George Lakoff is a linguistics professor at UC Berkeley and author of numerous books on metaphors, framing and politics. Howard Dean has called him, "one of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement." George was at our local bookstore talking about his latest book, The Political Mind. During the question and answer period, I asked him if he personally feels that Conservative Values have Failed and if so, how have they failed?
George: Yes Ed.
Edwin: I'm doing some work on the Failure of Conservative Values and I was wondering if you personally feel that conservative values have failed and if so, how have they failed?
George: There's not one answer, there are two, depending on how you frame it. So, if you frame it the way George Packard has in his New Yorker article, where he says conservative values have failed. What he really means is that conservative ideology has run up against reality. It's not working in the real world and that's true in lots of cases. Even though conservatives said "if we are in power we create reality". And in many cases they have, they've gotten the government breaking down they have created all kinds of reality, that we now have to face, huge debts and so on, right?
It's not the case that that was wrong, they in fact did create reality that way. But in the case of, Iraq, Afghanistan, as we've heard today and in the case of our financial problems, they ran up against reality and don't have a way to actually deal with that. That's the way in which, quote "conservative values have failed" in dealing with certain aspects of reality that are extremely important.
However, they haven't failed, in the sense that they're out there in our brains. That those values are there governing public discourse still. That McCain can run on all the same old slogans. You know, the tax and spend liberals, the defeatists, the we can't surrender, etc. All the same stuff is out there in our brains, available for elections. They have not failed in that way. So, yes and no.
Failed Conservative Values Metaphors
George Lakoff made a reputation as a linguist studying metaphors. I've always enjoyed using metaphors so I've asked people to create metaphors of Failed Conservative Values. Here are some more of the creative images they came up with.
Of course, the first one that comes to mind is Lakoff’s – the strict father, conservative, or the angry God, you know, conservative value versus the nurturing mother, or the kind Madonna, or the compassionate Buddha on the progressive side. That’s what I see on that.