Saturday, September 20, 2008

Modification on Lakoff -- the emergence of the "alcoholic parent model" in politics

So George Lakoff argues that there are two primary metaphors that orient how people think about politics -- the strict father model and the nurturant parent model. I've talked about this at length on this blog. But watching the political debate in the U.S. right now -- I don't think those two models precisely capture what's going on.

Specifically, over the last 8 years, I would argue that Republicans no longer adhere to a strict father model, rather, they adhere to an alcoholic father model. In a strict father model the father is still expected to demonstrate responsibility, honesty, morality, and discipline. But the Republicans have really abandoned that in favor of a strategy of covering for the alcoholic father at all costs. And it's not just Bush -- we're seeing the alcoholic father model show up in connection with support for Sarah Palin too. The bigger the lie the louder the cheers. The bigger the gaffe, the more they blame others. The worse the candidate, the more they proclaim that they identify with him/her.

For the most part, Democrats continue to follow the nurturant parent model of governance -- promoting empathy and care for others. But I wonder if some of the blue dog Democrats like Harold Ford, are following an alcoholic father model too -- the worse the Republicans behave, the more they lie and destroy our country, the more the alcoholic father model Dems urge bipartisanship and cooperation (trying to make everything appear normal even when it isn't).

A quick note to Dems -- if my theory is true, then it is also true that you cannot bargain with someone who adheres to an "alcoholic parent model" of governance. There can be no bipartisanship with the other side if the other side is pathological and won't take responsibility for their actions. All you can do is take the keys out of their hands, hide the checkbook and the wallet, and move forward without them.

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