In the contest to find an omniscient prophet to turn the the tide of the Democratic party, the rise of scholar and writer George Lakoff, a linguist at UC-Berkeley and a relatively new celebrity in political circles, is almost predictable. Lakoff's book Don't Think of an Elephant, Fram the Debate (2004) launched a second career for the professor, a career based on his assertion that if Democrats want to win elections, they must frame issues in a broader and more theme-based platform. He has the ear of many Democrats in high places, and some of what he says is admittedly useful, such as his assertion that the Bush Administration does not represent incompetence but rather the failure of conservative principles (but doesn't it represent both?).
According to him and others--for this narrative is hardly new--the Republican establishment has done a good job defining their party as the symbolic "strict father" with "the moral authority who supports and defends the family, tells his wife what to do, and teaches his kids right from wrong." Republicans have made the "strict father" model into a trusted worldview among Americans; Democrats' "nuturant parent" model that assumes people are inherently good is in turn rejected in favor of the strict father approach. As a result, much hand-wringing ensues over how the Democrats are losing the "framing" contest. Too much time is spent analyzing and parroting Lakoff, not enough time is spent working to turn dismal prophecies around.
Lost in all of this is how unquantifiable a lot of what Lakoff asserts really is. Language of course and its effective mastery, including the ability to unite thoughts under a coherent theme, is crucial in communicating ideals and beliefs--and not something George W. Bush particularly excels at--but commencing yet another debate on why Democrats lose rather than working for them to win is in a sense undermining the effort to use language to redefine and renew the party. A communications strategy that is supposed to consist of successful framing techniques becomes overcome by self-defeat. Proof of this is the way in which Lakoff himself has become a star attraction rather than just an anonymous speechwriter.
Sometimes over-analysis results in paralysis, rather than a clear-headed ability to act. In this vein, one of the best and most deceptively simple pieces of advice I have received is to "act as if, and belief will follow." Often times, dwelling on failures rather than successes lead to a rootedness in that failure. Sometimes, one must act as if success was inevitable, and perhaps it will be.