“Hockey Mom” – Sarah Palin
My students understand these metaphorical models easily, and they’re good viewfinders for working through the coded speeches and political nuances that make up this overload of “platforms”, “issues”, and information the media throw our way everyday. Speaking of what’s happening on today’s presidential battleground, George Lakoff has taken the time to dissect the selection of Sarah Palin as the VP choice for the Republicans.
The Democratic responses so far reflect external realities: she is inexperienced, knowing little or nothing about foreign policy or national issues; she is really an anti-feminist, wanting the government to enter women’s lives to block abortion, but not wanting the government to guarantee equal pay for equal work, or provide adequate child health coverage, or child care, or early childhood education; she shills for the oil and gas industry on drilling; she denies the scientific truths of global warming and evolution; she misuses her political authority; she opposes sex education and her daughter is pregnant; and, rather than being a maverick, she is on the whole a radical right-wing ideologue.
All true, so far as we can tell.
But such truths may nonetheless be largely irrelevant to this campaign. That is the lesson Democrats must learn. They must learn the reality of the political mind.
The Obama campaign has done this very well so far. The convention events and speeches were orchestrated both to cast light on external realities, traditional political themes, and to focus on values at once classically American and progressive: empathy, responsibility both for oneself and others, and aspiration to make things better both for oneself and the world. Obama did all this masterfully in his nomination speech, while replying to, and undercutting, the main Republican attacks.
But the Palin nomination changes the game. The initial response has been to try to keep the focus on external realities, the “issues,” and differences on the issues. But the Palin nomination is not basically about external realities and what Democrats call “issues,” but about the symbolic mechanisms of the political mind — the worldviews, frames, metaphors, cultural narratives, and stereotypes. The Republicans can’t win on realities. Her job is to speak the language of conservatism, activate the conservative view of the world, and use the advantages that conservatives have in dominating political discourse [emphasis mine] …
Continue reading Lakoff: Palin Appeals to Voter Emotions — Dems Beware
By the way, I heard some Wall Street fellas on the train home last night discussing this latest VP selection. One guy bucked against another who emphatically declared, “I’m not voting for her; I’m voting for McCain!” The other dude spit back, “But we’d be just a heart attack away from that woman running this country!!” So it seems not all Republicans are for this latest selection, no matter how “soccer mom” or “hockey mom” conservative she appears to be. In fact, they don’t like the idea of any kind of “mom” getting in the driver’s seat of this country. The only driving she should be doing, according to last night’s men on the train, would be toting their assess home after a night at the game. Let Sexism Ring!
I can’t resist. More from Lakoff: Palin Appeals to Voter Emotions — Dems Beware:
The Republican strength has been mostly symbolic. The McCain campaign is well aware of how Reagan and W won — running on character: values, communication, (apparent) authenticity, trust, and identity — not issues and policies. That is how campaigns work, and symbolism is central.
Conservative family values are strict and apply via metaphorical thought to the nation: good vs. evil, authority, the use of force, toughness and discipline, individual (versus social) responsibility, and tough love. Hence, social programs are immoral because they violate discipline and individual responsibility. Guns and the military show force and discipline. Man is above nature; hence no serious environmentalism. The market is the ultimate financial authority, requiring market discipline. In foreign policy, strength is use of the force. In fundamentalist religion, the Bible is the ultimate authority; hence no gay marriage. Such values are at the heart of radical conservatism. This is how John McCain was raised and how he plans to govern. And it is what he shares with Sarah Palin.
Palin is the mom in the strict father family, upholding conservative values. Palin is tough: she shoots, skins, and eats caribou. She is disciplined: raising five kids with a major career. She lives her values: she has a Downs-syndrome baby that she refused to abort. She has the image of the ideal conservative mom: pretty, perky, feminine, Bible-toting, and fitting into the ideal conservative family. And she fits the stereotype of America as small-town America. It is Reagan’s morning-in-America image. Where Obama thought of capturing the West, she is running for Sweetheart of the West …
Yes, the McCain-Palin ticket is weak on the major realities. But it is strong on the symbolic dimension of politics that Republicans are so good at marketing. Just arguing the realities, the issues, the hard truths should be enough in times this bad, but the political mind and its response to symbolism cannot be ignored. The initial Democratic response to Palin — the response based on realities alone — indicates that many Democrats have not learned the lessons of the Reagan and Bush years [emphasis mine] ...
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.