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Why It’s Hard to Replace the ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Metaphor

Writers on economics have been talking since the election about why the “fiscal cliff” metaphor is misleading. Alternative metaphors have been offered like the fiscal hill, fiscal curb, and fiscal showdown, as if one metaphor could easily be replaced by another that makes more sense of the real situation. But none of the alternatives has […]

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What to Watch for in the Presidential Debates

I’ve been applying cognitive linguistics and neuroscience to politics in six books over the past two decades. The ideas in those books were on display in many of the speeches at the Democratic National Convention. Look for them in the debates. They include: All politics is based on moral values, with strict conservatives and progressives having different […]

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Obama vs. Romney: The Framing Matchup, Round One

This article was co-authored with Elisabeth Wehling and published on the Huffington Post. Framing is (or should be) about moral values, deep truths, and the policies that flow from them. As of their kickoff speeches in Ohio, Romney and Obama have both chosen economics as their major campaign theme. And thus the question of how […]

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The Framing of Economics and Morality

This article was co-authored by Elisabeth Wehling and published on the Huffington Post. In his June 11, 2012 op-ed in the New York Times, Paul Krugman goes beyond economic analysis to bring up the morality and the conceptual framing that determines economic policy. He speaks of “the people the economy is supposed to serve” — “the unemployed,” and […]

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Words That Don’t Work

Progressives had some fun last week with Frank Luntz, who told the Republican Governors’ Association that he was scared to death of the Occupy movement and recommended language to combat what the movement had achieved. But the progressive critics mostly just laughed, said his language wouldn’t work, and assumed that if Luntz was scared, everything […]

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A Framing Memo for Occupy Wall Street

I was asked weeks ago by some in the Occupy Wall Street movement to make suggestions for how to frame the movement. I have hesitated so far, because I think the movement should be framing itself. It’s a general principle: Unless you frame yourself, others will frame you — the media, your enemies, your competitors, […]

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The Use of 9/11 to Consolidate Conservative Power: Intimidation via Framing

My wife, Kathleen, and I stood gaping at the TV as we watched the towers fall. Kathleen said to me, “Do you realize what Bush and Cheney are going to do with this?” We both realized very well. Until 9/11, the Bush presidency was weak. On 9/11, Cheney understood that the attack was an opportunity […]

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How Obama Got It Right

This article is co-authored with Glenn Smith and published on Huffington Post. Morality drives policy. Too often, progressives have tried it the other way around, then looked on in dismay as conservatives led with their moral view and won one policy fight after another, even when polling showed most Americans disagreed with conservative policies! On […]

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Why Democracy Is Public: The American Dream Beats the Nightmare

This article was co-authored with Glenn Smith and published at the Huffington Post. Democracy, in the American tradition, has been defined by a simple morality: We Americans care about our fellow citizens, we act on that care and build trust, and we do our best not just for ourselves, our families, and our friends and […]

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What Conservatives Really Want

—Dedicated to the peaceful protestors in Wisconsin, February 19, 2011 The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy. The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal […]

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