Friday, October 27, 2006

Kos, Joan Blades, George Lakoff, and Paul Pierson on one stage

UPDATE: I posted a revised version of this on Kos.

Just got back from this event, which was pretty cool. I'm very familiar with Kos and Lakoff, and know a lot about Joan Blades', so there wasn't a whole lot of new information for me. I hadn't heard of Paul Pierson before. Here are some interesting tidbits I heard at the panel:
  • Paul Pierson made the point that one must keep in mind that politics is not just a popularity contest. It is also a contest of organization, and a contest between institutions. One can win an election even if your ideas are less popular if you have better organization and more robust institutions. The Republicans have been able to do this, as this figure illustrates:
  • Markos made the point that he's less concerned with the division between "right" and "left" and more concerned with the divisions between establishment-driven candidates vs. people powered candidates, between Democratic appeasers and Democratic fighters, and between those who speak to issues and those who speak to values. Obviously, he prefers the latter type in all cases.
  • Joan Blades is very optimistic about the groundswell of progressive action she's seen this election cycle. George Lakoff is more pessimistic, and sees the power of the Republican ground game.
  • Paul Pierson and Markos both use a wave vs. levy (or dam in Markos' case) metaphor for this election: there's a Democratic wave, but it's crashing up against a powerful Republican levy: incumbency, sophisticated get-out-the-vote operations, coordinated media, etc. The levy has been weakened, but no one knows how strong it really is. It could hold and the Democrats optimism could be a dud. Or it could break completely and the Republicans could get totally flooded.
  • George Lakoff pointed out that George Bush saying something to the effect of, "We're not staying the course" was really bad framing. When you "negate" a frame with "not", you're still invoking the frame. "Stay the course" evokes three powerful frames: morality = strength, achieving a goal = traveling to a destination, and morality = staying on a narrow path. That's why they hammered the phrase "stay the course" so much. But then declaring that you're not staying the course, indeed declaring falsely that you've never been about staying the course, makes you look weak and immoral (and you're a liar to boot).
  • Joan Blades founded a new organization,
  • This panel will be on NPR's World Affairs Council on Monday at 8pm (at least in the Bay Area, I'm not sure about other places).
I asked a question about ballot initiatives and the California ballot initiative process, but there wasn't time to get to it. (Markos said in an earlier post that he voted "No" on all CA ballot initiatives as a protest to the broken process. I wanted him to elaborate on this.) Also, there was surprisingly little talk about Iraq, a fact that Paul Pierson pointed out.


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