Trump and framing

George Lakoff on Trump last July:

Donald J. Trump has managed to become the Republican nominee for president, Why? How? There are various theories: People are angry and he speaks to their anger. People don’t think much of Congress and want a non-politician. Both may be true. But why? What are the details? And Why Trump?

He gives an extended answer that he says is based on his research…but his sample of the theories above is too short: he leaves out the simple fact of Trump’s celebrity, which is surely much too important to leave out. An unknown guy from East Jesus, Oklahoma who did exactly what Trump did would not, I think, have had the success Trump had.

Lakoff explains Trump’s success with his story about the nation as a family.

In the 1900’s, as part of my research in the cognitive and brain sciences, I undertook to answer a question in my field: How do the various policy positions of conservatives and progressives hang together? Take conservatism: What does being against abortion have to do with being for owning guns? What does owning guns have to do with denying the reality of global warming? How does being anti-government fit with wanting a stronger military? How can you be pro-life and for the death penalty? Progressives have the opposite views. How do their views hang together?

The answer came from a realization that we tend to understand the nation metaphorically in family terms: We have founding fathers. We send our sons and daughters to war. We have homeland security. The conservative and progressive worldviews dividing our country can most readily be understood in terms of moral worldviews that are encapsulated in two very different common forms of family life: The Nurturant Parent family (progressive) and the Strict Father family (conservative).

Meh. I’m sure that’s true to some extent, but I’m not the least bit convinced it’s the Key to All Mythologies, and I dislike the way Lakoff always presents it as if it is. His “realization” is his interpretation, and I don’t think it explains as much as he seems to think it does.

And then Trump…What the hell kind of father figure is he?!! He brags about never playing any active part at all in rearing his own children. He cheated on all his wives. He abuses women and brags about it. (To be fair, Lakoff wrote the above long before the Access Hollywood tape appeared.) He’s rude and pugnacious and unpleasant and hostile to women – he’s hardly a Jimmy Stewart or Tom Hanks type. The Strict Father is not supposed to be a greedy violent rapey asshole. So, no, I don’t find Trump convincing in the part.

Lakoff is interesting but not, to me, very convincing…which is amusing in a way, since he “frames” himself as an expert on how to be convincing.

H/t Dave Ricks

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