We’re Pro-100%____? 4.13.12
As everyone knows by now, last week Van Jones launched his new book, Rebuild the Dream, and wrote about it in the 4.02.12 issue of The Nation. The rather surprising title of his article was “The 99% for the 100%: The Case for Deep Patriotism.” By that he meant we should “make our economy respect the 99% and work for the 100%, not just the 1%.”(1) Why the 100%? Because a movement that pits the 99% against every single person in the 1% will definitely fail. (2) (Think Warren Buffet and George Soros.) Moreover, as Van warns us, most Americans would love to make it into the 1%. That’s part of the American dream too—living in a country where such a thing is possible for those not born rich. The real issue with being rich is what morally corrupt one-percenters do with their money---buying political power in order to abuse the rest of us.
Van’s phrase “deep patriotism” means reclaiming and speaking about our own love of the best American values. Letting the Right own that turf is just plain dangerous. Van is off to a great start on helping Occupy, the 99% folks, and the Left in general with these valuable new framing ideas. But framing new ideas isn’t the same thing as framing snappy phrases that say it all in a New York minute, the way 1% and 99% did. We have to go a step further to get that type of “American truthbite,” the kind we need to reach 100% of the American public now, whether the corrupt slice of the 1% like it or not.
So here are a few suggestions for those new American “truthbites” we need now, based on Van’s excellent foundation. First of all, what if we just start by saying we’re “pro 100 % clean government” or we’re “pro 100% real health care reform,” or we’re “pro a 100% green economy,” or we’re “100% pro more American jobs,” or “100 % American workers,” and so on? Just fill in the blank, vary it, tweak it, but keep it positive, short and snappy. We can do this and keep our integrity perfectly intact. (For more on how to shape short, positive phrases with a catchy rhythm, see The Metaphor Project’s website at http://www.metaphorprojectorg.)
I’m stressing the positive here, because modern framing research shows that people move toward the positive, and that framing an “aspirational” message works best for reaching a broad American audience. That’s the kind we need to connect with in order to grow the 99% movement to be 100% of this country. Taking this framing route via actual phrases like “we’re pro 100%. . . .” can also help us bring together the many strands of what Occupy and 99% groups all over the country are doing now. Just as “1% and 99% “ catalyzed a huge change in this country’s political narrative last year, “pro 100%” could take that narrative shift even further in the coming year, if we do it right.
Most important of all, if we start talking about being “pro” things, we’re “speaking American,” because we’re talking about rebuilding the historic American Dream of a people who pride themselves on trying new things, solving problems, having a “can do “ attitude, and being optimistic. As a people, we believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Rebuilding this dream is so much better than just rebuilding an America that wasn’t so great the way it was, even before the Wall Street wrecking crew really got going on their demolition derby.
Bravo, Van, and let’s make American framing what the Left does better than the Right!
Susan C. Strong is the founder and executive director of The Metaphor Project, http://www.metaphorproject.org, and author of our new book, Move Our Message: How To Get America’s Ear (The Metaphor Project, 2012, 172 pp, trade paperback, $10, now available on our site in new ways). The Metaphor Project has been helping progressives mainstream their messages since 1997.
1. This phrase comes from the publisher’s description of Van’s book.
2. This is a paraphrase from The Nation article.