The Twelve Insights to Understanding Political Psychology

I began this journey of political discovery, like so many people, just about three years ago, when Trump was the GOP candidate and Hillary was flying high in the polls.

I felt mostly certain Hillary would win, but something nagged at me. It should never have come to this. What was happening below the surface that our political scene was so out of whack?

I had always been a student of human nature, and no one brings out the best and worst in human nature like Donald Trump.

I went at this project with the determination that I would face what was happening without ornamentation or self-delusion. As a child of the 60s, I had always romanticized the activists hitting the streets and fighting the power. But as I grew, I came to understand it was a great deal more complicated than that. As a radical activist in the 80s, I knew what didn’t work. For all the blur of activity from left-wing groups, we barely made a dent in Reaganism. Now I wanted to find out what did work.

How do you really fight the radical right?

I’ve developed what I call the Twelve Insights as a framework for understanding the psychology that guides our political brains. Of course, these are generalizations and there are always exceptions. And there are many more than twelve core truths to be explored.

I hope to illustrate these further in future posts.

The Twelve Insights Into Political Psychology

1. Nothing is happening now that has not happened before.
(The causes of present crises can be discerned and fought by examining past patterns.)

2. People don’t do what they should, they do what they do.
(Find the constants in human behavior and plan accordingly.)

3. Human thought is imprinted at an early age.
(Incorporate your frames into existing modes of thought.)

4. The liberal/conservative balance is almost universal, indicating an evolutionary advantage.
(Work with evolutionary biology rather than trying to neutralize it.)

5. Human brains have evolved cognitive effects to protect us.
(These will often backfire and make us vulnerable to manipulation and distorted thinking instead.)

6. Most thought is subconscious.
(Many people don’t understand their own minds and can be manipulated by those who do.)

7. Humans are social creatures and can be heavily influenced by appeals to social consensus.
(But you have to understand what makes your approval important to them.)

8. Attacking beliefs straight on will often cause a backfire effect, hardening them as defense mechanisms take over.
(Moral persuasion is a more effective approach.)

9. Many people are risk-averse and change-averse because they fear loss.
(If you want people to give up the tried-and-true, have something ready to take its place.)

10. It’s often easier to motivate people using fear and anger than peace and love.
(Build in reinforcers for humanistic approaches.)

11. How you do anything is how you do everything.
(The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.)

12. You’re either working with human psychology or it’s working against you.

Some of these insights come from studying the work of George Lakoff, Drew Westen, and Anat Shenker-Osorio.

Posted in Anat Shenker-Osorio, democracy activism, Drew Westen, george lakoff, Moral Framing, politics, psy ops, Strategy, Ten Insights | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

American HYDRA: What the Left Are Really Up Against

If you feel like there’s a plot to take over the world by a cabal of supervillains from the Marvel universe, you’re not crazy. There are groups of radical right billionaires working feverishly even now to end American liberal democracy as we know it.

They’ve gone by many names over the centuries. Wall Street fat cats, economic royalists, robber barons. Today we call them archconservatives, the far right, disaster capitalists, and, simply, the GOP.

Call them American HYDRA. Either the Marvel Universe group of alien-influenced fascists or the many-headed creature from mythology will work. This relentless consortium of the world’s most powerful billionaires is intent on controlling all the sources of power in the known universe. Media. Education. The judiciary. The presidency. Congress. Businesses. Local politics. The internet. Where you shop. How much you earn. Who can vote.

Many are from old-money families and have inherited fortunes. Some are newly rich. All are intent on keeping their riches and accumulating even more.

To understand their plan, go back fifty years to the late 60s. Liberalism and radicalism appeared to be everywhere, invading the colleges, pop culture, government and some businesses. What was a traditional conservative to do?

Lewis Powell

Enter archconservative Lewis Powell, soon to be named to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon. In 1971, he wrote a manifesto, “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.”

Powell clarified the urgency of the liberal take-over of American institutions and came up with a detailed plan to take them back. Even though not everyone saw the memo, the plan he came up with launched a movement that thrives today.


The conservative infrastructure is everywhere:

  • In the election influencing of the oil-and-gas magnates Charles and David Koch.
  • In the right-wing propaganda machine of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and his star achievement Fox News.
  • In the mentoring program of The Leadership Institute that boasts of grooming over 190,000 young conservatives into soldiers to protect “free enterprise.”
  • In the public policy centers that produce massive amounts of scholarly and popular articles supporting the libertarian principles of Ayn Rand and radical free-marketeer Milton Friedman.
  • In the American Legislative Exchange Council, writing and promoting laws to further conservative interests.
  • And notably, in the “new American lexicon” of the pied piper of GOP propaganda, Frank Luntz. Barely a day goes by when most of us don’t speak his words and spread his ideas.

So when Democrats win more of the popular vote but don’t get to serve, that’s one of HYDRA’s ugly heads rearing.

When the GOP steal a Supreme Court seat and force in a conservative who will do their bidding, look to the machinations of HYDRA.

When unions disappear every day, there’s HYDRA.

When mass shootings happen every week and our GOP government doesn’t change a thing, HYDRA again.

When pharmaceutical companies raise their prices on life-saving medicine 1000% overnight and there’s no one to stop them, that’s HYDRA.

When public lands are sold to oil and gas even as climate crisis intensifies, HYDRA.

The list goes on. This revolution of billionaires is infiltrating every aspect of our lives. We’re in the third act, near the climax, of a movie that’s been playing in secret for half a century. No one yet knows the ending. Many of us are waking up very late in the story into our worst nightmare of needing to respond but having no idea what’s going on.

Let’s start with understanding what we’re really up against. It’s not mainstream media. It’s not the Democrats. It’s not each other. It’s not even all traditional conservatives. It’s American HYDRA, and they’re way ahead of us.

But this movie isn’t over. The ending isn’t set. Stay tuned for more insights into how HYDRA operates–and how we stop them.

Posted in conservative values, democracy activism, Democrats, free market, HYDRA, liberal values, Moral Framing, politics, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anatomy of a Framejob: “Everybody Hates Nancy”

Quick, try to remember when you realized you hate Nancy Pelosi. Did you hear everyone hated her before you even knew who she was?

By Lauren Victoria Burke [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nancy Pelosi

The invented lie that everybody hates Nancy is the handiwork of uber-propagandist
Frank Luntz, one of the central figures in the conservative dominance of all media. Even if you haven’t heard of Luntz, you probably know his words. Have you said or heard the phrase ‘tax relief’ recently? How about ‘climate change’? Calling the government ‘Washington?’ ‘Right to Work’ laws?

This clever double-speak is just a sampling of Luntz’s success at getting Americans to talk–and ultimately think–the way he wants us to. Maybe at one point, he really was just an intuitive pollster, but it’s become clear he doesn’t objectively take polls, he shapes them. In other words, when he wants your opinion, he’ll give it to you.

Take the constantly repeated refrain that Nancy Pelosi is one of the most hated politicians in the country. Luntz has been banging this drum since before Pelosi led the Democrats in the House. According to former intern Jonathan Riehl, Luntz picked Pelosi out of thin air decades ago because he thought she was a good example of a particular “California liberalism” that he wanted to use to intensify the culture wars.

How did he do it? Simple, if you’re a dedicated conservative wordsmith who figures out how to market an ideology.

It probably went something like this: “83% of your neighbors report that Nancy Pelosi is their most hated politician. How much do you agree or disagree with this statement?”

Or “How much does the California liberalism of latte-sipping, Volvo-driving, tax-hiking Nancy Pelosi bother you?”

Luntz would be using several different kinds of mental strategies here to lead people to his conclusion. One is a highly effective marketing technique called social proof or social influence. If “eighty-three percent of your neighbors” hate this woman, shouldn’t you too?

The other is a method called framing. Luntz is expert at putting ideas into the larger narrative of a frame, a moral concept that evokes all kinds of subconscious associations in the listener. As Riehl explains:

“What made the Pelosi scapegoating work was more than just cartoonish characterizations and their repetition–the importance of “framing.” … Pelosi fits into a much broader conservative narrative about the nation’s cultural divide — about elites and common folk, the cultured class and the heartland, one type of professional woman and another.”

In other words, Luntz invented the “We Hate Nancy” club and tricked much of America into thinking they were already members.There are other reasons for his success. One is that like any good marketer, he knows how to play on the subconscious. Here’s a video from 2006 where Luntz makes fun of Pelosi’s looks: “You get one shot at a facelift.”

Although he might seem like just another Fox News misogynist dillhole, he’s actually tapping into deeply embedded feelings most of us have about women and aging and power. Couple this with distrust of Pelosi and the Democratic establishment from the far left, and you have much of America playing along with a made-up fantasy of a national pariah.

Finally, there’s the common response of many liberals to the constant assaults from the right: run away. There was almost no objection or defense of Pelosi from the left. This complete lack of a strategic response has remained the norm ever since.

Now Luntz is spreading his propaganda all over the media that swing voters hate Nancy even more than ever thought possible. And Democratic candidates are dying on this hill over and over as they succumb to ‘We Hate Nancy’ fever. Conor Lamb recently won election in Pennsylvania partly by knuckling under to their disinformation campaign and declaring he hates Nancy too and won’t support her when he gets to the House. One of the most powerful politicians in the country is being turned on by her own party. Tidy little framejob, huh?

So how do we stop acting like reactivists and get out of this vicious frame?

First, stop repeating it. Just stop. Propaganda works by strengthening neurons in the brain. The more repetition, the stronger the falsehoods get. Never say any right-wing messaging without putting your own frame on it first.

Make a truth sandwich.

1. Say the truth that the lie is meant to cover.
Many Americans feel Nancy Pelosi has been a strong, clever leader for her party for decades.
2. Shine a light.
GOP spin doctor invented the lie that she’s wildly unpopular in order to manipulate public perception. But polls by objective parties don’t support this falsehood.
3. Flip the script to a true narrative.
Nancy Pelosi is a fighter for liberal values. As one of the most powerful women in the nation, she has held her own against the relentless GOP attack machine.

Interrupting, correcting and reframing the right-wing narrative that rules the airwaves is a crucial step in reasserting progressive values in the national conversation. Spread the news far and wide that GOP polling can’t be trusted. And stop hating on Nancy.


Pelosi and Luntz: Building a Scapegoat

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Decoding the Trump Master Narrative

It’s been another week of bizarre, controversial tweets. Another week of Trump saying something outrageous and almost starting a war somewhere, possibly here in America. Another week of the press, pundits, activists, talk show hosts, and religious leaders expressing this:

“He’s totally out of his mind.”
“He’s really done it this time–he’s gone too far.”
“When will he get impeached?”
“We’ve got to get him out of there before he starts a nuclear war and destroys us all.”
“He’s a madman, a maniac, a lunatic, unhinged…”

Sound familiar? And yet, we’ve been saying these same things since before the election last year.
Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to being president, he doesn’t have a clue. But that’s assuming he’s even trying to be a good president. All he wants to do is not only win, but dominate in every exchange, every contest, every confrontation. And when he’s on this battlefield, he knows exactly what he’s doing.

Trump has succeeded at two things in his life:
1. Selling his own brand.
2. The Apprentice.

Remember the video of Trump as he watched the vote totals and realized he’d won? That is not the face of a happy man. That’s a resting ‘oh fuck’ face. I don’t think Trump really even meant to win. But when thrown into a whole new world, he did what a lot of us would do: he fell back on what he knew.

He strengthened his branding as the alpha male business magnate who could get the job done. He began producing a new reality show, POTUS!, complete with scripted drama and staged events that made him look successful (remember the fake clapping at the CIA and the fake celebration in the rose garden?). Plus, an enemy or two to vanquish every week. He refined his technique of reading what his biggest fans wanted from him and then giving the appearance of delivering.

Aside from an occasional incomprehensible rant or bizarre move that seems to hurt his position, Trump mostly sticks to this script. He even warned us how he operates in The Art of the Deal. See if any of this sounds familiar.

Trump’s Elements of the Deal
1. Aim high, and keep pushing and pushing until you get what you’re after.
Trump translater: Shoot for the moon and throw a tantrum until you get it.
2. Keep a lot of balls in the air and give yourself options.
Trump translater: Always have several fronts going at once so you can use them as distractions when you get stuck.
3. Know your market: do your own surveys and crunch your own numbers.
Trump translater: Never leave a paper trail.
4. Use your leverage. Leverage is having something the other guy wants. Never seem desperate to make a deal.
Trump translater: Toy with people as a way of maintaining control at all times.
5. Enhance your location.
Trump translater: Make your product seem better than it is using hyperbole, marketing and psychology. In other words, lie if need be.
6. Get the word out.
“One thing I’ve learned about the press is that they’re always hungry for a good story… if you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you.”
7. Here’s where he admits he loves this routine.
“Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game.”

To really understand the Trump narrative and how his seemingly random acts and comments tie together, you have to see how it plays on right wing media. Much of what Trump does is aimed at his remaining staunch supporters. He promised them he’d build a wall. Lock Hillary up. Save Christianity. Keep fighting the culture war. Keep out the Muslims. Clean up Washington. Get stuff done. Make America white again.

Hence the Muslim travel ban and the atrocity propaganda on right wing media showing all the bad things immigrants have done. Rolling back gains for transgendered people. Making Jerusalem the embassy site. Attacking the LatinX mayor of San Juan when she asked for help for her people. Pretending to sign a bill for the cameras. Refusing to denounce neo-nazis and the Klan. Returning to blaming Hillary for everything. The seven words you can’t say at the CDC.

He said the press was the enemy, that his story was the only one that was true.

It all reinforces the story Trump told his supporters in those big, scary rallies: I understand your pain. I’m the big boss who can take back your country. I’ll protect you from the forces of liberalism and progress, those brown people who want to replace you. I’ll tell you the truth. I’ll punish the sinners. I’m the Man.

How you do anything is how you do everything, and Trump has been running this program most of his life. Why would he change? He’s POTUS. It’s hard to argue that it’s worked for him so far.

So even though it might seem impossible, try not to be so outraged by Trump’s hateful rhetoric that you miss its strategic value. We’ve underestimated Trump every step of the way. It’s time to accept that in the media wars, Trump is the master framer.

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“Our Guys Aren’t as Rapey as Their Guys” -Irrational Thinking In The Era of Accusation

Identify the accused male subject of the following sentiments:

  • Accused is not the same thing as guilty.
  • I don’t like what he did but we need him in the Senate to represent our values.
  • His accusers are being paid.
  • It’s a set-up.
  • I’m a victim and what happened to her wasn’t so bad.
  • I blame her.
  • Why come forward now, when it was so long ago?

If you guessed Al Franken, you’d be right. If you guessed Roy Moore, you’d also be right. It’s impossible to tell from these statements alone who is being defended from what.

Though we see ourselves as being very different from the other group–progressives from conservatives and vice versa–our psychology is actually pretty much the same. The same irrational thought processes are kicking in on all sides as we hunker down in our bunkers with those we share voting habits with.

What’s happening in the rationalizations above is that people are searching their brains for justifications to explain why they’re still supporting a person accused of behavior they would normally find abhorrent.

[Full disclosure: I find the accusations against Roy Moore to be much worse than the accusations against Al Franken. Specifically because of the 14-year-old girl. We all have our lines in the sand and that’s one of mine. The point is not to go case by case and grope by grope to find who’s the worst sexual violator. The point is to examine the underlying psychology behind why we rally behind our guys regardless.]

Cognitive distortions
Here are some of the distortions that could lead an objective listener (someone from another planet, maybe) to conclude your thought patterns are making the kind of sense that’s not.

On losing Al in the Senate:
The Democrats have lost the only one of them who really took on Trump. This is a disaster for the Democrats. Now we’ll lose in 2018 for sure.

1. The Democrats have lost the only one of them who really took on Trump.
This is filtering, as in eliminating information that doesn’t support the severity of your feelings. There are many Democrats who have spoken out against and stood up to Trump.
2. This is a disaster for the Democrats.
Catastrophizing: This is the worst thing that could possibly have happened. This is also a conclusion meant to support how sad or angry you feel.
3. Now we’ll lose in 2018 for sure.
Fortune telling or future casting; there’s no way to actually know what will happen in the future.

What Roy Moore did was 38 years ago. I believe, if he did it, he has been forgiven by God so I should forgive him too. This man has more integrity than anyone else in Congress right now.

1. What Roy Moore did was 38 years ago.
Filtering and minimizing–you’re ignoring the other 8 allegations against him which extended into the 1990s.
2. I believe, if he did it, he has been forgiven by God so I should forgive him too.
Appeal to authority, in this case, a higher authority.
3. This man has more integrity than anyone else in Congress right now.
Magnification: exaggerating for effect–there are over 500 members of Congress and it would take some doing to analyze each one of them and compare their integrity to Moore’s.

Most of these cases of rationalization involve one common distortion: emotional reasoning. This is where we believe our emotions are the same as facts. We feel something strongly and therefore we distort facts to fit the truth of our feelings. Of course, this makes sensible discourse impossible–my feelings are more true than your feelings!

There are some things we can do to make this better. The first is to be honest with ourselves. Go back and check the facts and make sure you’re not distorting them in your mind in order to justify the fever pitch of your emotions.

The second strategy is to try and identify what you’re actually feeling. When you’re raging at the person on your Facebook feed who generally shares your values, stop and consider. Why is what this person saying making me so angry? You might hear a little voice saying, “Because I just can’t take any more losses.”
Anger is often covering for feelings of sadness and fear. It feels stronger to be filled with righteous fury than to accept vulnerable feelings of grief and despair.

Thirdly, go back to your core values and see if those are being represented in what you’re saying.  Ask yourself if the behavior you’re defending would upset you if you found out the other group was doing it.

At the end of it all, we’re all only human. And you’re either working with human psychology, or it’s working against you.

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March on Colorado Presents Women’s Summit in Denver Oct. 28

I’m honored to have been asked by the Women’s Summit to give a presentation on progressive messaging. Please join me and hundreds of others connected to the Women’s March for a day of activism and connection.

WHAT: Women’s Summit Event info and tickets
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 28 – 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Mile Hi Church
9077 W. Alameda Avenue
Lakewood, CO, 80226
TICKETS: Tickets are on sale for $25 at

March on Colorado, the network that led more than 150,000 local citizens in a march through downtown Denver on January 21 for the advancement of human rights for women and other marginalized communities, will present the inaugural Women’s Summit at Mile Hi Church.

The Summit, a sister event to The Women’s Convention in Detroit presented by the Women’s March, will bring women and men of all races, ethnicities, ages, abilities, sexual identities, religions, and backgrounds together in Denver for inspiring forums and intersectional movement building to continue the preparation going into the 2018 midterm elections.

The Women’s Summit will unite first-time activists and movement leaders, current and rising political stars, and women from throughout the Rocky Mountain region to gain concrete insight, instruction, and inspiration on activism and organizing as a grassroots force for change. Summit sessions and speakers will include:

Colorado Democratic Party State Chair Morgan Carroll and State Senator and Minority Leader Lucia Guzman: “Translating Activism into Political Action”
Writer and Activist Chris Devlin: “Taking Charge of the Narrative: Messaging for Progressives”
Communications Experts Hilary Blair of ARTiculate: Real and Clear: “Engaging Your Powerful Voice”
President of Colorado Black Women for Political Action Halisi Vinson:
“Beyond Diversity and Inclusion: Whose liberation is it?”
Licensed psychotherapist and certified life coach Nancy Harris, LCSW: “Self-Care Strategies for Managing Tough Times”

About March On Colorado
On January 21, 2017, the Women’s March on Denver harnessed the power of nearly 150,000 voices and we do not intend slow down or to be silenced. We will continue to speak out through March On to support social justice, human rights and equality through four pillars of action – educate, empower, connect and engage – to demonstrate that we will be vigilant in protecting these rights for our community moving forward. We are all relevant, we are all valued, and we are more powerful together. For more information, visit March On Colorado.

Media Contact:
Lisa Cutter
(303) 525-3602

Posted in democracy activism, Moral Framing, resistance, Strategy, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Punching Nazis and the Constitution: It’s Complicated

So you’re thinking about punching a nazi and you’re pretty sure it’s okay because they’re inciting you to violence with their nazi ways and you’re protected under the Constitution.
Quick question: Who gets to decide what is and what is not constitutionally protected speech?
There are only nine people in the world who get to say…Image result for the constitution image public domain

Did you guess the Supreme Court?
Ding ding ding! Yep, in fact, that’s all they do all day is sit around interpreting the Constitution. And, as I understand it, they take a much more careful view of what constitutes incitement to violence.

Hate speech is constitutionally protected in a city park or public space. Do it at work and you might be in big trouble, though.

Speaking vaguely about wiping out all the Albanians because they’re evil and they took your country is constitutionally protected. Saying ‘I hate Albanians and there are some that live at 420 Mockingbird Lane who get home in about an hour–I’ve got a gun,’ could be considered incitement to violence because of its specificity. You could be charged with a crime even if the violence doesn’t happen.

Wearing the insignia or carrying the flag of hideous historical murderers is not specific enough, or direct enough. And just because what they’re saying about Jews and black people really pisses you off doesn’t count as incitement from a legal perspective.

So, instead of punching a nazi, don’t punch one and take the money you’d spend on bail to buy the book ‘Deliberate Intent’ by Rod Smolla. He’s a first amendment scholar who talks about these very issues, so much so that you’ll be full of accurate information about the realities of constitutionally protected speech.

Then take the rest of the bail money and donate it to The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League and The Color of Change. Apply the money where it might actually do some good for the people you’re purporting to defend.

Whatever you do, don’t punch a nazi with a weapon in your hands and injure them so much you commit a felony. If you’re serving time or on probation for a felony, you won’t get to vote. In some states, you’ll never get to vote again. And guess which population is the most likely to get disenfranchised by these unjust voter suppression tactics? Black Americans. Voting out nazis and nazi enablers is the best possible way to protect those vulnerable populations you’re so worried about. Definitely stay enfranchised long enough to vote out of power those GOP politicians who pass laws to keep people convicted of a felony from voting.

In short, how about you don’t punch a nazi and instead do something about hate and injustice that might have longer-lasting results.

Posted in Constitution, democracy activism, First Amendment rights, Freedom of Speech, hate speech, politics, resistance, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Democrats Must Become the Pro-Choice Party Again–Here’s How

In the midst of an anti-climactic roll-out of a wan new ‘economic’ message, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Ben Ray Lujan dropped a bombshell on supporters. He announced the Democratic Party was spreading out the welcome mat to anti-choice candidates, betraying its committment to a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. This is not the message progressives were waiting for. Here’s what they should say instead.

We the Democratic Party of America would like to apologize for this flagrant display of ethically-challenged stupidity. We suddenly seem to vaguely recall there was a march back in January, the biggest in history, that represented millions of American women and men who are looking for strong moral leadership on progressive values. Our bone-headed attempt to court the anti-choice minority at the expense of our core supporters was obviously a mistake and we hereby rescind all talk of financial backing for those who don’t honor a woman’s rights over her own body.

Clearly, we still don’t understand why we keep losing elections and think the answer is for us to move to the center or to the right. But we’ve considered how the GOP keeps winning elections even though they’re horrible at governing and we realize it has something to do with always playing to their base and sticking to their core values.

Given the rampant misogyny of the Republican Party, it also occurred to us that slapping half of the human race in the face might not be our best tack. We know that we have to court the young generation in order to secure lifelong loyalties, and we know that most millennials have embraced the Obama-era freedoms and equality they grew up with. Young women are already having a hard enough time generating enthusiasm for our aging, unsexy party. We would never want to alienate them and send them running to start their own party, to which we won’t be invited. If the resistance has taught us anything, it’s that we need them more than they need us.

[Bernie Sanders steps up. “Uh, me too. What they said. When I said we just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue, I wasn’t thinking how this ‘one issue’ was one of the left’s core values, as important as economic equality. But now I realize how old and male and privileged this makes me sound, and I take it back.”]

So while we’re out touting our new, wan ‘economic’ message, we’ll bear in mind that you can’t separate a woman’s right to reproductive freedom from her economic opportunities, or her children’s. And we want to make it clear we would never say to progressive women, as had been said to them many times in the past, “Support us now on the important work we’re doing courting white men, and we’ll get to your stuff later–what was your issue-thingy again? And, oh yeah, get me some coffee while you type up this memo, would you?”

Here’s how we’ll address this issue instead. If you want fewer abortions, you should vote Democrat. Abortions go way down when Democrats are in charge because we ensure access to birth control and pregnancy prevention information. We also make it easier for women to continue with unplanned pregnancies because of access to health care, education and the social safety net.

Most of all, we want to reassure our despairing supporters that we understand why they’re upset. It’s because we keep acting like we have no idea what we’re doing, as though we’re a bunch of quivering, spineless jellyfish stumbling over each other in the dark. We’d like to course-correct and step into the role of moral leadership that the left so desperately craves right now. We promise not to do anything this short-sighted, anti-woman, and morally cowardly again.

Yours in progressive values,
The Democrats #TheBestDeal

(Oh, and we also realize trumpeting a slogan that isn’t even a superlative is bad messaging so now it’s #TheBestDeal, or something even better if you can think of it. We’re completely unable to read a book on moral messaging. Send help.)

Mother Jones: People are really mad at the Democrats

Of Course Abortion Should Be a Litmus Test for Democrats

Posted in Democrats, liberal values, Moral Framing, reproductive rights, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Reluctant Patriot, or How I Learned to Love the Flag

In a February article in The Atlantic, conservative David Frum gave some advice to the Resistance, an example of the strange alliances that have sprung up since Trump. Frum is a Never Trump-er and he wanted to let left-wing activists in on his observations from years of seeing our protests from the other side.

Photo credit Kristen L. Will

Some of his advice was easily dismissed, too much of a departure from progressive core values. But one suggestion struck me as completely sensible–start carrying flags. Frum writes:

“Remember Trump’s tweet about stripping citizenship from flag burners? It’s beyond audacious that a candidate who publicly requested help from Russian espionage services against his opponent would claim the flag as his own. But Trump is trying. Don’t let him get away with it. Carry the flag… Trump’s presidency is itself one long flag-burning, an attack on the principles and institutions of the American republic. That republic’s symbols are your symbols. You should cherish them and brandish them.”

As much as this perspective makes sense, it is also profoundly challenging. I’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with traditional symbols of patriotism. Starting in junior high school, I refused to stand for the flag at assemblies even though my classmates gave me a hard time. The way I saw it then, I was forced to go to school, forced to listen to teachers, forced to give certain answers on tests about America and democracy. Yet I was expected to praise the symbol of the very government that was oppressing me (by making me go to school, sort of the ideology of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall.) I was also completely outraged by America’s abuses of Native Americans, black people, women, gays and radical activists.

I grew up during the Vietnam War. No American war since I’ve been alive has been an unqualified ‘good war’ as WWII was for that generation. U.S. military actions have been fraught with controversy and moral ambiguity, a sense that America was only involved for greed and power, not for defending the values of the Constitution.

Rather than symbolizing the love of liberty, flags were like a warning sign that the people carrying them were not my people. Flags meant Republicanism, jingoism, being pro-war and anti-gay and anti-choice, believing in a police state, being racist. Flag wavers were also bible-thumpers who didn’t believe in the separation of church and state.

However, concepts once familiar and long-held have been put through a blender since Trump. Like many Americans, I’ve had to challenge my own biases and re-examine my comfort zone. For me, patriotism began to take on a whole new meaning when Trump attacked the Gold Star Khan family, whose son had died for America. Trump was running to be Commander in Chief, surely the most profound and important duty of the president, and here he was trying to hurt these loyal Americans as much as he could. I thought his chances to win were over then, because people who vote Republican are usually the ones who are for law and order and to always support the military no matter what.

But the flag-waving “patriots” were able to overlook this supremely vicious behavior by candidate Trump and they made him president and Commander in Chief anyway. Though many of them might feel his highlighting of a perished soldier at his State of the Union speech absolved him of this sin, I don’t. That was a white Christian American. Trump has never apologized to the Khan family, nor acknowledged their Muslim son’s sacrifice for America’s values.

I now feel the right-wing is not the holder of patriotic values anymore. If left to Trump and his supporters, the rights and liberties symbolized by the Stars and Stripes could be obliterated–are being obliterated already. It’s the democracy activists and the progressive blue voters who are holding down traditional American values, like how America is a nation of immigrants and we have equal rights under the law. The Republican party is working furiously to curtail voting rights and take over democratic processes and principles crucial to a functioning democracy. It’s up to the left to assume the mantel of defending traditional American values.

Like a lot of formerly disenfranchised lefties, I didn’t come to patriotism naturally or easily. But this reluctant patriot will now join the folks waving flags and not feel like an outsider. It’s not only our right but our duty to make the symbol of America match the reality of America.

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