Texas Observer VOLUME 96, NO. 15 A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger Executive Editor Jake Bernstein Editor Barbara Belejack Associate Editor Dave Mann Managing Publisher Charlotte McCann Associate Publisher Jim Ball Circulation Manager Lara George Art Direction Buds Design Kitchen Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor Roxanne Bogucka Webmaster Adrian Quesada Interns Kris Bronstad, Jeremy Brown, Megan Giller, Joe Munch, Sofia Resnick Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum. Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter, Penny Van Horn Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid. In Memoriam Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001, Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 Texas Democracy Foundation Board Lou Dubose, Ronnie Dugger, Marc Grossberg, Molly Ivins, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Gilberto calms, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips. tents copyrighted CO2004, is published biweekly except every by the Texas Democracy Foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. E-mail [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page www.texasobserver.org . Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, Texas. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13/year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access; The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. The Books d. the Culture section is partially funded through grants from the City of Austin under the auspices of the Austin Arts Commission and the Writer’s League of Texas, both in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. EDITORIAL Got Frame? s I write these words, ener gized Democrats across the nation are preparing to descend on Boston for their national convention. One can only hope that their leaders are paying more than lip service to George Lakoff. A professor of linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, Lakoff’s work carries an important message: Progressives need to once again take the lead on framing issues. It is progressives who are best positioned to offer Democrats something they lack: a coherent value system. \(Note to Kerry and Edwards: Simply repeating the word “values” all the time probably It used to be that progressives could be relied upon for bold ideas that could be expressed in accessible ways and then converted into policy platforms. Lakoff calls such catchphrases “frames?’ Today, frames such as “civil rights” and “social security” have been woven so thoroughly into the warp and weft of our society that most people don’t even realize how pioneering they were when first proposed. Somewhere along the way, Democrats gorged into lethargy on special interest cash and cowed by vicious partisan attackslost the art of framing. Meanwhile, Republicans, bent on revolution, mastered it. One example cited by Lakoff is “tax relief.” “Conservatives have worked for decades and spent billions on their think tanks to establish their frames, create the right language, and get the language and the frames they evoke accepted. It has taken them awhile to establish the metaphors of taxation as a burden, an affliction and an unfair punishmentall of which require “relief”,” writes Lakoff. “Taxes look very different when framed from a progressive point of view. As Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, taxes are the price of civilization. They are what you pay to live in Americayour duesto have democracy, opportunity and access to all the infrastructure that previous taxpayers have built up and made available to you: highways, the Internet, weather reports, parks, the stock market, scientific research, Social Security, rural electrification, communications satellites, and on and on. Interestingly, the wealthy benefit disproportionately from the American infrastructure….The more wealth you accumulate using what the dues payers have provided, the greater the debt you owe to those who have made your wealth possible:’ The Republican framing effort has been so successful that even Democratic politicians now promise tax relief. Lakoff notes how important it is for a comprehensive worldview that connects all the frames. “Defeating radical conservativism gives us a negative impetus, but we will not succeed without a positive vision and cooperation,” he says. Many progressives are looking toward the concept of shared responsibility, to each other, to one’s community, to one’s nation, and to future generations as a foundational ideology through which specific policy frames can be fashioned. For example, corporations that move offshore to escape taxes or find cheaper labor shirk the responsibility they have to the society in which they operate. What can be done about that? This line of thinking could provide a helpful antidote to another successful Republican frame, the false idea that the “market” is a force of nature. As Lakoff notes, “In the face of a force of nature, one can only be “flexible” and “adjust. In reality, the market is a social institution with rules and regulating mechanisms that have been put in place by human beings. This reality is hidden by the force-of-nature framing:’ The value system of shared responsibility implicitly carries with it a defense of government and its vital role in society. Where are the progressive thinkers who will frame that? JB 7/30/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3
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