Values Messaging

Taking Charge of the Narrative: Values Messaging for Progressives

What We’re Up Against: HYDRA–the radical right-wing plot for world domination

Frames: structures in the brain that shape our moral world view

Conservative moral frames

Family: “Strict-father,” we’re born without morality, shaped using strict discipline


*those who succeed deserve to, same for those who fail

*immoral for government to help people

*free market capitalism, the strongest survive

*this is freedom

Conservative values

patriotism, loyalty, law and order, purity, personal responsibility, respecting the social hierarchy,

self-reliance, authority, tradition, religious sanctity.

Their moral hierarchy

God over man, man over nature, the disciplined (strong) over the undisciplined (weak),

husband over wife, parents over children, rich over poor, boss over worker,

white over other races, Christianity over other religions, native-born over new immigrant

Liberal moral frames

Family: “Nurturant parent,” both parents, children are born good, need support


*we have a responsibility to take care of each other

*we should protect the vulnerable

*government should provide for the common good

*freedom means freedom for all

Liberal values

reciprocity, compassion, fairness, equality, community social justice, protection from harm, nurturance,

empathy for those outside the group, providing for the common good

Lateral, non-hierarchical

Everyone thinks their beliefs are moral, are right, and are how to live the best way.

About 1/3 of people are liberal, 1/3 conservative, 1/3 have both.

Politics is trying to convince the bi-conceptuals who have both.

People don’t vote based on rational thought but they vote on values, emotions, identity.


Persuasive messaging

1. Work with human psychology or it works against you

2. What’s your emotional agenda?

3. Use strategy in all encounters: Combative approach encourages right-wing thinking

4. Focus on shared values, invite listeners to help solve problems

5. Don’t use their frames to negate their frames, use liberal frames to activate emotional networks

6. Draw from a strong master narrative

7. Use imagery, metaphors and symbols

8. Speak about values for every issue: a clear moral choice

9. Message what the policy delivers, not the policy

10. Speak of what you seek. Speak from the heart


Whose point of view? If it’s not yours, change it

Avoid: Climate change


Avoid: Gun control


Avoid: School choice, No Child Left Behind, education reform


Avoid: Government regulations


Avoid: Single payer


Avoid: Net neutrality


Avoid: Tax relief



The Hills We’ve Died On

elite–liberal–life–patriotism–the flag–the sacred–morals–good government–American values



HYDRA’s Greatest Hits

  1. Undermining science, expertise
  2. The press
  3. The Democrats
  4. The gov’t and/or “Washington”
  5. Stacking the judiciary
  6. The public good
  7. Democracy


Bad Strategies When Hydra Attacks

1. Take the high road and refuse to dignify with a response

2. Respond with facts to emotional attacks

3. Appeal to the referees (the media) or the GOP to play nice

4. Fail to take charge of the narrative

5. Capitulate to their demands, let them have the hill

Good strategies when HYDRA attacks

1. Respond asap, don’t let their frame stand

2. Say what they’re doing

3. Pivot to what you want to talk about

4. Make conscious what is unconscious

5. Head straight to the heart of any issue


Anatomy of a Frame Job: Big Tobacco

Persuasion has been one of their main tools

Pairing fundamental American liberties with self-interested ideas



Anatomy of a frame job: Nancy Pelosi

Jonathan Riehl, comm. consultant, Nov. 2010

Started in the 2000s–Pelosi had low name recognition. Luntz kept her in the talking points.

What made the Pelosi scapegoating work was more than just cartoonish characterizations and their repetition–the importance of “framing.” Just as renaming the estate tax the “Death Tax” was about far more than swapping one word for another, the attack on Pelosi was not just about labeling her. 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. California liberalism, latte-sipping urban elites,

Dean, who “should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.”

Liberals offered little or no pushback against the effort to create a cartoon Pelosi as a scapegoat. The left’s weak strategic thinking leads many to act like it was blindsided or cheated or victimized. What Luntz perceived 10 years ago was an opportunity for some good politics, informed by strategic thinking.

Pick your own enemy, for the best strategic reasons — geography, ideology, maybe (horrors!) even stereotypes and superficialities like looks.

The right has turned the left into this caricature to its great advantage. We on the Democratic side will continue to pay the price until we meet this strategy head on — and refuse to let this kind of scapegoating continue.”

Luntz made fun of Pelosi’s looks, dog whistling the bias against women and aging.

Pollster says swing voters loathe Pelosi.

“Pollster Frank Luntz says the Republican Party’s tracking numbers for midterm elections are looking good, thanks to independent voters who recoil at the thought of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker.

The creator of “Instant Response” polling told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham Thursday evening that a bit of political finesse by the GOP over the next few months is poised to pay off in November. If Republicans can vote on a speaker prior to midterm elections, Mr. Luntz said, then swing voters are likely to side with them in the voting booth.

“Well, I’ve been tracking this on a weekly basis going back now for a year and a half and these are the best numbers that the GOP has had in the last year,” he said, Mediaite reported. “One of the reasons is that women, working women, women with children, have begun to leave the Democratic Party. It’s not that they are pro-Republican, but what they see among the Democrats is the same kind of negativity that turned them off in previous elections.”

Mr. Luntz told Ms. Ingraham a few decisions could narrow an intensity gap that currently exists between Republicans and Democrats.

“Quite frankly, if Republicans could find some way to engineer a vote over who would be speaker of the House in January 2019, if they could engineer that vote, I would be prepared to say right now that the Republicans would keep the majority because there are so many people out there — swing voters who do not want Pelosi as speaker, that one action would make a difference,” he said.

Mr. Luntz added that the California Democrat is “the least popular credible figure” among her peers.”


Reframe Nancy Pelosi:

Make the unconscious conscious–spread this information far and wide.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz doesn’t reflect what people feel, he shapes what they feel using sleazy marketing techniques. His false frame of Nancy Pelosi has been going on for twenty years.

The GOP really don’t want Pelosi to be speaker–why? because a new democratic speaker would be weaker than her.


Yet he says Americans hate being told what to think. GOP pollster has decided for Americans that we should hate Nancy Pelosi.



A sneaky right-wing messaging tactic: naming laws using conservative frames. Call it Iowa’s heartless anti-woman law instead. “Judge temporarily blocks Iowa’s ‘Heartbeat’ abortion law.” #women’srights #healthcare