Why we must learn how to reframe the debate
What we are seeing is the failure of government, not because government cannot succeed, but because as a society, we have been robbed of our ability to envision government succeeding.
For fifty years, the anti-government movement has manipulated our thinking by controlling the public debate, framing us as individuals in a competitive market and driven by self-interest, as opposed to what we are: members of a society capable of cooperating for the good of us all.
Representatives of this powerful anti-government movement have taken over government for the purpose of weakening it, bankrupting it, tearing it down, so that a privileged few people can pursue unfettered greed without the inconvenience of respecting even the minimum of basic human decency.
Now, we all understand that we need government that works. We know that the private sector not only cannot solve every problem, it cannot always solve its own problems. We know that, as a society, we sometimes have to work together and take responsibility for each other, and that government is the tool we use to do that.
We have to restore faith in our political process and our government institutions and earn the trust of generations that never had any faith in institutions to begin with.
We can only do this by recognizing the reality of what those institutions have been and what they are now, articulating what they should be, and then holding them responsible for taking steps toward becoming what they should be.
We have to develop the tools to reframe the entire public debate, to change all the narratives from ones based on the moral glorification of self-interest to ones based on our common humanity.
We know what we feel to be right and wrong. We need to become conscious of the core values that give consistency and meaning to our beliefs, and we need to express to people why those values matter.
People want to know what we stand for. Not the positions, but the principles by which we act out our values, by which we make decisions and judge right from wrong every day. People want to know what we believe in. We need to articulate our philosophy of society and governance and how it contrasts with conservative beliefs.
In order to change this debate, we also need to understand the mechanics of how the public debate is influenced: how frames set agendas and determine how people think; how narratives are used to establish frames and set goals; how frames determine from whose perspective we see a situation, who plays what role, how we expect people to behave, and how we judge right and wrong. We have to understand the long game conservatives are playing and start playing this long game ourselves.
Regardless of the results of this election, we have a serious problem. We have to overthrow the dominating ethos of greed and growing xenophobia in our society and champion a society based on mutual care and shared progress.
This is not just my job. It is yours. It is my personal mission and deepest hope to be able to provide you the tools you need, because it’s going to take all of us to take back the public debate.