Why we have to reframe the debate
Our government has been failing, not because government cannot succeed, but because some people don’t want it to. Because those people dominate the debate, we have lost our ability to envision government succeeding and to articulate why that truly matters. That same lack of faith in our institutions and in each other now threatens the stability of our entire society.
For fifty years, the anti-government movement has manipulated our thinking by controlling the public debate, framing us as individuals competing in a market and driven by self-interest, instead of 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, sometimes we 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 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.
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 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 the 2020 elections, 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 shared progress.
This is not just my job. It is all of ours. 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.