Coming Soon: Don't think of book club!

A public reading and study of "The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant"

Coming Soon: Don't think of book club!

What are Republicans for?” asked President Joe Biden during his recent one-year press conference. “What are they for?”

I spent most of my career trying to answer this question. Several of my books – including “Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think” and “The ALL NEW Don’t Think of An Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame The Debate” – deal with the question in clear and direct terms.

Yet Democratic leaders appear to remain in the dark about the fact that most Republicans have a completely different worldview, one that is increasingly incompatible with the outdated notion of bipartisanship or the crucial idea of democracy.

Today’s Republican Party has no interest in compromise or collaboration. The GOP has bloomed into a full-fledged enemy of the American idea of government and become an aspiring authoritarian organization. Fearing the power of the majority vote, Republicans are working feverishly to dismantle the machinery of democracy and make it harder for Americans to exercise the basic right to vote. The GOP has replaced loyalty to the country with the worship of one man, Donald Trump, who considers himself more important than the nation. Trump and his party demand that the Republican faithful be willing to sacrifice their lives on the altar of lies (as we have seen with the attempted insurrection of January 6 and the anti-scientific campaign against COVID vaccines).

This is all happening in public view, with full-throated participation from all but a handful of Republican leaders. In fact, one of the most terrifying aspects of today’s Republican Party is the utter shamelessness with which it peddles lies, conspiracies and anti-democratic ideas (with help from the Fox channel and other propaganda operations). This is not a political party that is planning for a future in which it must reach “across the aisle” to build coalitions and find agreement with the opposition.

Today’s GOP seeks to destroy democracy. It wants a future in which voters, laws and the Constitution no longer matter. If these Republicans get their way, the only thing that will matter is the opinion of an authoritarian leader who will dictate the definitions of right and wrong, legal and illegal, true and false. This authoritarian outlook has already devoured the GOP. The only question now is whether it can conquer the rest of the country.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone familiar with how Republicans think, which is based on a specific moral framework that has been fully exposed in the Trump era. I have written about this moral framework in seven books and have tried to get Democratic leaders and progressives to pay attention to the logic behind strict conservative thought. Unfortunately, the hour is getting late, American authoritarianism is on the march and we are living the consequences.

What are Republicans for? A world in which voters wield no power over political outcomes. A world in which the law is whatever the strongman leader says it is. A world in which lies become truth and truth becomes lies. A world in which the rights and freedoms of the majority are systematically stripped away to empower the tyranny of the few. A world in which the white, the male, the Christian, the rich, the straight and the old wield maximal power over everyone else.

This explains many things about today’s Republican Party – including the reason why GOP leaders have no interest in collaborating with President Biden or helping him — or any Democratic leader — to succeed.

So, what can we do about it? The first step is to understand what we’re dealing with so that we can understand the dynamics at play. Unless we understand the frames behind conservative political thought, we will be unable to counteract their strategies and tactics. And the only way to understand them is through study and discussion.

During February and March, we will be hosting a virtual but interactive book club to review and discuss the ideas set out in “The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.” The book has five parts and an introduction, and we will go through it part-by-part over the span of a few weeks. I will answer questions and provide commentary to help readers understand the book in the greatest depth possible. Answers will be provided via the FrameLab podcast and this newsletter.

The book is available to buy in many books stores and through outlets like Bookshop, East Bay Booksellers, Powell’s and Amazon. Or you can support your local bookstore or public library, which may even offer a free e-book or audiobook for use. We will plan to start the discussion and Q&A sometime in mid-February, so this gives everyone a chance to acquire a copy of the book and read the intro and Part One.

Are you in? Please let us know in the comments section, subscribe to the FrameLab newsletter and be on the lookout for further instructions in the coming weeks. (And a big Thank You to the hundreds of readers who have already expressed an interest in participating!)

George Lakoff

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