George Lakoff, retired UC Berkeley professor and author of Don’t Think of an Elephant, is one of a very few people in Berkeley who does not underestimate Donald Trump. “Trump is not stupid,” he tells anyone who will listen. “He is a super salesman, and he knows how to change your brain and use it to his advantage.”
Here is some of what Lakoff shared:
“Ideas don’t float in the air, they live in your neuro-circuitry,” Lakoff said. Each time ideas in our neural circuits are activated, they get stronger. And over time, complexes of neural circuits create a frame through which we view the world. “The problem is, that frame is unconscious,” Lakoff said. “You aren’t aware of it because you don’t have access to your neural circuits.” So what happens when you hear facts that don’t fit in your worldview is that you can’t process them: you might ignore them, or reject or attack them, or literally not hear them.
This theory explains why even college-educated Trump voters could ignore so many facts about their candidate. And it also explains why progressives have been ignoring Lakoff’s findings for more than two decades. Progressives are still living in the world of Descartes and the Enlightenment, Lakoff said, a neat world governed by the rules of logic. Descartes said, “I think therefore I am,” but Lakoff claims that we are embodied beings and that 98 percent of thought is unconscious.
This really hit home with me because this is almost EXACTLY how I think.
In fact Rene Descartes forms the very foundation of my worldview.
Here is more:
So if you are going to craft a message that can reach people who disagree with you, you have to understand their subconscious worldview. Lakoff calls this worldview a “frame,” and claims that Republicans have done a much better job with framing over the past 30 or 40 years. Republicans understand the narrative that governs many people in this country, and they target their message directly to that worldview. Democrats, on the other hand, ignore the worldview and focus instead on rationality, facts and policies.
It is a myth that the truth will set us free, Lakoff said. Case in point: Hillary Clinton’s well-thought-out policy positions vs. Donald Trump’s tweets. The tweets had one central and fact-free message: “Make America great again.” Clinton’s message was more detailed and fact-based, but also much more diffuse. Heavy on Enlightenment, short on metaphor. “I spoke to people at the center of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, and told them they were doing everything they could to lose,” Lakoff said. “It didn’t make any difference. People are who they are, and they were going to do things their way. I could see the disaster happening the entire year.”
And get this:
Lakoff gave a talk recently at the Center for Right-Wing Studies and pointed out that students who become Democratic operatives tend to study political studies and statistics and demographics in college. “Students who lean Republican study marketing. “And that’s his point,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a very different way of thinking.”
Lakoff’s core finding revolves around the metaphor of family. He claims there are two core beliefs about the role of families in society, and the belief one holds determines whether one is conservative or liberal. Moderates are people in the middle who are able to hold some ideas from both sides, and being able to understand and persuade them is crucial to winning any election.
Conservatives believe in a what Lakoff calls the “strict father family,” while progressives believe in a “nurturant parent family.” In the strict father family, father knows best and he has the moral authority. The children and spouse have to defer to him, and when they disobey, he has the right to punish them so they will learn to do the right thing.
“The basic idea is that authority is justified by morality, and that, in a well-ordered world, there should be a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate,” Lakoff said. “The hierarchy is God above man; man above nature; the rich above the poor; employers above employees; adults above children; Western culture above other cultures; our country above other countries. The hierarchy also extends to men above women, whites above nonwhites, Christians above non-Christians, straights above gays.” Since this is seen as a “natural” order, it is not to be questioned.
Lakoff goes on to say that essentially Donald Trump, with his patriarchal world view and Put America First slogan, was playing the conservative theme song.
Whereas we saw a fatally flawed candidate, with virtually no respect for the truth, and the morals of an alley cat high on catnip, they saw Daddy.
A father figure whose choices were not to be questioned, even when they were clearly wrong.
Gee, is it any wonder that those with this mindset were completely unwilling to vote for a woman, regardless of her many virtues?
And even more troubling, if Trump is not impeached and removed from office, these same people will once again blindly vote for his reelection, without ANY regard to his many mistakes, lies, and broken promises.
Well I'm terrified, how about you?