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Paperback Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate Book

ISBN: 1931498717

ISBN13: 9781931498715

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

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Book Overview

'Don't Think of an Elephant' offers analysis of the key issues in the 2004 U.S. election and beyond, discussing how progressives need to better examine issues in order to counter conservative arguments.

Customer Reviews

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Essential for Progressive Patriots

As part of the Democratic Action Network here in North Carolina, this book was recommended to us. Obviously, with John Edwards on the national ticket and not carrying the state, we are trying to focus on how to make change. Progressives understand how Republican tax cuts favor the rich and pull the rug out from under working people, but in the face of "tax relief" speech find ourselves desperately needing a new language to describe "efficient government" that maximizes our "tax investment." Progressives are continually startled when people do not vote for what is clearly in their own self-interest. Lakoff addresses these issues in a focused and understandable manner. Clearly, people who drive around with "W" on their gunracks have a perspective to which progressives must learn to speak. Last week in western North Carolina, a preacher threw out 9 members of the congregation because they had the audacity to vote for John Kerry. One Democratic congressional candidate was asked how she could be a Christian and a Democrat. Clearly, we are involved in an ideological war, the dimensions of which progressives have greatly underestimated. I am particularly struck by Lakoff's view about how these two groups view God. From his perspective, conservatives view a God who is wrathful and requires punishment, a very "old testament" view. Progressive Christians view a beneficent God who loves His children. But while conservative Christians are well organized, progressive Christians are only loosely aligned. Much work needs to be done because people will vote against their own self-interest if they believe it to be God's will. The Republican rich have manipulated these issues, ignoring that Jesus' gospel is that we should take care of the sick. Lakoff's argument on idea framing is helpful, but is new thinking for progressives used to thinking issue by issue. I know I am going to need more than just this little book to really get the hang of this, but it is an interesting starting point. For those of us puzzled by the direction of our country, befuddled by public unconcern of blatant lies and misrepresentations by the president with the war in Iraq, we need to reshape our thinking. We need to redefine a "Clean Water Act" that encourages pollution as a "Dirty Rivers Act" or find conceptual ways to battle these ideas before Republicans succeed in polluting the planet. Lakoff's book is a key to this; and is therefore essential reading for progressive patriots.

"Most important book in a decade"

I loaned one of my copies of *Don't Think of an Elephant* to a non-academic, progressive friend, and her email two days later described the book in the words I'm using as a title. Lakoff's work with metaphor and language is some of the most important and valuable research going on in the area of cognitive science, but his other books are weighty academic tomes not for the faint of heart or short of attention span. How refreshing, that this little book serves as a great introduction to Lakoff's work and, most important, as an effective guidebook to entering the political debate as the underdog progressive. The book is practical and inspiring. What better combination could one ask for? It can be read in one sitting. It will change the way you present your own politics and help you comprehend the apparent incoherence of conservative thinking. Lakoff's method is simple. He asks, "How can good, intelligent people think these two apparently contradictory things?" For example: Opposition to birth control and to programs that help unwed mothers. The answers he finds are fundamental, persuasive, and they do not dismiss conservative thinking, as so many progressives do, by demonizing it. Get this book if you are feeling baffled and helpless going into this election. It will give you strength.

The most important political book on the market today

In Thomas Frank's bestselling "What's the Matter with Kansas?" the author asks why so many Americans vote against their own economic interests. Well, George Lakoff of the Rockridge Institute, a prominent progressive think tank, provides the answers. According to Lakoff, most Americans vote their identity and values not their economic self interest. Conservatives, despite being a minority, are dominating because they understand this. They are winning by putting their values front and center, by controlling the national dialogue by "framing" issues (i.e. calling the estate tax "the death tax,"), through institution building, and by developing overarching strategic initiatives rather than advocating single issues and isolated programs. Lakoff provides the groundwork for progressives to begin to counter conservatives. Conservatives call for "strong defense," progressives call for a "stronger America;" conservatives say "free market," progressives say "broad prosperity;" conservatives argue for "smaller government," progressives want "effective government;" etc. The book provides the tools for progressives to move the debate -- by addressing people's core American values -- from the divisive arguing that reinforces conservatives' positions to a civil discourse that reinforces progressives' positions. A must read!

Strict Father Vs. Nurturing Parents...Powerful Metaphors

I sure wish I had the foresight to take George Lakoff's class when I was going to Berkeley, but at least I can revel in this illuminating book about the influence exerted by metaphors that resonate with the American public. A professor of linguistics, Lakoff is a senior fellow of the Rockridge Institute, the renowned liberal think tank that concentrates in part on helping Democratic candidates and politicians with re-framing political metaphors. He certainly has the credentials to produce this treatise on the power of words and the resulting images that stay within the mind regardless of what other objective information may be conveyed that run counter to these images. The discussion seems so basic, but Lakoff's treatment is fascinating. In this penetrating book, he focuses on the impermeable connection people make between family and nation and how images are divided along party lines. Republicans follow the strict father model, which assumes that the world is a dangerous place and always will continue to be because there is evil out there in the world. The world is also difficult because it is competitive. There will always be winners and losers. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. What is needed in this kind of world is a strong, strict father who can protect the family in a dangerous world, no matter the cost. Democrats, on the other hand, see both parents are equally responsible for raising the children. The assumption is that children are born good and can be made better. The world can be made a better place, and our job is to work on that. The parents' job is to nurture their children and to raise their children to be nurturers of others. According to Lakoff, empathy and responsibility are paramount in political liberalism. From this opposing logic, one can, for example, understand the power of Governor Schwarzenegger's "girly men" comment, which one moment was considered appallingly sexist and subsequently turned into a rallying cry at the Republican National Convention. Lakoff is especially articulate in showing how the Republicans have leveraged the fear of homeland terrorism to reinforce the strict father model and used it as a groundswell to gain support among the undecideds. This is an essential guide for not only progressives but also any American who wants to segregate facts from messages and so-called values from actual programs. More importantly, this book explains why people vote their values and identities, often against their best interests. My only fear is that the book has come out a bit late to make a genuine impact on the November election. This is the perfect complement to John Sperling's "The Great Divide: Retro Vs. Metro America", which explores the same partisan dilemma but in terms of marketing principles, the Republicans' superiority in unifying the retro states and the Democrats' failure to do the same with the metro states. I recommend reading both to get the full picture of how the Democratic stra
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