Friday, September 19, 2008
I Heart Frameshop
This has brought me back to Frameshop and a renewed appreciation of the analysis provided there. I never leave Frameshop without substance to chew over. Some may find it a little abstract but I never do. For example, his recent post Frameshop: The Winning Frame has Emerged examines the various frames used by various candidates in the campaign.
Here's his take on the Democrats' frames:
Opening Frames: 'American Dream' and 'Hope'
The 2008 election started out with multiple competing frames from Democrats and Republicans. The largest opening frames, however, came from the Clinton campaign and the Obama Campaign.
From the start, Clinton set the idea of restoring the 'American Dream,' and idea that was fundamentally economic. During the course of the primary, Clinton arrived at a new way to express her opening frame by talking about 'the invisible.' It was a very convincing idea, particularly as the economy went south. Despite the ideological statements of the Republicans, a majority of Americans felt that the economy had left them behind and that nobody cared about their troubles. The 'American Dream' frame became 'the invisible' and Hillary Clinton won millions of votes as a result.
The Obama campaign offered a different opening frame in the idea of 'Hope.' In many ways, 'Hope' was a much stronger frame than 'American dream' because it spoke to larger questions about the future of the country as a whole. By talking about 'Hope,' Obama was talking about American idealism beyond the mechanics of building family wealth. 'Hope' was also a more forward looking frame because it implicitly acknowledged new challenges that Americans face--such as global warming, conservation, technology, international interdependence, and so forth. The 'American Dream,' was more nostalgic. The problem with 'Hope' as we discovered in the primary, was that it was difficult to re-emphasize in terms of the economy when that became the key issue in the primaries. The middle ground framing of 'more people participating' that was so successful for Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, became less successful for his campaign in Pennsylvania. The better frame in idealistic terms, 'Hope' did not readily present a way to ground that idealism in the concrete issues that contingency was forcing into the election.
Obama won the nomination, but the sense coming out of that long contest was that he was left with a very big challenge of finding an economic foundation for his 'hope' frame. And even by the time of the DNC, it did not seem like that new frame had emerged quite yet.