Bill Moyers Gets It – Moral Language Needed for Health Care

I just read Bill Moyers comments on “Real Time with Bill Maher.”  He articulated exactly what George Lakoff described in his analysis of the health care debate.  Check out this quote:

“In the last few weeks, the right wing has been winning the debate. How [Obama] lost control of the narrative, I don’t understand. Well, yes, I do. He didn’t find the right metaphors, as you were just saying, and he didn’t speak in simple powerful moral language. He was speaking like a policy wonk to the world of Washington, not a country of people who are hurting. …”

This is what Lakoff described as the Laundry List and Policyspeak Traps in chapter 1 of Thinking Points:

The Laundry List Trap

People don’t vote based on lists of policies and programs. People vote based on values, connection, authenticity, trust, and identity.

The Policyspeak Trap

Don’t obscure your values with jargon. “Medicare prescription drug benefits” does not express values. It is more likely to confuse and befuddle than rally people to your cause.

More detail was given in The Policyspeak Disaster for Health Care:

“The policymakers focus on the list, not the unifying idea. So Obama’s and Axelrod’s statements last Sunday were just the lists without the unifying institution. And without a powerful institution, the insurance companies will just whittle away at enforcement of any such list, and a future Republican administration will just get rid of the regulators, reassigning them or eliminating their jobs.”

Bill Moyers clearly got the message.  He understands what we’re talking about here at Cognitive Policy Works.  If you want to influence political discourse, you’ll need to understand how political thought works.  And you’ll need to be especially mindful about the role of values and identity in your efforts to engage people at a personal level.

I would love to see more progressives doing this.  This is why I work tirelessly to find the best ways to teach cognitive strategies alongside my colleagues here.  We want these skills and insights to become common knowledge that helps transform the political culture into something that serves the people and solves real-world problems… not just perpetuate the status quo.

You can read more of Moyers comments over at Commondreams.

Cognitive Policy Works specializes in providing organizations and individuals with frame analysis, policy briefs, strategic advising, and training.