Reframing for the Win

angels5One major theme to this blog involves the question, “what do we want the United States of America to be?” It’s an important question, because it seeks to define who we are as a nation, and while many “political junkies,” “news addicts,” PUBs and professional lefties love to imagine that stances on individual issues matter because they long to try to impress us with their immense knowledge of all things trivial, the fact of the matter is, very few individual issues matter to most people.

Yeah, I know; it’s devastating, isn’t it? All those memes you’ve been working so hard to create really concern things that matter to you, and you can’t get your head around the fact that most people don’t care. How is that possible? Well, the number one reason is, you spend so much time looking for the news you like, you never actually speak to people.

I mean, the notion of “income inequality” should be universal because it affects everyone, right? It’s unfair that some have nothing to eat, while others have billions of dollars, isn’t it? Well, PUBs and pro lefties, meet America, where most of its poorest citizens will spend a couple dozen dollars a week on lottery tickets, in the faint hope that they may become one of those rich billionaires someday. As poor people see it, the issue isn’t “income inequality” at all, but that they don’t make enough to live on and that the number of unskilled jobs that pay a decent wage has largely been decimated. “Restoring the middle class” and “establishing and enforcing a living wage” would probably work a lot better, and you see them at times, but not nearly as often as you see “income inequality.” The pro left, especially, seems stuck on that meme, and while they do notice that it’s not resonating, they chalk it up to people being stupid which, of course, endears everyone to our side of the debate, you know?

Second only to that failed meme is the one they refer to as “Wall Street,” which seems to be a catch-all for anything economic that they don’t understand. In addition to that is the only slightly more generic “big corporations.” Neither of these memes has any actual meaning to the average voter. None. And it’s not because people are stupid, but because they literally have no meaning, period. What does “Wall Street” have to do with anything? Wall Street is a street in Manhattan that serves as the center of economic investment for the US economy. I know, that’s where Occupy Wall Street holed up, because they imagined that was where the mortgage meltdown was centered, even though it wasn’t, really, but what does citing “Wall Street” accomplish, really? Does it even register that Occupy accomplished nothing?

Let’s see, Walmart is evil, and they’re located in Arkansas. ExxonMobil is located in Dallas. Bank of America is located in Charlotte, North Carolina — who and what is located on Wall Street? Do you have any idea that the people who might hear you blame Wall Street for shit and take it seriously, may then go home and look it up and find out that what you said is meaningless?

The term “big corporations” is roughly the same. Forget the seemingly  fact that the vast majority of Americans work for and feel that they owe their living to large corporations, what does that mean, exactly? Yes, Walmart and Koch Industries are “big corporations,” but so are Costco and Ben & Jerry’s. While many large corporations do some pretty heinous things, a lot of them also do some pretty great things. Even the evil ones do some good and can easily point to good things they’ve done to counter our contention that all “big corporations” are bad.

Too often, when we talk about some things, we sound very much like racists and homophobes when they talk about minorities and gays in generalities. Speaking in generalities doesn’t help us much. I mean, if what we’re saying is too meaningless to be able to look it up and verify its truth, it probably will never serve to our benefit, or the benefit of the country.

Another such meme that makes me laugh in its simplemindedness is “establishment,” as in “Hillary is just too establishment.” That’s an old hippie word, that may have had meaning in 1969, while we were trying to get rid of an established order with about 100 years of history behind it. But in 2015? Really? For 36 years now, an incarnation of the GOP that has been taken over by right wing zealots is trying to undermine or destroy the established order, which includes Social Security, Medicare, social welfare, the Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, workplace safety and security and financial regulation, and where reproduction issues are established rights; THAT is the “establishment” not. And that makes any liberal’s claim that Hillary or anyone else is too “establishment” and mean it as a negative just sounds bizarre. In point of fact, today’s Republican Party is “anti-establishment,” not liberals, but the use of the word just sounds dated,” to put it mildly, and it doesn’t apply besides.

If progressives want to win the politics (and why would you not, since that’s the whole point of politics), we have to lose some of these words and phrases that have no meaning and adopt points of view that actually matter to people. No one really cares about “income inequality,” but everyone cares about making a good living and being able to support their family. No one cares about “Wall Street,” because nothing much actually happens there that affects the average person. Most people work for or are somehow economically dependent upon “large corporations,” but they would probably love to hear about some of the more corrupt corporate practices and do something about those. Don’t look now, but liberals became the “establishment” years ago. What we really should be on about is protecting and expanding the current “establishment,” not getting rid of it.

We lose because, for all of our immersion in “news” and what we mistakenly think of as “politics,” we really don’t understand how people think. We need to listen more to people and less to talking heads, and we need to learn what people actually care about.

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