to for-profit corporations. But for over 230 years this country has stood for ensuring our greatness by providing education to our children, armed forces to protect our shores and correctional facilities to rehabilitate those who have wronged our communities. These have always simply been givens. And since the establishment of our Earned Benefits programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which reserve income set aside from working people's paychecks, we have relied on the neutrality of our government to administer those programs to ensure that they don't fall victim to the volatility of the markets.

    We have a moral responsibility to ensure that these basic services are always available to every taxpayer in America. If we learn that someone in our government is corrupt, we have the recourse to remove them from public office or position — they can be held accountable by us. But if we cede responsibility for our schools, prisons, military, or seniors, to for-profit corporations — the 1% — we literally lose that protection.

    A corrupt corporation that owns the schools our children are expected to attend is very difficult to remove. We will no longer have a voice in our children's curriculum. Further profitization in the military would leave us at the mercy of corporations which could be tempted by greater wealth from a foreign nation that desires our destruction. And our elderly would never have a reliable source of income or assurance of medical care when their health begins to wane as they move into their golden years.

    These things and more would be the consequence of "Profitizing" any of these vital services. We must make it clear that we are for Democracy, not Profitization.

    2. Never, ever say "Gun Control laws" again. From now on, only talk about "Gun Responsibility laws."

    On the heels of the tragic slaying of Trayvon Martin, and headlines like these being splashed across the internet: "Gun sales soaring, boosted by gun laws, concerns about Obama," gun responsibility will be a topical issue in this election cycle once again. And we're going to have to get this narrative really, really right if we want to win on it this time around.

    Let's face facts: people — including Democrats! — resent having control taken away. But everyone recognizes the universal truth that people need to be responsible. Even gun owners who have been fighting the laws Democrats advocate to ensure public safety, refer to themselves as "responsible" gun owners.

    We don't think this needs much extrapolation — it's actually just basic common sense. We need better Gun Responsibility laws that protect innocent people from potential gun violence while also affording responsible gun owners the protection they feel their guns provide them.

    3. Never say, “Pro-Life,” even if you are attempting to debunk it or call out its dangers. Instead say the other side is “Anti-Family Planning” and Democrats are "Pro-Family Planning."

    Why Pro- or Anti-Family Planning and not Pro- or Anti-Choice? Three reasons:
    • Those already firmly planted on the other side of the debate have no problem being called anti-choice. They've taken the "anti-choice" frame and stomped it into the ground with the slogan, "It's not a choice, it's a child."
    • The anti-choice frame, while perfectly descriptive and true, is not resonating with the part of the electorate who are morally torn on the issue of abortion — and those people do exist and we need to reach them.
    • Republicans have escalated attempts to not only legislate away women's access to abortion, but to limit access to birth control (which paradoxically is the most effective way to reduce abortion in the first place). “Family Planning” broadens the debate beyond the single issue of abortion.
    People can be persuaded that Democrats have the moral position on this highly emotional subject if we use a better frame for it. In 2006 then-Senator Barack Obama gave a Keynote Address at the Call to Renewal conference in Washington, DC to an audience of progressive Christians:
    A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:
    Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you.
    The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be "totalizing." His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of the Republican agenda.

    But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman's right to choose." The doctor went on to write:
    I sense that you have a strong sense of justice ... and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason ... Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded. ... You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others ... I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.
    Fair-minded words.

    So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.

    Re-reading the doctor's letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

    So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own - a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.
    Democrats want to have families as much as anyone else. And we know we can best do that when we have autonomy over when and how we create those families. Family planning is a morally responsible act. So it's time to change the language we use to tell our story to those who are listening.

    Democrats are Pro-Family Planning.

    This frame is softer and more approachable. It is sensible and sensitive at the same time. It speaks to people who may be personally opposed to abortion but need a reason not to feel guilty about voting for the party that wants to keep abortion legal.

    Some sample re-frames to use in conversation:

    Democrats are for Family Planning rights.

    Democrats are for trusting women to do their own Family Planning.

    Democrats believe every woman should have the right to Family Planning access.

    But most importantly, we must stop using the opposition's frame. Studies show that even if you’re only repeating a word or phrase to debunk it, the mere use of it acts to reinforce it.

    Headlines like this, "How the ‘Pro-Life’ Movement Puts Women Behind Bars," are detrimental and damaging to the message: That the Social Regressive movement is making criminals of women who exercise control of their reproductive rights. Putting it in quotation marks isn’t enough. We simply have to start calling it what it is and not what socially regressive people want us to call it.

    A more effective way to frame that headline would have been:

    "How the Anti-Family Planning Movement Puts Women Behind Bars."

    Winning Words.

    The Winning Words Project Call to Action

    It isn't enough that only we in the blogsphere use progressive language on the critical issues of our time; our party leaders and representatives, as well as those in the media, must be brought on board with this philosophy. In pursuit of the goal of having every single legislator (whether state or federal), every candidate for office, and every person representing or speaking on behalf of these people, sharing the same language, we are reaching out to you for your help.

    We are forming a coalition of people in every state and in every congressional district who will be our liaisons with their representative and/or candidates. As part of our Action Team, help with any of the following would go a long way to help us win this fight:
    • Gather all available contact information for your representative or candidate, including phone numbers, email links, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, and any other social media information available for that individual.
    • Ensure all pertinent information we provide to you gets into the hands of the representative or candidate in your state or district.
    • Tweet, Post, Reddit, Facebook, and share these posts with all of your friends and followers, "cc'ing" your representatives and/or candidate in your districts every time you do.
    • Use the hastags #WinningWords and #P2Prose in your tweets.
    • Invite your neighbors and friends to your home to meet your representative and/or candidate and talk about the importance of speaking with one, clear voice using language that portrays our moral position in hard-hitting and/or evocative terms.
    • Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers, both large and community-based.
    • Join the discussion on local news websites, getting the language out there in every corner where we might find people talking about, or interested in, this election.
    • Be our eyes and ears on the ground and let us know what your friends, colleagues, club members, social media friends, clergy, et al are talking about. This will become our "focus group," but on a scale that Frank Luntz could never hope to rival, and we will use what you pass along to us in our ongoing effort to shape how Democrats speak.
    • Other, as yet undetermined. Your input is always welcome on additional ways we can utilize our human resources.
    You can volunteer to be on our Action Team by letting us know of your interest in the comments section below, or tweeting one of us with the hashtag #WinningWords.

    Thank you for your support for this vital project!

    Use these lists to:

    Tweet the Media
    Tweet the Senate
    Tweet the House (We could use some help completing this list, too!)

    About the authors:

    Jill Klausen has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Missouri. She spent 10 of the last 13 years working for a Political Consulting firm in Torrance, CA, and the past three years working both on staff as a Field Representative and as a volunteer on several local, state and federal campaigns, including helping elect progressive Janice Hahn to represent California's 36th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Follow Jill on Twitter @jillwklausen

    G. Thomas (Tom)
    Ruebel M.D. is a retired radiologist with a passion for progressive language in politics and reform of health care finance. Follow Tom on Twitter @gtruebel

    "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Republicans Are Trying To Scare You To Death Through Their Fright Wing Media


    Though they never paid the price they should have, the young Senator John Kerry had just exposed Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as criminals after doggedly pursuing the connection between the secret and illegal sale of arms to Iran and the funneling of the proceeds to fund the Contra Rebels in Nicaragua (in spite of the fact that Congress had voted against support for the Contras). It was called the Iran-Contra Affair and it mesmerized the country for months, including nearly non-stop televised coverage of the Congressional hearings.

    In the end, in spite of a cast of actors committing perjury, obstruction of justice, withholding evidence, accepting illegal gratuities, and destruction of documents (National Security Adviser John Poindexter "destroy[ed] what may have been the only signed copy of a presidential covert-action finding" which would have directly tied President Reagan to the scandal), not one person served any time for their crimes.

    This was not a good time to be the incumbent vice-president seeking the office of President. The taint of this scandal was all over George H. W. Bush. Democratic Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis was 17 points ahead of Bush in the polls and it looked like he would have an easy path to victory. But Bush had a weapon in his battle for the presidency: his new campaign manager, political strategist and consultant Lee Atwater.


    Naturally this boogey man, singled out to scare the nation, was a black man. His name was Willie Horton and he was a convicted murderer. While out on furlough through a program begun under Dukakis' Republican predecessor, Horton kidnapped a young couple, tortured the man and repeatedly raped the woman. Two television ads were released; an official one by the Bush campaign called "Revolving Door," and one by an "unaffiliated" PAC.

    And Michael Dukakis lost the race for the presidency to the criminal (he later admitted he knew about the illegal sale of arms to Iran while in office as vice president) who invoked the scary black man in order to win.

    But for it to be the successful campaign that it was, they needed allies in the media. And they had one in Roger Ailes. As Tim Dickinson of Rolling Stone Magazine describes him in "How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory":

    To watch even a day of Fox News – the anger, the bombast, the virulent paranoid streak, the unending appeals to white resentment, the reporting that’s held to the same standard of evidence as a late-­October attack ad – is to see a refraction of its founder, one of the most skilled and fearsome operatives in the history of the Republican Party. As a political consultant, Ailes repackaged Richard Nixon for television in 1968, papered over Ronald Reagan’s budding Alzheimer’s in 1984, shamelessly stoked racial fears to elect George H.W. Bush in 1988, and waged a secret campaign on behalf of Big Tobacco to derail health care reform in 1993. "He was the premier guy in the business," says former Reagan campaign manager Ed Rollins. "He was our Michelangelo."

    ... Ailes has used Fox News to pioneer a new form of political campaign – one that enables the GOP to bypass skeptical reporters and wage an around-the-clock, partisan assault on public opinion. The network, at its core, is a giant sound stage created to mimic the look and feel of a news operation, cleverly camouflaging political propaganda as independent journalism.

    For more than a quarter century we have been subjected to the Fright Wing Media Scare Machine that the Republican party relies upon to win election after election and dominate the narrative on policy issue after policy issue.

    ▶ Make a fist and tap it against your wife's as she hands the microphone over to you at a rally? That's not a sweet gesture of support between a loving couple, it's a terrorist fist jab!

    ▶ Enact a law that reforms health insurance so more Americans are eligible and covered? The government is actually trying to kill you with their "death panels"!

    ▶ Repeal a law that forced patriotic Americans who want to serve their country to hide in the shadows if they're gay? Democrats are destroying the military and we'll no longer be safe!

    ▶ You're the party that is bringing the country perilously close to default and is threatening to go through with it? You can rely on your Fright Wing Media friends to misdirect their viewers and tell them that President Obama is threatening take away seniors' Social Security checks and "exploiting seniors"!

    ▶ American Muslims dare to exist? What they're really doing is plotting the violent overthrow of our government so they can enact Sharia law and kill us all!!!

    ... [T]he phenomenon of our rights being used to pursue our destruction has become undeniable – particularly now, thanks to an assiduously researched, peer-reviewed study published on June 6th by the highly respected journal, Middle East Quarterly.

    Entitled "Shari’a and Violence in American Mosques," this paper describes an ominous jihadist footprint being put into place across the nation. It is made up of ostensibly religious institutions, entities that, therefore, enjoy constitutional protection. But, according to the data examined by this study, most mosques in the United States are actually engaged in – or at least supportive of – a totalitarian, seditious agenda they call shariah. Its express purpose is undermining and ultimately forcibly replacing the U.S. government and its founding documents. In their place would be a "caliph," governing in accordance with shariah’s political-military-legal code.

    The terrorists are coming to get you. Muslims are coming to get you. Liberals are coming to get you. Death panels are coming to get you. Democrats are "destroying our way of life."

    Roger Ailes, Fox, The Washington Times, National Review, Christian Broadcasting Network, Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Steyn, Phyllis Schlafly, Glenn Beck.

    A seemingly-endless list of fear-mongers in the Fright Wing Media have risen up to drown out any commentator who may at any time have been either moderate or sane. These people have created an atmosphere of fear so deep that one man says his mother died from lack of medical care after a fall because she refused to go to a hospital where Obama's doctors would kill her. She knew this for a fact because she heard it on Fox.


    That would, of course, be the black man in the White House who hates America. You know how we know he hates America? Because he "pals around with terrorists," a lie declared by the candidate for vice president of the United States of America and regurgitated ad nauseum on the Fox network for months.

    Right Wing News tells us the 10 ways Obama is destroying America. Never mind that not only is every single one of the allegations a bold-faced lie, but in reality (and not the fantasyland the writer is living in in her mind) most have been done by a Republican president: racking up unprecedented debt (See Bush, George W.), "lending aid, money, and support to tyrannies" (see above: Iran-Contra), and — Oh! My! G-d! — reducing the military budget (See: Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan & H.W. Bush).

    But let's face it, they aren't really afraid of President Obama's policies. They're afraid of President Obama, the black man. The "Magic Negro." "Or-Bam-eo." The "Tar Baby." The Kenyan.


    Emboldened by their media filth-flingers, coupled with the anonymity of the internet (no need for white hoods anymore!) ... Pure. Undiluted. Evil. When you read this (and you really should read this), you may weep. It is truly that heart-sickening.

    It's Willie Horton all over again.

    At least Lee Atwater repented on his death bed.

    The "right wing media" are in reality the Fright Wing Media. We should be calling them that every time we speak of them.

    (h/t to my friend Keith Balmer for the term Fright Wing Media, which I shamelessly stole (with permission) from his most recent blog post, "I'm Sick of Rush Limbaugh." Read his blog — he's awesome.)

    "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    The Most Important Words Democrats MUST Start Using Immediately

    In my most recent post, 5 Words And Phrases Democrats Should Never Say Again, I talked about how critical "framing" is in defeating the GOP.

    Remember the major success they had with their "death panels" at frightening people who actually supported all of the policies within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into vociferously opposing the entire bill? Here's Dr. George Lakoff, professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley:
    One of the reasons that it is not happening is that there is a failure to understand the difference between policy and morality, that morality beats policy, and that moral discourse is absolutely necessary. This is a major reason why the Democrats lost the House in 2010. Consider how conservatives got a majority of Americans to be against the Obama health care plan. The president had polled the provisions, and each had strong public support: No preconditions, no caps, no loss of coverage if you get sick, ability to keep your college-age child on your policy, and so on. These are policy details, and they matter. The conservatives never argued against any of them. Instead, they re-framed; they made a moral case against "Obamacare." Their moral principles were freedom and life, and they had language to go with them. Freedom: "government takeover." Life: "death panels." Republicans at all levels repeated them over and over, and convinced millions of people who were for the policy provisions of the Obama plan to be against the plan as a whole. They changed the public discourse, changed the brains of the electorate — especially the "independents" — and won in 2010.

    We have the moral high ground on this issue and we need to frame it that way. The Ryan plan will devastate seniors and continue the downward spiral of the middle class into poverty.

    And we must say it that way.

    Democrats must use the same tactic to take down Paul Ryan and his new plan that the GOP used to poison health insurance reform.

    We must call the Ryan plan exactly what it is: The Ryan Path to Poverty.

    It is a Path to Poverty for seniors and it is a Path to Poverty for America.

    The Ryan Path to Poverty

    We need to use that term and only that term when talking about, or posting about, the Ryan Plan. And say it without a shred of irony, but in full earnestness.

    The Ryan Path to Poverty.

    Republicans know there isn't a shred of hope of actually getting this past the Democratic Senate and Administration, but there's a strategic reason they're trotting it out now: They plan on using this as a campaign tool for the rest of the 2012 election cycle.

    We need to turn it against them so it backfires.

    Tweet, Facebook and call your representatives in congress and tell them that whenever they get on the air or go out into their districts, that this is how we expect them to talk about this issue.

    Paul Ryan and the Republicans are proposing a Path to Poverty for America.

    Rob Zerban, who is challenging Paul Ryan for his seat in Congress, issued his official response to Ryan's "Path to Poverty" in a diary on Daily Kos this morning:
    As Paul Ryan likes to preach about in his new taxpayer-funded campaign ads, we do have a choice between two futures. One future, under Paul Ryan’s “Path to Poverty”, ends Medicare for our senior citizens, provides tax breaks only to Paul Ryan’s campaign contributors and places the weight of making up the loss in revenue on our already struggling families. The other future is one that puts people over corporations and begins the long haul of an economic recovery that doesn’t place the blame and burden on our working families.

    Please consider tweeting the following to anyone and everyone on this list. Getting this into the hands of our media and representatives on The Hill will move us a long way towards ensuring this falls into mainstream use. Thank you so much!

      The Single Most Important Words Democrats MUST Start Using Immediately:   #TheRyanPathToPoverty

    Dylan Ratigan @DylanRatigan Bernie Sanders @SenatorSanders
    Bill Press @bpshow Jay Rockefeller @SenRockefeller
    Bill Maher @billmaher Maria Cantwell @US_Sen_Cantwell
    Randi Rhodes @randiradio Mark Warner @MarkWarner
    Stephanie Miller @SMShow Senator Patty Murray @MurrayCampaign
    Thom Hartmann @Thom_Hartmann Sen. Patrick Leahy @SenatorLeahy
    John Fugelsang @JohnFugelsang Senator Tim Johnson @SenJohnsonSD
    Joshua Holland @JoshuaHol Senator Jeff Merkley @SenJeffMerkley
    Nicole Sandler @nicolesandler Ron Wyden @RonWyden
    Robert Reich @RBReich Senator Kay Hagan @SenatorHagan
    Paul Krugman @NYTimeskrugman Chuck Schumer @ChuckSchumer
    Thomas L. Friedman @NYTimesFriedman Tom Udall @SenatorTomUdall
    The Colbert Report @ColbertReport Senate Energy Cmte @SenateEnergy
    Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome Frank R. Lautenberg @FrankLautenberg
    The Daily Show @TheDailyShow Sen. Jeanne Shaheen @SenatorShaheen
    David Shipley @davidjshipley Senate Finance Cmte @SenateFinance
    Markos Moulitsas @markos Al Franken @alfranken
    Fareed Zakaria @FareedZakaria John Kerry @JohnKerry
    Moyers & Company @MoyersStaff Barbara Mikulski @SenatorBarb
    Bill Moyers @BillMoyers Tom Harkin @SenatorHarkin
    Keith Olbermann @KeithOlbermann Senator Dick Durbin @SenatorDurbin
    Maureen Dowd @NYTimesDowd Daniel K. Akaka @SenatorAkaka
    Joan Walsh @joanwalsh Daniel Inouye @Daniel_Inouye
    Matt Taibbi @mtaibbi Senator Chris Coons @ChrisCoons
    Glenn Greenwald @ggreenwald Mark Udall @MarkUdall
    Andrew Sullivan @sullydish Senator Mark Begich @SenatorBegich
    Gerald F Seib @GeraldFSeib Sheldon Whitehouse @SenWhitehouse
    James Fallows @JamesFallows Jon Tester @jontester
    Ezra Klein @ezraklein Debbie Stabenow @stabenow
    Mother Jones @MotherJones Ben Nelson @SenBenNelson
    Kevin Drum @kdrum Sen. Robert Menendez @SenatorMenendez
    Kurt Andersen @KBAndersen Claire McCaskill @clairecmc
    Michael Pollan @michaelpollan Senator Joe Manchin @Sen_JoeManchin
    Lawrence O'Donnell @Lawrence Kirsten Gillibrand @SenGillibrand
    Ed Schultz @WeGotEd Senator Bob Casey @SenBobCasey
    Ed Schultz @edshow Senator Tom Carper @SenatorCarper
    Goldie Taylor @goldietaylor Senator Ben Cardin @SenatorCardin
    Melissa Harris-Perry @MHarrisPerry Richard Blumenthal @SenBlumenthal
    Charles M. Blow @CharlesMBlow Senator Carl Levin @SenCarlLevin
    Rachel Maddow MSNBC @maddow Senate Democrats @SenateDems
    Reverend Al Sharpton @TheRevAl Sen. Barbara Boxer @SenatorBoxer
    Matt Miller @mattmillernow
    Andrea Mitchell @mitchellreports
    Ben Smith of Buzzfeed @bensmith
    Prof. George Lakoff @GeorgeLakoff

    "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    5 Words And Phrases Democrats Should Never Say Again

    And What To Replace Them With

    We talk about the "Death Tax" and not the "Estate Tax." Two little words—"Death Panels"—were capable of nearly derailing the best thing that's happened to health insurance in this country in decades. Harvard-educated President Obama is universally considered "elite," while Yale-educated George W. Bush is considered "down home."

    Many Democrats buy into the old saw that the Democratic party has had a history of "tax and spend" policies that needs to change or be lived down somehow. Until the Occupy movement brought the topic front and center, even most Democrats accepted the notion that businesses were "job creators" and worried more about distracting the opposition from this "fact" than debunking it for the lie it actually is.

    Unfortunately, this is because Democrats have failed to speak in a language strong enough to rebut Republicans who have defined who we are and what we want, in a way that doesn't even remotely reflect an iota of the truth, and instantly conjures up the negative in the mind of the listener.


    Professional media strategist Frank Luntz has been providing Republicans with a detailed handbook on exactly what language to use and not to use for decades. He has built up a lexicon that is not only far-reaching and deeply ingrained, but also very, very successful. As Progressive Democratic linguist George Lakoff explains it, this "framing" is crucial to how they've managed to win so much of the debate.

    Here are some examples from Luntz's handbooks, of how the Republican party has been taught to frame the way they talk:
    Don’t say "bonus!"

    Luntz advised that if [corporations] give their employees an income boost during the holiday season, they should never refer to it as a "bonus."

    "If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you’re going to make people angry. It’s 'pay for performance.'"
    Don't say that the government "taxes the rich."

    Instead, tell [people] that the government "takes from the rich."

    "If you talk about raising taxes on the rich," the public responds favorably, Luntz cautioned. But "if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no."
    This sleight-of-tongue has managed to manipulate at least half the country into believing things that simply are not true. And this type of language mash-up has been so successfully drilled into the vernacular, that Democrats have been hard-pressed to come up with a simple and just-as-effective way to expose the lies beneath them.


    How can Democrats and Progressives fix this? Start by never saying any of the following five words or phrases again.

    1. Never say Entitlements.

      –Instead, say Earned Benefits.

    While the word "entitlement" was originally coined by Democrats as a way to illustrate that the receiver of the attached benefits was entitled to them by having worked to earn them, or having been taxed to support them, it has been re-defined by the right as akin to a spoiled child who acts as if they're "entitled" even though they are not.

    "Earned benefits," on the other hand, cannot be twisted or misconstrued to mean anything other than what what they are: something the recipient has actually earned, as opposed to something they are being given. Social Security and Medicare are paid into through taxes deducted from employees' paychecks, or the paychecks of one's spouse or parent. No one who hasn't either personally paid into these programs, or been the spouse or child of someone who has paid into these programs, or, in the case of Medicare Part B, paid a monthly premium in order to receive them, can extract benefits from these programs.

    Here is a perfect example of how the right wing uses the word "entitled" as a pejorative associated with Democrats (emphasis mine):
    "Fluke is an entitled liberal, which is both emblematically typical and essentially required for one to be a liberal in today’s American political landscape ... Her talking points represent a very real attitude quickly manifesting itself into mainstream American thought process: that a person literally deserves the resources of another. This, of course, is the entitlement and dependency culture on which the Democratic Party has rallied around, encouraged, campaigned, and insisted."
    Democrats have done nothing of the sort. Recall that the subject at hand is insured individuals. That means that they have paid into the pool in order to be able to take resources out later when needed. Even if the check was dispersed by their employer, it's still their benefit as employees, paid out in the form of insurance coverage in lieu of cash compensation. Not to mention any shared responsibility the employee, or in Sandra Fluke's case, the student, may have in paying the monthly premium. (For the record, students at Georgetown University where Sandra Fluke is a student, pay 100% of their own premium toward their student health insurance.)

    Do not allow the right wing to frame this issue in their terms. These are Earned Benefits. Say that.

    2. Never say Redistribution of Wealth.

      –Instead, say Fair Wages For Work.

    When we hear "redistribution," we think in terms of simply moving things around, not something earned by someone. And when you tack the word "wealth" onto it, everybody's hackles immediately go up. "What do you mean, redistribute my wealth? You don't get to take something from me and give it to someone else! I work hard for what I get; let other people work for their own money, not mine!"

    But when we hear "fair wages for work," we know instantly that we are talking about paying working people a fair wage for the work they're doing, not giving them something they haven't actually earned. Since at least 1965, Republican policies have created a corporate culture that only rewards those at the very, very, very top of the pyramid. While the average "hourly wage" equivalent for CEOs has gone from $490.31 to $5,419.97 ($11,273,537.00 / year), the average hourly wage for workers has stagnated at $19.71. That's just $40,997.00 / year. The same $40,997.00 that we were earning in 1965. At 2012 inflation. We need fair wages for our work*—in today's dollars. Say that.

    3. Never say Employer Paid Health Insurance.

      –Instead, say Employee Earned Health Insurance.

    When we say "employer paid," we immediately think of it as something that's given to the employee by their employer. But as I pointed out in my blog post, "It's Not About Who Writes The Check—Stop The Republican Lie About Who Pays For Contraceptives," all employee health insurance is earned by virtue of the employee's labor. That makes it "paid for" by the employee, even if they aren't the ones writing the checks to the insurance companies themselves. Employee health insurance is just one of several forms of compensation in exchange for labor, that include cash, retirement funds, long- and short-term disability coverage, etc.

    Employee health insurance is not a "gift," it is compensation in exchange for labor. Cease the labor and the compensation ceases right along with it. Employees earn their insurance. Say that.

    4. Never say Government Spending.

      –Instead, say we Invest in America.

    When we hear "spending," we automatically think of going shopping and whipping out the credit card. And while government at every level often leverages their ability to borrow at low interest rates to fund their spending, it's hardly the same thing as going out and buying a dress you're only going to wear once and then hanging in the closet until it's out of style.

    What governments actually do is invest in our cities, states, country and our people. Government invests in infrastructure that affords us the ability to move around freely. It invests in programs that train people with job skills. It invests in research that cures diseases. There is an actual benefit to "spending" when a government does it, which actually makes it an investment in all our futures.

    We are investing in our future.

    Say it this way. Every time.

    5. Never say Corporate America.

      –Instead, say Unelected Corporate Government or Governors.

    Calling businesses "Corporate America" gives the impression that somehow corporations are the same as human Americans. But in spite of what the current Supreme Court would have you believe, they aren't.

    In fact, in many ways in our daily lives, we are governed far more by corporations than we are by governments. Corporations govern where we shop, what we pay for goods and services, who gets access and who doesn't, how we communicate and what we pay for that privilege, and so on.

    But more importantly, Corporations govern us by buying our legislators to do their bidding with campaign donations, and by actually writing legislation that makes it into our law books. Corporations govern when they privatize formerly-public, taxpayer-funded institutions, like schools, prisons and military operations. And unlike actual governments, they do it solely for their benefit and profits, not those of real American citizens.

    And if there's one thing we know the right wing zealots claim not to like the most, it's "government interference in our lives." So what's worse than the government we actually elect to make our laws "interfering in our lives"? It's a government structure that we didn't even elect interfering in our lives.

    Corporations are not "Corporate America," they are Unelected Corporate Government. Describe them that way and people will come to resent their presence in our public policy-making.

    In closing, turning once again to Professor Lakoff, "Unfortunately, Luntz is still ahead of most progressives responding to him. Progressives need to learn how framing works. Bashing Luntz, bashing Fox News, bashing the right-wing pundits and leaders using their frames and arguing against their positions just keeps their frames in play. ... Progressives have magnificent stories of their own to tell. They need to be telling them nonstop. Let’s lure the right into using OUR frames in public discourse."

    Let's start doing that by never saying any of the above five words and phrases again.


    Framing the issues: UC Berkeley professor George Lakoff tells how conservatives use language to dominate politics ~ By Bonnie Azab Powell, NewsCenter
    Words That Don't Work ~ By George Lakoff (If you read nothing else from the below list, this article and the one immediately above are Must Reads.)
    The Debunking Handbook ~ By John Cook of the Global Change Institute, University of Queensland; and Stephan Lewandowsky of the School of Psychology, University of Western Australia
    The New American Lexicon ~ By Frank I. Luntz
    The Language Police: Gettin’ Jiggy with Frank Luntz ~ By by Nancy Snow at Common Dreams
    Frank Luntz Teaches GOP Governors How to Lie More Effectively ~ By Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs
    How Republicans are being taught to talk about Occupy Wall Street ~ By Chris Moody at The Ticket
    Frank Luntz: New American Lexicon 2006 ~ By Political Cortex - Brain Food For The Body Politic
    The Worst Political Failure Of The Obama Administration ~ By Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider (Trust me, it's relevant—and not what you think it is. Great article.)
    Raise Taxes on Rich to Reward True Job Creators ~ By Nick Hanauer at Bloomberg Businessweek
    Koch, Exxon Mobil Among Corporations Helping Write State Laws ~ By Alison Fitzgerald at Bloomberg
    How to qualify for Medicare

    *Thanks go to Crooks and Liars member jupiter2 for suggesting the word "work" instead of the word "labor," which I originally had. All input is welcome and considered.

    "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    It's Not About Who Writes The Check—Stop The Republican Lie About Who Pays For Contraceptives

    Jonah Goldberg wrote a piece about the current contraceptive debate in which he opined:
    "For Democrats, there's no room for anybody to be personally opposed to paying for someone else's birth control."
    This letter to the editor of sums it up thusly:
    "[T]he only prudent argument in the debate is: Who is responsible for paying for any woman’s choice of which form they use? Should it be borne by the user, or by those who have no say in the choice?" 
    And in his now-infamous rant, Rush Limbaugh called college student Sandra Fluke a slut and a prostitute because:
    "...the women in her law school program are having so much sex that they're going broke, so you and I should pay for their birth control ... What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.
    These statements opposing contraceptive coverage in insurance plans based on the allegation that "other people"—one's employer, one's university, religious institutions, etc.—will be paying for insured women's birth control is, to put it bluntly, crap.

    It's a straw man argument designed to distract from the fact that the mandate to include contraceptive coverage in all insurance plans isn't about who pays at all, but about once and for all ending discrimination in women's health care.

    But since "who pays" is the argument they're making, and all counter-arguments about discrimination fall on deaf ears, it becomes necessary to turn their straw man into the heaping pile of hay that it is, by exposing just who the "who" is in the "who pays" scenario ... and it isn't who they claim.


    First, we need to clarify that the notion that taxpayers are the ones paying for "other people's" birth control under the new Affordable Care Act is utterly incorrect. The Act that calls for taxpayers to pay for other people's contraceptives was enacted in 1970 by Republican President Richard M. Nixon, who established Title X under the Public Health Service Act, which provides coverage for uninsured, low-income women to receive taxpayer-funded gynecological exams and contraception.

    So taxpayers have been paying for "other people's" contraceptives for 42 years now under a law written by a Republican president that received overwhelming bi-partisan support in Congress. And not once in over four decades has anyone on the Republican side called for repealing Title X because they objected to paying for other people's birth control. Not once.

    No, the Limbaughs and their followers only became apoplectic over "forced payment for other people's birth control" when the Catholic church vocally opposed the mandate that insurance policies they negotiated on behalf of their employees include contraceptive coverage under the new health care law that Republicans have dubbed "Obamacare."

    So are churches, religious institutions and other "conscientious objectors" really being forced to "pay for other people's birth control" under the new mandate?


    University students who are covered by student insurance policies pay their own premiums for those policies. All their university does is negotiate a group discounted rate on the students' behalf. Here is how Sandra Fluke's school, Georgetown University, explains it:
    To improve the health and wellness of the community, Georgetown University (GU) requires most students registered as full-time in a degree program to have health insurance. Most full-time students are charged once during the academic year for the Premier Plan underwritten by United HealthCare Insurance Company (United) designed specifically for GU students. This requirement assures some relief of the burden of expensive health care and instills within the students the lifetime responsibility of obtaining quality health insurance.
    Georgetown University will not be paying for contraceptives because the new health care law mandates insurance policies include contraceptives in their coverage. The students who are required to take out those policies will be the "who" who pays for them—through their premiums, even if it's the university who writes the check to the insurance carrier.

    Employees who have insurance policies through their employers are also paying for their own insurance—100 percent. When a person takes a job with a company that offers health insurance to their employees, it is part of a total compensation package in consideration for the work the employee will be performing. Part of their compensation comes to them in the form of a paycheck, part of it may go to a retirement fund on their behalf, and part of it gets sent to an insurance company on the employee's behalf. Every penny of those payments are earned by the worker, making the "who" who pays for contraception in employee health care plans, the employee themselves, not their employer.

    It does not matter that the employer is writing the checks (or making the electronic transfers) to the insurance companies for the employee's monthly premium. That's just a courtesy that makes it easier for the insurer to hold down costs because they won't have to process all those individual payments.

    In every case where the debate is about an insured individual, it is always the individual "who pays."


    To take a page out of media strategist Frank Luntz's Handbooks on using language to win the debate:

    NEVER SAY: "Employer paid health insurance," ALWAYS SAY: "Employee earned health insurance."



    Title X: Three Decades of Accomplishment ~ Special Analysis by The Guttmacher Report on Public Policy
    Rush Limbaugh's Comments and Sandra Fluke's Testimony - Fact vs. Fiction ~ By Linda Lowen,
    Student Health Insurance: Premier Plan Enrollment and Waiver Information ~ at Georgetown University
    Birth control agitprop ~ By Jonah Goldberg at American Enterprise Institute
    Birth control debate is over who pays ~ From letters to the editor/Gloucester County Times

    "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank