Author Archives: Antonia

Talking Points: Legitimate Elections


  • Without democracy, there is no freedom.
  • For an election to be legitimate, it must reflect the will of the people.
  • Election laws should not suppress more legitimate votes than they prevent illegitimate votes.
  • Everyone who has the right to vote must be able to exercise that right by casting their vote.
  • Every vote must be counted, no matter how long it takes.
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How to Fight the Fraud Frame and Re-legitimize our Elections

Framing Memo #1: Legitimate Elections

Go to Talking Points

The rights of voters are being attacked on every front. Trump and friends’ favorite tactic is pre-emptive projection: they accuse us of what they are about to do, so when we accuse them, it sounds like yet another “he said/she said” partisan fight.

Republicans: “They are trying to steal the election through mass voter fraud. We are doing everything we can to fight voter fraud.”

Democrats: “They are trying to steal the election through mass voter suppression. We are doing everything we can to fight voter suppression.”

Voters: “Screw you guys! I’m going home.”

Purveyors of disinformation say that if you can’t win on the merits, flood the zone. Chaos is the autocrat’s best friend. With literally hundreds of voter suppression cases working their way through the courts, how do we break through the crazy?

We win the debate by putting it all in a larger context: by giving the public a set of criteria they can use to judge right and wrong for themselves, PHILOSOPHICAL PRINCIPLES that are morally unassailable and that can be applied consistently across this entire chaotic collection of offenses. Doing this will also give us the consistent and clear message that so often eludes us.

Our Principles:

  • We believe in democracy.
  • All authority comes from the consent of the governed.
  • To be legitimate, elections have to express the will of the people.
  • The right to vote is what makes us free.
  • Everyone who has the right to vote must be able to exercise that right by casting their vote.
  • Every vote must be counted, no matter how long it takes.

That is the standard by which everyone should judge right and wrong when it comes to our elections. Every individual case can be tied back to this theme.

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Reframe the Debate Workshop: How to sell the truth in the age of disinformation (Coming to Zoom soon!)

I am in the process of converting this training to an online webinar format.
If you would like to be notified when the training becomes available,
please leave me a note here or subscribe to the newsletter!

About the Workshop:

Professional development workshop for political communications professionals and other progressive stakeholders

This transformative workshop won’t tell you what to say, it will change how you think. You will get the tools you need to figure out for yourself what to say, every day, to wrestle control of the public debate back from your opposition.

The conservative movement has taken over the public debate. They effectively communicate a common set of values and beliefs and they are willing to use any psychological tactic that works to spread disinformation, sow fear and divide people.

Progressives need to understand how they do it so we can fight back. We need to learn those tactics and use them to promote the truth, inspire hope and bring people back together.

Veteran political consultant Antonia Scatton spent years gathering the help we need from experts across disciplines from cognitive science, linguistics and behavioral psychology to marketing and advertising, political history and moral philosophy.

Antonia worked for more than a year with George Lakoff, progressive messaging guru, renowned cognitive linguistics expert, and best-selling author of Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.

Antonia has distilled the most critical insights into this intense and engaging workshop. It will involve experiments and group discussion throughout, as opposed to just Q&A at the end. Each session runs about 1.5 hours. The workshop can be done in one full day or on three separate days.

Webinars 1 and 2: Language and the Brain

Crash course on how language influences thinking, emotional reactions and decision making. Includes framing, agenda setting, and manipulation of “tribal” instincts and subconscious emotions via neurochemicals and hormones. How to motivate behavioral change to influence both short-term decision making and long-term political and moral worldviews and identities.

Webinars 3 and 4: Verbalizing our Belief System

How to articulate what we believe. Everyone knows conservatives are for free markets, gun rights and personal responsibility, and against taxes, abortion and using government to solve social problems. We look at the values that form the common foundation of our policies and draw from them a set of broader themes like those just listed for conservatives.

Webinars 5 and 6: Practical Application: Analyze and Reframe

Combine and apply the content from sessions one and two. Antonia will guide participants through a step-by-step method for developing a strategy to change the debate. Participants will then use the method to develop reframing strategies for their own issues.

Anatomy of a Message


How do you develop a core message strategy? You need to figure out the one message you want to sink in over the course of the entire campaign. What is the relationship between that core message and the content you produce? Everything your campaign communicates and everything your supporters say has to illustrate and reinforce that one core message. 

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What Star Trek can teach us about message management.

The entertainment industry has a special problem. Writers and director, and even sometimes actors, change from movie to movie or episode to episode, but the franchise has to meticulously maintain its unique style and characters. Science fiction shows have an even bigger burden. They have to maintain an entire fictional universe, and their notoriously demanding fans will catch them in even the tiniest slip up.

The Star Trek franchise has been around since 1966, and has managed to keep its fictional world consistent through 6 TV series’ and 12 movies. How? Through the Star Trek Bible. Every TV show has one, but Star Trek’s is probably the most famous and extensive of them all. Continue reading

It’s not about policy positions. Emotion moves swing voters.

We say “Cap and Trade”. They say “Job Killing Energy Tax”.
We say “Public Option”. They say “Death Panels”.

They use emotions to connect with people and create negative feelings toward us. We use logic to try to convince people that we’re right. Obama gave people hope in 2008, but we failed miserably by trying to sell the Affordable Care Act as a list of poll tested policies instead of as a moral imperative. Continue reading

Learning from Lakoff

Quintessential George Lakoff at the Berkeley coffee shop. (BAP photos)

I had the privilege of working with the brilliant and delightful Professor George Lakoff at University of California, Berkeley. I went to study framing. I learned far more than I ever imagined about how our minds actually work.

These discoveries in cognitive science elevate Lakoff’s work on political framing from “good advice” to “critical truths we ignore at our own peril”. We have to understand the foundation of our competing moral systems if we are to succeed in reaching people and overturning the Right’s dominance over our public debate. Continue reading