Jeffrey Feldman, FRAMING THE DEBATE: Famous Presidential Speeches and How Progressives Can Use Them to Change the Conversation [And Win Elections], Ig Publishing Brooklyn NY$14.95/ Trade Paperback /ISBN 13: 978-0-9771972-9-3.
Jeffrey Feldman is the Editor-in-Chief of the political blog Frameshop [www.frameshopisopen.com]. He has been a regular contributor to The Thom Hartmann Show on Air America, and travels the country offering seminars on language and progressive politics. He has a Ph.D in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Virginia and teaches at New York University.
His book, FRAMING THE DEBATE, is well thought out and nicely laid out. He shows in 15 key speeches by American Presidents how those speeches are framed to achieve each President’s goals and how each can be framed to apply to today’s political debate in order to promote a progressive perspective. Included in each chapter, are practical recommendations on how a politician, an activist, and an ordinary citizen can use the framing techniques discussed in each chapter.
He concludes with a chapter on the three Ps of progressive politics.
1. Participation-"Bottom Up" vs. "Top Down"
This is, perhaps, the most important chapter in the book. In it he comes to grips with what is required from every progressive if the tone of the country is to be changed from conservative to progressive.
"Over the past Twenty years, the Republicans have advanced a vast effort to frame the debate in "conservative" terms through the use of a hierarchical or "top down’ approach. The cycle begins when Washington D.C. based political communications agencies are asked by the Republican National Committee to generate lists of key words and key phrases. These lists are distributed to elected Republicans in Congress, Republican figures in the media, Republican think tanks, and leadership in the Republican political base- with instructions to all these groups to repeat the "approved" terms. Eventually President Bush gives a speech using the distributed key words and the entire Republican leadership echoes in unison as the terms of the debate unfold in perfect step across the American political culture."
Progressive framing takes an entirely different " bottom up" approach, which encourages participation, not blind obedience. Progressive attempts at framing the debate begin with the discussion of a particular issue ,which generates comments or short essays which then circulate through the vast social network of email lists, web sites, and organizations that make up the progressive grassroots infrastructure. The framing discussion eventually flows into the in-boxes and briefing notes of political staffers as well as to the reading lists of non-staffers. It’s at this point that the process he describes loses credibility. It’s just too loose to ever coalesce into any thing meaningful. However, he does provide the basic elements which, if given structure beyond which he provides, can result in a meaningful frame. The "bottom up" participation in framing the debate, given adequate structure, is also different not just for the flow of ideas it produces, but for the impact it has on political culture in America.
The other two of the three Ps of progressive politics, Principle and Promise, follow Participation as night follows day. All in all, I’d say this is a good book that outlines the approach progressives must take if they are to overcome conservatism and gain their rightful share of victories in today’s America.