July 26, 2014

Why Can’t We Get Our Message Across? It Is About Framing The Narrative

clip_image001I am at Netroots Nation 2012 right now in a session titled “How Progressives Get Narrative Wrong and How To Get It Right”. This is something we are talk about at Coffee Party USA and many other activist organizations I work with.

An idea like “we want an economy that works for everyone” is fine. However that does not get to the heart. It is not the right narrative. We know that trickle-down economics is a clear and present danger to every middle class American. However people do not think in those terms. They think with the heart. They think subjectively.

Liberals know that currently their values and policies are provably better for the middle class because these policies ensure deterministic equal access to success (not equal outcome). Conservative policies as codified by Paul Ryan’s budget are provably Darwinistic. Why then is there a difficulty in conveying this absolute truth? We are not connecting with peoples’ stories. We are just being analytical.

Archie Bunker in the sitcom “All in the Family” is an example of how a narrative that allowed America to visualize its own “racist story” and how the interaction with other races evolved, was instrumental in framing America’s psyche on this issue in a positive manner. Much change occurred when a narrative was connected to a story that people already know.

We confuse stimulus with response. We say the middle class is the backbone of the American economy.

“Reform is negative while improvement is positive.

The negative mental model we package our information in tend to affect the perception of what we are trying to get across. Taxing something versus budgeting is an example. Responsible budgeting is easier to digest than taxing the rich because taxing sounds punitive.

Must be interesting. You must have a reason to be interesting. You must have a real story. You must have backup to your story with useful information. You must be able to add to your story to continue to engage your community.

Creating a narrative is hard work. It is not about making it easy. It is about making it truthful, creative, and open to listen.


Made to Stick is a good book(OLD).

The Story telling animal

The Spreadable Media






More coming……..



About Egberto Willies

Egberto Willies is a radio show host, author, blogger, political activist, DailyKOS Featured Writer, Vice President of Coffee Party USA, Executive Committee member of Move to Amend, 2nd Annual CNN iReport Spirit Award Honoree, HuffPost Live Contributor, self-employed software developer, & web designer. Egberto wrote the book ‘As I See It:Class Warfare The Only Resort To Right Wing Doom’ based on his belief that the mainstream media is derelict in its duty to relate what really ails the middle class and the complicity of the Right Wing in its demise. Bio: http://egbertowillies.com/bio/ Linked In: http://linkd.in/TOiHUS. Google


  1. Rick Hurt says:

    We as Democrats have limited the narrative… I attended the Harris County Precinct Chair meeting last night… a candidate for state chair speaks about the issues of the Democrats before those attending the meeting… with phrases that the Democrats are the party of Social Security, Democrats are party of Education … and he gives this long list… after he speaks, I go up to him to inform we the Democrats were once the party supporting those with Disabilities… and we don’t talk about those issues during the election. Our state of Texas is 49th in funding services for those with disabilities… long waiting lists… this week those with disabilities (special needs) are graduating from the school system at the age of 22, and family members will have to quit their jobs which means they could lose their insurance… because of the long waiting lists (8 to 10 years) in each of our Texas Senate Districts. We as Democrats under the BIG TENT are silent on the issues during the election… It is time the Democrats again start speaking about the issues of those with disabilities… It is time that the Democrat web site… TEXAS DEMOCRAT PARTY… website, TDP include it as a hot button issue for the Democrats… We limited our issues in 2010… and disabilities was not one of the issues… ADAPT had a protest in DC… in the rotunda… people in wheelchairs were arrested… and after that protests it was the federal government stated it is time the states take a proactive approach to Disabilities (I have heard nothing)…. I remember the times and even parents that I work for, remember when the Democrats were proactive in regards to Disabilities… the days of the Kennedys, Johnsons, Humprheys and Shrivers of the 60′s and 70′s, it is time to return to our base… get the facts out, get the narrative out… Silence no more… as John Whitmire stated in 2011 “Put a face on the issue”, “Show me your OUTRAGE”…. as I told the TDP TEXAS DEMOCRAT PARTY,,, you can get a lot of the facts from the Arc of Texas… the one answering the phone had no idea what the Arc of Texas was… which is an Advocacy group for Disabilities… you can also get the facts from ADAPT…. cya at the TEXAS DEMOCRAT CONVENTION….. a parent told me this morning… which party wants to claim they are THE PARTY of being ranked 49th in supporting those with DISABILITIES.

  2. Mary Galbraith says:

    Here’s how I frame the narrative: Cultural evolution is very uneven, and when society as a whole evolves, this causes “growth panic” (Lloyd de Mause’s term) in sectors that are still at an earlier stage of cultural evolution. Current right-wing politics carry a much more emotional and even dangerous charge than you’ll find on the left. The psychohistorical, psychoanalytic, evolutionary-psychology explanation for this is that cultural evolution is leaving many people without their former psychological props (in both senses). For example, white men who in the past got their sense of pride from being the dominant person in their family and community feel alienated and emasculated by the rise of women and diverse groups such as people of color and gays. These people are now unwilling to support the family with their income or the community with their taxes, because they no longer feel in charge; they no longer claim the family or the community as their responsibility. “I’m not going to pay child support for HER kids, or college tuition for THEIR kids.”

    The election of Barack Obama has sent this portion of society into a severe tailspin. Racism and sexism and xenophobia are coming out of the woodwork. The political conversation isn’t really about what it’s about—it’s not about the best way to promote prosperity, health care, education, and wise relations with other countries. It’s about the alienation of people whose fundamental identity is threatened by diversity. Rational discussion is impossible, because the “problem” isn’t actually about policy—it’s about the old guard fighting against a future in which everyone shares power and responsibility for our community. The “communism” and “socialism” which this group accuses Obama of representing clearly isn’t in his policies—it’s in his person. That’s why people continue to challenge his citizenship and his religion even though these are factual non-issues.

    The question is whether this portion of society can be persuaded that we’re all in this together. The pychohistorical answer is probably not, because resistance is rooted in brain structures that are very hard to change. But cognitivists such as George Lakoff provide a more optimistic hope for change. In any case, it’s worth it to keep investigating the basis of political views, and to keep speaking the truth as rationally as we can. And even though this analysis may sound very patronizing toward the opposition, I see the underlying needs driving their resistance as valid and universal: the need for autonomy, dignity, pride, and identity. This is a good starting point.

  3. Paul Forste says:

    Apologies for lacking time to follow this thread right now. I would like very much to dialogue with individuals who live in the following circumstances: 1.) Reside within, or within easy commuting distance of, New York City…2.) Have executive capability… 3.) Are politically progressive with a dedication to making progress with individuals of every political persuasion (i.e.beyond tolerant -inclusive) … 4.)Have some knowledge of United States election finance law… (an attorney or someone knowing a network of lawyers would be useful, but not required)…4.) The ability to work roughly three to eight hours per week for relatively no compensation, for up to one year (or maybe two) (after which time adequate executive compensation in exchange for a full time commitment will kick in)…
    I will be establishing a working partnership with an individual with these qualifications. It is easy to track who I AM -Paul Forste. Reach me at paul2@anyol.com . Please put “MONSTER PAC”, only, in all caps, in the subject line, or I may miss your response. Individuals who are not in the specific circumstances listed above need not respond. Thanks.

  4. You are just like all the other libtards blame blame blame all of you are the same, not one of you stand up and take responsibility for anything. Oh I am not better off we need more government to bail my ass out really that is a naive statement. as a small business owner regulations cost money every new regulation cost when I am paying out the ass for taxes and all the other crap we have to do to keep up with all the regulations how can I afford to hire any new employs and expand my business I CANT Obama is the worst president in history. Come this fall HE IS ONE AND DONE he out of there. Thank God

  5. It’s hard to take your lament that the left is too “analytical” seriously. What might be affecting your ability to reach people are the answers you offer for the political topics of today. Personally, you can blame whoever you want for the condition of the political environment – publicly it does no good to offer rebuttals that make Democrats/Obama look either weak or dishonest (the economy is lethargic because Republicans won’t do what we say or the private economy is fine but government economy is suffering [doubly dishonest considering we just had a recall in Wisconsin that can be directly related to the spreading belief that government workers are over-compensated]).

    What’s worse, and what I think robs the left of credibility in times of economic stress, is its penchant for attacking the character of those that they disagree with. Oppose Obama on stimulus? Racist. Oppose forcing churches to fund abortifacients? Misogynist. Worried about the 15 trillion dollar debt? Racist. Against redefining marriage? Homophobic. Support voter ID laws? Racist. Support the Citizens United ruling? Anti-democratic and a tool of the rich. I could go on and on – on issues both substantial and worth debating, the left dismisses its opponents with insults and paeans to past political glory. That trivializes issues many Americans consider important, and so you’re trivializing them.

    I don’t want the Left to win – I think its policies and perspectives are destructive for America. But I will offer that it’s not that Americans aren’t hearing you…it’s that they are and you’re marginalizing yourself with your answers to the problems Americans are concerned about…

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