Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision

ISBN: 0374530904
ISBN 13: 9780374530907
By: George Lakoff Rockridge Institute

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Reader's Thoughts


This is the book every progressive activist or Democratic candidate should read in order to understand how to frame their message.


A very clear look at the use of language in politics.


Replacement of Liberal with Progressive. Patriarchal paternalism vs messy community decision making. Liberals will always be on the defensive regardless of name.


For someone interesting in the power of words, it has a compelling look at political speech relating to the most crucial issues of today.


I've read most of Lakoff's other books (that's my reason for the 3 stars... not too much new material)... if you have read those, you can probably skip this and just check out the Rockridge Institute's website: []If you haven't read any Lakoff and are curious, I would recommend this or Don't Think of an Elephant. If you've read this or 'Elephant and want more... head straight to Moral Politics. Every time I open a newspaper, turn on cable news or scan the blogs, I hear something that vindicates his cognitive science interpretation of American politics. Compelling.

Kristy Powell

This was a great find about how progressives can identify and communicate our values and morals. Conservatives essentially have the "market" on being the party associated with morals and values, so how do progressives take it back? I found this to be not only helpful (to help me communicate those values in an intelligent way to conservative friends), but also eye-opening about some of the core differences between the parties, and solidified why I am progressive.

Missy Meegan

An excellent book on political framing and a must read for any Progressive looking for ways to effectively communicate our ideas while effectively dispelling conservative myths. The Rockridge Institute's ( which funded this book) website is an excellent resource for additional information.


Great way to learn to frame issues progressively! How to argue using progressive values.


Taking our country back from the ultra-right wing conservatives who have dominated it for far too long isn't going to be easy. We've actually got to start communicating on a whole different level, abandoning our "just the facts" approach to persuading voters. Lakoff explains why it isn't enough to simply present strong evidence of a failing economy, a disastrous foreign policy, or an unjust social system. He helps make sense of the seeming paradox of voters who vote against their own self-interest, consistently putting into office the politicians whose policies are destroying their chances for a better life. Contrary to popular opinion, the people who voted to re-elect Bush aren't stupid or uninformed - they are simply working with a different internal framework, a "father-knows-best" way of seeing the world, which the conservatives have become experts at manipulating. Progressives need to change their approach - and soon - if there's to be any hope of changing the direction of our country. This book is a good place to start.


If you are at all interested in either political messaging or marketing communications (which are actually the same things) you will find this book fascinating. Lakoff is a linguist who may be best known for his book, Metaphors We Live By. The focus of Thinking Points is his exploration of how political discourse can best be understood, and more effectively practiced, by understanding the frames out of which it arises. Frames, as defined by Lakoff, are the mental structures, the reality maps, which we all unconsciously utilize to create a coherent mental picture of how the world is structured. Lakoff's contribution in this book is in applying the framing hypothesis to the analysis of progressive and conservative policies and the language used to articulate them. He wrote this book in 2006 and was remarkably prescient in anticipating the ways in which the Democrats would need to change their message in order regain political ascendancy.


While this is supposed to be a "guidebook" to communicating and swaying the opinions of undecided voters/moderates (or "biconceptuals" as the book calls them), I think it really falls short of its aims. It primarily shows how to "frame" issues and opinions to influence those opinions, but falls far short of actually describing WHY the liberal beliefs are better or more effective than others.Some examples of how the prescribed ideas contained within might work more effectively, are shortsighted and show a fundamental misunderstanding of economics and other subjects (defense and conservative opinions and beliefs to name two more). If I'm going to try to change a person's opinion, I'd at least try to understand their basis and where they are coming from, but this book seems to rely on tired old stereotypes and talking points as starting points for discussion.All in all, as a conservative, it's barely worth reading, and if I were a liberal, I'd probably discard most of the material within as well. It's got very shaky conceptions of the values and visions it seeks to persuade others to adopt. There's nothing new here - just new ways of saying and arguing the same old, hackneyed liberal hyperbole

Joel Duff

The ideas behind this are great but it reads poorly and becomes more tedious as it progresses. Sometimes team writing produces the least engaging books. That being said, progressives cannot afford to miss this message about speaking to values.

Stephie Jane Rexroth

Must read. Every argument, issue and policy can be boiled down to two cognitive frames: the strict (authoritarian) father frame for conservatives and the nurturant-parent frame for progressives. This book in particular explored "bi-conceptualism"... instead of being in-the-middle, independent or moderate, people have a mix of conservative and progressive moral systems as applied to specific issues/policies. Many pointers and plenty of examples for not arguing against conservative frames, which ineffectively reinforces them... use frames that reflect your own progressive values: empathy and responsibility. Doing so establishes unique progressive identity and authenticity... instead of being the anti-[add conservative topic here].Eye-opening, helpful and practical.


An exceptional text on political framing. The text is concise and easy to read while not skimping on details. Lakoff's work will be shown in the future to be one of the central reasons why the progressive movement didn't die.


This is a very important book for understanding the reasons why politicians have difficult creating counterargument. For anyone who is frustrated with why the Democratic Party has been unable to come up with a response, read this!

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