Obama Defends Freedom of Religion: Be Not Afraid of Mitt Romney

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By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

Do you believe in freedom of religion? President Obama does, and he is defending Americans’ freedom of religion against Mitt Romney and Fox News in the administration of his health care bill.

The president allows each woman to decide for herself whether or not to ask her insurance company to cover contraception. If this violates a woman’s religious principles, she would never ask. A woman would make such a request only if contraception fit her principles. In short, the President has guaranteed that each woman can act according to her religious principles. He has made a strong defense of freedom of religion.

In difficult cases, he has extended freedom of religion even further, beyond people to churches and houses of worship. Insurance companies are required to cover contraception with no co-pays for the women whose health care they are covering. This guarantees freedom of religion for the women covered, and does not affect insurance companies, which are neither people nor religious institutions.

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The Public: Obama’s and Romney’s Opposed Visions for a Free America

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By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

America is divided about its future. Should it keep and expand the system that brought past opportunity, prosperity and freedom? Or should it dismantle that system?

President Obama recently reminded us that private life, private enterprise, and personal freedom depend on what the public provides.

“The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. (…) when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. (…) So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country (…) there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people (…) I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together. (…) If you were successful, (…) somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. “

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The Sacredness of Life and Liberty

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By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

The NY Times, on June 5, 2012, reported that so-called “morning-after pills” work by preventing women’s eggs from being fertilized, and not by preventing fertilized eggs from being implanted in the womb. The latest scientific findings show that “the pills delay ovulation, the release of eggs from ovaries that occurs before eggs are fertilized, and some pills also thicken cervical mucus so sperm have trouble swimming.”

In short, morning-after pills do not operate on fertilized eggs at all. Why should this matter? Because many conservative Republicans, as well as the official Catholic Church, believe the metaphor that Fertilized Eggs Are People, and that preventing such egg-people from being implanted in the womb constitutes “abortion,” and hence, in their view, baby-killing. The Times article correctly reports that “it turns out that the politically charged debate over morning-after pills and abortion, a divisive issue in this election year, is probably rooted in outdated or incorrect scientific guesses about how the pills work.”

That’s the truth. Does the truth matter?

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Appreciating Undocumented Americans

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By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

This week on Independence Day, President Obama greeted new US citizens at the White House, taking the opportunity to speak once more about the need for comprehensive immigration reform, “We have to remain a nation of immigrants. And that’s why (…) we’re lifting the shadow of deportation from deserving young people who were brought to this country as children. It’s why we still need a DREAM Act to keep talented young people who want to contribute to our society and serve our country.”

Immigration is an important issue for Obama, and it will be discussed throughout this election campaign. The question is how it will be discussed.

Just about two weeks ago, on June 22, Obama gave his speech on immigration at the 2012 NALEO conference in Florida. In some parts, Obama clearly and beautifully stated his moral understanding of the issue: undocumented immigrants are in many ways already citizens – they contribute to the American society and economy through hard work, they love the country they live in, they are patriots, they share their lives with other Americans every day, they take on individual and social responsibility. The president offered more than just freedom; he offered appreciation.

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What Hath Roberts Wrought?

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By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

Democrats all over America are claiming victory in the Chief Justice Roberts’ vote to uphold the constitutionality of the President’s Health Care Law. Conservatives all over America are campaigning all the harder for a president and a congress that will overthrow the law in the future.

Thomas Friedman in his NY Times column praises Roberts to skies for putting the country ahead of ideology. Others have seen Roberts as saving “his court” from the appearance of ideological control.

But Roberts is a conservative, and a very smart, forward-looking one at that. What Roberts accomplished on one issue was to enshrine two conservative ideologies — without the Democrats even noticing while they were cheering. He did this by using the Court’s ability to turn metaphors into law. He accomplished this with two votes.

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Metaphor and Health Care: On The Power to Make Metaphor Into Law

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By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

Perhaps as early as today, the conservative–dominated Roberts Court will choose a metaphor that will affect millions of people and perhaps change the history of our country very much for the worse.

Back in 1978, linguists Michael Reddy and George Lakoff, working independently, demonstrated that metaphor is fundamentally a matter of thought, and that metaphorical language is secondary. Conceptual metaphors shape our understanding and can determine how we reason. Consequently, metaphor is central to law, as Citizens United showed by expanding the common legal metaphor Corporations Are Persons, with vast political consequences.
Today’s likely judgment was prefigured in the 2008 Republican presidential race when Rudolph Giuliani likened health care to a flat screen TV. If you want a flat screen TV, buy one; and if you don’t have the money, go earn it. If you can’t, too bad, you don’t deserve it. The same with health care, he argued, imposing the metaphor that Health Care Is A Product.

This was a sign that conservative strategists were looking for a way to impose this metaphor.
Barack Obama helped them. He bought into that metaphor when he chose the Interstate Commerce clause as the constitutional basis of his health care act. He had an alternative — Medicare for All — since Congress has the duty to provide for the general welfare.

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Obama vs. Romney: The Framing Matchup, Round One

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By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

Framing is (or should be) about moral values, deep truths, and the policies that flow from them.
As of their kickoff speeches in Ohio, Romney and Obama have both chosen economics as their major campaign theme. And thus the question of how they frame the economy will be crucial throughout the campaign. Their two speeches could not be more different.

Where Romney talks morality (conservative style), Obama mainly talks policy. Where Romney reframes Obama, Obama does not reframe Romney. In fact, he reinforces Romney’s frames in the first part of his speech by repeating Romney’s language word for word – without spelling out his own values explicitly.

Where Romney’s framing is moral, simple and straightforward, Obama’s is policy-oriented, filled with numbers, details, and so many proposals that they challenge ordinary understanding.

Where Obama talks mainly about economic fairness, Romney reframes it as economic freedom.
Here’s a discussion of Obama’s speech.

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Economics and Morality: Paul Krugman’s Framing

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By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

In his June 11, 2012 op-ed in the New York Times, Paul Krugman goes beyond economic analysis to bring up the morality and the conceptual framing that determines economic policy. He speaks of “the people the economy is supposed to serve” — “the unemployed,” and “workers”– and “the mentality that sees economic pain as somehow redeeming.”

Krugman is right to bring these matters up. Markets are not provided by nature. They are constructed — by laws, rules, and institutions. All of these have moral bases of one sort or another. Hence, all markets are moral, according to someone’s sense of morality. The only question is, Whose morality? In contemporary America, it is conservative versus progressive morality that governs forms of economic policy. The systems of morality behind economic policies need to be discussed.

Most Democrats, consciously or mostly unconsciously, use a moral view deriving from an idealized notion of nurturant parenting, a morality based on caring about their fellow citizens, and acting responsibly both for themselves and others with what President Obama has called “an ethic of excellence” — doing one’s best not just for oneself, but for one’s family, community, and country, and for the world. Government on this view has two moral missions: to protect and empower everyone equally.

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The Wisconsin Blues

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By George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling

In taking over the framing of just about every major issue, conservatives have hidden major truths. Democrats need to speak those truths from their own moral perspective. To show how, we have just published The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide for Thinking and Talking Democratic. Here is how the book applies to the Wisconsin Recall:

The Wisconsin recall vote should be put in a larger context. What happened in Wisconsin started well before Scott Walker became governor and will continue as long as progressives let it continue. The general issues transcend unions, teachers, pensions, deficits, and even wealthy conservatives and Citizens United.
Where progressives argued policy — the right to collective bargaining and the importance of public education — conservatives argued morality from their perspective, and many working people who shared their moral views voted with them and against their own interests. Why? Because morality is central to identity, and hence trumps policy.

Progressive morality fits a nurturant family: parents are equal, the values are empathy, responsibility for oneself and others, and cooperation. That is taught to children. Parents protect and empower their children, and listen to them. Authority comes through an ethic of excellence and living by what you say, rather than by enforcing rules.

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