Sunday, August 16, 2009

Reclaiming the Debate: How Progressive Language Needs to Change

For too long, the conservative movement has defined the terms of the debate over every issue. They have done this not through the use of overwhelming logic, or science, or even conservative philosophy. Conservative America has set the rules of political discourse by setting the emotional tone of civil discourse. The key tool they have used has been the use of emotionally charged language.

A very obvious example of this is on the issue of reproductive rights. The conservatives in the early 1980's were just learning the tricks of language, but they were already showing potential. They decided that those who were opposed to legal abortions were to be labeled "pro-life". Think about it: who wants to be anti-life? Who wants to be pro-death? The conservatives framed the debate with emotionally charged language. Of course today, this would be mild. Were this debate to be taking place today, the conservative turn of phrase might be "pro-baby" or even "anti-infanticide". The words "baby" and "infanticide" bring up stronger emotions for us than "life" or "choice".

We see this kind of language being used today in the debate over health care. Conservatives use phrases like "socialized medicine" and "government takeover", and "death panels". The fact that these phrases are factually inaccurate MEANS NOTHING. The progressive response to this sort of rhetoric has been to calmly and coolly explain the facts and figures involved without the use of emotionally charged rhetoric. These tactics fail utterly. Why? Because no matter how much you reassure me of the rationality of your system, who wants a "government takeover"? Who wants to agree with a "dangerous radical" or a "unabashed Stalinist"? In fact, the progressive can be perceived as cold and uncaring by responding to an emotional plea in a stoic manner. The key to progressives retaking the debate is to re-inject emotion into progressive language.

When a progressive speaker is asked why he is "turning the country into Russia" and "destroying the constitution" with his "government takeover", there is no need to explain why this is not the case. We must appeal to emotion with emotion, rhetoric with rhetoric.

We are pursuing a policy of healing those Americans who do not have the means to heal themselves. There are greedy elitists who would have you believe that caring for your fellow American is un-patriotic. You have been lied to. Why? So that these men can continue to take advantage of their fellow Americans for personal gain. Our founding fathers swore to each other "their lives their fortunes, and their sacred honor". Today, greedy powerful men would have you believe that to have any love or empathy for Americans is somehow wrong. This is also a carefully constructed lie. Benjamin Franklin is famous for saying that "if we don't hang together, we will surely hang separately". I believe Americans understand this, and want to hang together, and to be a shining example for the rest of the world, to guarantee freedom for ALL Americans, regardless of their economic status. The freedom from illness is a RIGHT not just for the rich, but for all Americans, not because we are lazy, but BECAUSE we have worked so hard, and shed our blood, sweat and tears for the priciples of this country.

This is the sort of political language that is needed today.


  1. Cheers, last paragraph gave me the warm fuzzies. I like the notion of freedom from illness as well. It's really hard to argue against that from an emotional angle.

  2. Well thought out and expressed. The anti rationing comments made by so many Conservatives completely ignores the fact that somewhere between 30-50 million Americans with no insurance, have rationed health insurance every day, which means NO health care coverage for illness or life threatening disease. Leave Iraq and Afghanistan and take THAT money to develop adequate health care for all Americans.

  3. Woah, woah, woah. Why does Patricia hate America? You really need to support our troops. If Health Care Reform means abandoning our troups to die in foxholes in some god forsaken desert then you can count me out!

    Health Care Reform = Dead American GI's... Once we're out of Iraq there's no doubt that the terrorists will strike again. So, Health Care Reform = Terrorism.

    Why don't you move to France, Patricia. Where being an unpatriotic socialist is encouraged. Don't forget to pack your health care reform, liberal nonsense, and Che Guevarra t-shirt before you get on the plane... Communist.

  4. I can assure you that she is no Communist.

    Thanks for the comments!