Leave Policy to Who?

Since it has become clear that Howard Dean is going to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the House and Senate (especially the House) Democratic leaderships have repeatedly warned Gov. Dean to "leave policy to us." Huh? Leave policy to you? You who lost 10 elections in succession, you who are more interested in being Republican lites than true Democrats, you who are too afraid and ashamed to stand up, you whose policy is to take the Republican approach and then only water it down a little? Goodness gracious! Of course, Gov. Dean has made a very very smart move by assuring the Congressional leadership that specific policy matters will in fact be left with them. This move might have left some of his supporters baffled. But folks, there's Howard Dean's genius. This is a classic framing hiararchy we're dealing with: values, principles, general policy directions, and specific policy. For those of you who read George Lakoff (for those of you who haven't, READ IT NOW!), where does specific policy land in this hiararchy? Dead last. That's why Dean said he will leave it to the legislators, when he does the more important work of laying out a Democratic vision and a set of unifying but uncompromisable values and principles, and plays a large role in setting general policy directions the Democratic party takes. That's how you win elections. Dean will take control of the top two (values-vision and principles) and exert influence on policy directions, building a clear Democratic message along with the grassroots, while the legislators meddle in the details. That is brilliant. And we can only hope that the beltway boys keep missing the point.


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