Last night I went to hear George Lakoff, author of the book "Don't Think of an Elephant" that tries to reframe the left-right debate to help the progressive movement. (My review of the book is here.)
Lakoff's an excellent speaker, talking slowly and clearly but without the feeling of condescension I get from other speakers who "dumb down" whatever they're talking about. He took written questions from the crowd of 1,500, and one that he answered was mine, which went something like this:
Libertarians are found on both the left and the right, and as a libertarian sympathizer, I find myself rebelling against both of the parent models you've described. Is this evidence that the "nurturant parent/strict father" political model you've described is not all-encompassing?
Lakoff responded that the models are a metaphor, they don't map an adult parent- minor child relationship between society and individuals. He said that the nurturant parent cares about but does not control the adult child.
His response is fine if you're just trying to sell the progressive agenda to libertarians, but I'm not sure it really answers my question. If the progressive model works so well for libertarians, why are so many of them conservatives? I think the nurturant parent/strict father model works well as a metaphor for many but not all people. The libertarian/communitarian divide might also split people in a different direction that doesn't match left/right viewpoints. Environmentalism, to a lesser extent, also crosses traditional political divides.
I think Lakoff has some great points, which he can argue without trying to have the One Theory That Describes Everything.
UPDATE: Just wanted to add that Lakoff had a great reframing method for tort "reform": focusing on tort lawyers as the "police and prosecutors" of the civil justice system. That connotation will play favorably to moderate conservatives wondering if they should believe what BushCo people have to say.
keywords: Lakoff, politics, tort reform, libertarian