News - October 4, 2016

Blog: Framing Politics

Leonardo Medina Santa Cruz

Climate change, natural resource management, peeing in the shower… since blogger Leonardo Medina studies at Wageningen University, he debates about everything. After a judgmental discussion with a friend, he realizes other opinions are deeper than they seem at first glance.

‘Would you vote for Hillary or Trump?’

I don’t even hesitate as I receive today’s most common question in the international politics arena: ‘Hillary’, I answer. My friend’s response startles me. ‘No, no, no! She’s too weak. America needs a real leader, who’s strong and powerful, who has the authority to make the harsh decisions about war, immigration and crime’.

I stare at her, wondering if she’s from another planet.

The theory
Days later I’m still thinking about it: how is it possible we developed radically opposite views from very similar information? After some research I find Dr. George Lakoff’s theory. He argues governments typically function as a family metaphor (founding fathers, homeland security, Uncle Sam), so personal family values greatly influence our political identities. By seeing the government as a parental figure, we end up using our ‘ideal’ family model to judge its actions.

By seeing the government as a parental figure, we end up using our ‘ideal’ family model to judge its actions.

I go back to my friend and ask about her family. She considers herself to be more like her father, so I’m mostly interested in him. Apparently, the guy sticks almost entirely to the ‘Strict father’ set of moral principles, usually adopted by Republicans. In contrast with my parents, who tend to act according to the ‘Nurturing parent’ scheme, followed by the Democrats.

Unraveling the frame
We repeat the debate, now considering our different frames of reference: our process of organizing and filtering information in order to make sense out of it. She tells me about the refugee situation in her country and the security issues arising from it. She talks about her childhood: being raised to achieve her goals individually, to believe in the importance of authority, to live according to a fixed morality, always with a ‘clean forehead’.   

The result: a worth-having, greatly educational discussion. Even if I still don’t completely agree with her, I now understand her point of view. She doesn’t seem like she's from outer space anymore. Just like me, she’s an Earthling. From Greece, if you want specifics.