December 28, 2002

Message control…

I’ve been slow to pick up on this, partly because I think Sen. Hillary Clinton’s observations are obvious: The Republicans do a better job of message control. There are good reasons for the difference. Here’s one:

Republicans, or I should say conservatives, tend to be far more cohesive in terms of moral hierarchy (if you believe George Lakoff, and I do). In other words, it appears that most conservatives believe that defending the moral system is a top or highly-placed priority compared to other, lesser moral values. This means they tend to speak in ways (and create policies) that defend their moral system.

Here’s an example. Liberals go bonkers trying to understand how conservatives can be pro-life and pro-capital punishment. Generally speaking, to the conservative moral hierarchy, this makes perfect sense because defending the moral system is itself the top priority. Unborn children are always innocent. Criminals have chosen to step outside the moral order and, therefore, outside the protection it affords. Plus, death guarantees they will not upset the moral order again.

Liberals, for the most part, do not have a cohesive moral hierarchy. This is not to say that they do not have a cohesive moral system. Rather, there is a broader range of moral values fighting for the top spot, e.g. self-fulfillment, nurturance of children (or nature, or the poor), promotion of well-being (healthcare, welfare), or fighting for the under privileged against the privileged. The list goes on and on. Try coming up with a talking point that neatly summarizes so many different, competing moral values. The liberal problem is that, as expressed in party politics, they cannot “decide” on a top priority that covers so many values and concomitant policies.

(The quote marks around “decide” indicate that this is not, in fact, a conscious decision. Instead, one’s metaphorical world view, and thus moral hierarchy, is not often under one’s direct control. For necessary background, click here, here, here, and here)

Clinton is quite correct. Until liberals are able to create a cohesive moral hierarchy, however, no such message will be forthcoming. (via Oliver Willis)

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