Republicans on OWS: a preview


This week Frank Luntz, Republican spinmeister extraordinaire, spoke to the Republican Governors Association about how to “frame” Occupy Wall Street to the public.

“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death,” said Luntz. “They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”

Luntz is a master of using language to trigger subtle emotional responses favorable to the speaker, and for years has been directing Republicans in how to effectively spin their message.

Since Republican politicians obediently follow Luntz’s dictates in lockstep, you’ll be hearing these memes from conservatives of all stripes as they spin OWS in the coming days and weeks. The rules are quite instructive, especially since almost all public speech by the political class is generally finessed in the same way. And Luntz is the very best; the Democrats don’t have anybody in his league. In fact, President Obama would do well to ponder rule 6 carefully.

1. Don’t say ‘capitalism.’
“I’m trying to get that word removed and we’re replacing it with either ‘economic freedom’ or ‘free market,’ ” Luntz said. “The public . . . still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we’re seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we’ve got a problem.”

2. Don’t say that the government ‘taxes the rich.’ Instead, tell them that the government ‘takes from the rich.’
“If you talk about raising taxes on the rich,” the public responds favorably, Luntz cautioned. But “if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no. Taxing, the public will say yes.”

3. Republicans should forget about winning the battle over the ‘middle class.’ Call them ‘hardworking taxpayers.’
“They cannot win if the fight is on hardworking taxpayers. We can say we defend the ‘middle class’ and the public will say, I’m not sure about that. But defending ‘hardworking taxpayers’ and Republicans have the advantage.”

4. Don’t talk about ‘jobs.’ Talk about ‘careers.’
“Everyone in this room talks about ‘jobs,'” Luntz said. “Watch this.”
He then asked everyone to raise their hand if they want a “job.” Few hands went up. Then he asked who wants a “career.” Almost every hand was raised.
“So why are we talking about jobs?”

5. Don’t say ‘government spending.’ Call it ‘waste.’
“It’s not about ‘government spending.’ It’s about ‘waste.’ That’s what makes people angry.”

6. Don’t ever say you’re willing to ‘compromise.’
“If you talk about ‘compromise,’ they’ll say you’re selling out. Your side doesn’t want you to ‘compromise.’ What you use in that to replace it with is ‘cooperation.’ It means the same thing. But cooperation means you stick to your principles but still get the job done. Compromise says that you’re selling out those principles.”

7. The three most important words you can say to an Occupier: ‘I get it.’
“First off, here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ . . . ‘I get that you’re angry. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.”
Then, he instructed, offer Republican solutions to the problem.

8. Out: ‘Entrepreneur.’ In: ‘Job creator.’
Use the phrases “small business owners” and “job creators” instead of “entrepreneurs” and “innovators.”

9. Don’t ever ask anyone to ‘sacrifice.’
“There isn’t an American today in November of 2011 who doesn’t think they’ve already sacrificed. If you tell them you want them to ‘sacrifice,’ they’re going to be be pretty angry at you. You talk about how ‘we’re all in this together.’ We either succeed together or we fail together.”

10. Always blame Washington.
Tell them, “You shouldn’t be occupying Wall Street, you should be occupying Washington. You should occupy the White House because it’s the policies over the past few years that have created this problem.”

Don’t say ‘bonus!’
Luntz advised that if they give their employees an income boost during the holiday season, they should never refer to it as a “bonus.”
“If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you’re going to make people angry. It’s ‘pay for performance.'”


21 responses to “Republicans on OWS: a preview

  1. I didn’t steal this, promise!! I drafted a post on the same last night!


  2. Yep – it comes at a good time, when the ground beneath their feet is crumbling. But “they get it!”!!


  3. Luntz is the best at what he does. He’s brilliant in fact. Gingrich used him in the 90’s to draw up a list of replacement words for Republicans in Congress to use to further their agenda, so they’d sound fresh. Lately he’s been incredibly influentail steering the conversation over health care reform and financial reform (to stop them of course).

    For instance, his memo on health care memo in ’09 included:
    “(4) The arguments against the Democrats’ healthcare plan must center around “politicians,” “bureaucrats,” and “Washington” … not the free market, tax incentives, or competition.”

    This year, his language guide memo for defeating financial reform probably helped to take down Elizabeth Warren.

    I wish we had someone like him. And much as I hate that it’s necessary (as you pointed out), it is.


    • Yes, he should join the good side!
      Doing positive things for the country and community is a whole lot better than money, in the long run. Being nice is a better life. He should try it.


  4. Words, Words, everywhere and not a thought to think. That’s what he and Newt are best at.

    This entrepreneur, I mean job creator, drives this hardworking taxpayer crazy.

    But I think it better than 99%, that Luntz’s luck have run it’s route.

    The #OWS argument is just too potent.

    There is a Peter Hart GOP focus group that airs on C-Span this weekend. If you haven’t seen Hart to a focus group, you’re in for big political fun.


  5. Great Post ORHAN (Moe)…..
    I featured it over at the Dog also….

    You GO Girl!


  6. I see you’ve got the snow going already!


  7. Luntz does seem to “get it”, I think primarily because he’s very good at listening to the people. From what I’ve seen of his focus groups, he asks really good questions and challenges people to really know what they’re thinking.

    As for him “spinning”, I’d rather see someone working on how to make a bitter pill easier to swallow (“we have to have cuts”) than someone trying to sell the public a sugar pill (“just tax the rich”) that will do little to nothing as far as really solving the problem.

    Either way, it’s going to be an interesting battle and with a (hopefully) formidable opponent from the right, one that will finally move the country ahead.


    • Call it spin, call it propaganda, doesn’t matter. It’s marketing. And we know marketing works! Comapnies spend billions to sell their products and they do it with promises (you’ll be healthier! you’ll get the girls! and on and on and on . . . ) and repetition and icons. And that’s how they sell their stuff.

      We do the same in politics and Luntz is better than anything the Dems have. You know we all often vote against our own interests . . . and we often refuse to look at performance when there’s a new shiney candiate out there. And Luntz polishes the ‘job creators’ meme so it looks real (which it isn’t).

      Anyway, shallow political junkie that I am, I’m enjoying the hell out of this race. Any predictions?


  8. Pingback: Why the Occupy Movement is winning and scaring the hell out of the GOP/TEA | Occupy Cyberspace – American Autumn

  9. Pingback: Republicans on OWS: a preview...Whatever Works....

  10. I ran across George Lakoff’s take on the Luntz speech here. Lakoff is a neuroscientist and progressive who works in the area of framing and metaphorical thought structures; he was the first to bring awareness of this type of purposefully constructed language to the Democratic left, and he understands the power of this type of speech very well.


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