Where is Donald Trump's Worldview Leading Us?
I want to step back a little from the constant strum of the latest Trump scandal to the most recent outrage, the Trump constantly popping into the news literally every day. I don't remember this during the Obama administration or any other presidency frankly of my lifetime.
Every day they look for some way to get in the news even if it's negative.
Now, why would that be a good thing for them? Why would that work for them? Why would they think that it's desirable to be in the news for something that there's a lot of outrage around?
George Lakoff is the professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He's a distinguished professor. He's now the director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society.
He published a piece on his website back on July 23rd 2016, before the election.
Now, he's not predicting Trump is going to win but he's laying out all the strategies and techniques of essentially mind control - or persuasion might be a more appropriate phrase - that Trump has been using.
Now, Lakoff explains them in academic terms and gives us a good understanding of them. I'm not sure that Trump has anything close to this kind of an academic understanding - he just knows what works.
I think that for demagogues and wannabe strong men this is intuitive stuff, but there actually is a system here and Lakoff lays it out.
There's a series of learnings, a series of details, a series of frames, understandings that he's sharing with us.
The first has to do with how conservatives and liberals view government. And he says in this world view, government is viewed as family and that there are basically two kinds of family.
There's a family where the strict father is in control, always right, and everybody kowtows to daddy. That's the strict father family.
And then there's the nurturing family, where dad and mom and everybody in the family- or mom and mom or dad and dad as it may be - everybody in the family is working to nurture everybody in the family. We're all in this together.
Now, Lakoff points out that the strict father model is intrinsic to conservative thought and understanding and it's also built into our religions. In fact, it's basically the only model that's built into our religions.
I would argue that Jesus tried to change that and was only partially successful.
But in any case, Lakoff says 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. He says...
"In the strict father family, father knows best. He knows right from wrong and has the ultimate authority to make sure his children and his spouse do what he says, which is taken to be what is right...
When his children disobey, it is his moral duty to punish them painfully enough so that, to avoid punishment, they will obey him (do what is right) and not just do what feels good."
"What if they don't prosper? That means they are not disciplined, and therefore cannot be moral, and so deserve their poverty...
The poor are seen as lazy and undeserving, and the rich as deserving their wealth. Responsibility is thus taken to be personal responsibility"
And there's no place for social responsibility in this strict father family world view of conservatives, which answers a whole bunch of questions that a lot of people have been asking: why is it, for example, that conservative states want to drug test and now work requirement Medicaid?
Why would they do that? Isn't health care a right? Shouldn't everybody have access to health care?
Well, if you view poverty - even for people who are working 70, 80 hours a week but they're working for seven or eight bucks an hour - if you view poverty as a moral failing and you believe that when people fail morally they need to be punished so they won't do it again, then if somebody's poorer and they don't have access to health care you punish them.
The nurturing family worldview is that we're all in this together, so obviously everybody needs to have health care. If everybody doesn't have health care, how can we have a functioning society?
Everybody has to have food and shelter and education, these are just givens in a nurturing society.
But in a strict father society where the job of the society, of the father, of the government, the proxy for the father, the president, everybody else, the strict father's job is to instill self-discipline and righteousness.
Then the principal job of the government is to punish. It's to serve as the surrogate for the strict father, to be the strict father.
And there are a lot of people who are raised in strict father families who want that.
Certainly this was the the normal form of child-rearing in Germany, for example in 1920s.
Look where it got them.