Monday Morning Quarterbacking
Governor Dean probably made progress yesterday on Meet the Press. But something has been bothering me all day and I finally realized what it is.
Election coverage is about electability and polls but governing is about what is good for the majority of the people. (OK, most conservatives don’t buy that premise, but that’s the sorry state that creeping suffrage has got us to, guys. Deal with it.) So the challenge that someone like Howard Dean faces is that the questions he’s asked are about the things the media cares about–ratings–rather than the things the people care about, which is how the government might deliver reasonable services at a reasonable cost without curtailing our right to create our own prosperity and to enjoy our lives (that pesky “pursuit of happiness” concept that people just won’t let go of).
So, if I were to offer the good Governor any advice, I’d advise him to use a little of Dubya’s strategy: if you don’t like a question, answer another one. Naturally, We the People hope you have better answers.
Playing the Doctor Card
Governor Dean properly invokes the success that he has had in steering Vermont on a healthy course, but I’d suggest that there are times when he ought to play the Doctor card. A good reason to play the doctor card is that each of us formed our sensibilities very early in life and, though we’d like to think we’re quite sage and objective, we each carry a lot of infantile preconceptions around.
Lakoff is a conceptual linguist, a guy who looks at the words that people use and the metaphors they invoke and sees why some mental images are more compelling than others. Here’s the quote Doc wants us to remember, based on the strict father model:
Our idealized Dad is our reference when we elect a President. Sure, we go off on a tangent sometimes when we choose a Kennedy or a Clinton, but those are aberrations. Mostly we want someone like Dad to guide us.
No authority in our lives trumps Dad as the force to be reckoned with. But we each learned early on that there was one (and, often, only one) person whom Dad always deferred to, willingly, in whose presence Dad seemed suddenly meek and submissive, as before a true superior and a moral authority. That person was the family doctor. I’m sure that Howard Dean’s handlers exhort him to only play the Doctor card when talking about health care or abortion, but I wonder if George Lakoff might urge him to go for it–to employ linguistics as skillfully as the conservatives. If he did, Maybe this is how he might have responded to Tim Russert on Meet the Press.
Even Tim Russert respects Doctors
(Russert’s the guy who caused all the trouble on election eve 2000 when he said it would come down to “Florida, Florida, Florida”)
Yep. Cognitive Linguistics at work. There were a couple of challenges that Dr. Dean answered well, but might have done better as a physician. Tim Russert felt it was important for Dr. Dean to know how many people there are in the military, Dean said he thought there are between 1 to 2 million people at arms. I wonder how that vague answer would play in Peoria. Here’s a good place to play the Doctor Card. Imagine this exchange:
The Doctor is in, he doesn’t like idiots, and he hates what they’ve done to the country while we were concerned with other terrorists!