Lakoff on Selecting Language to Contest Trumpism


If you have not seen Tavis Smiley’s interview with the linguist George Lakoff, it is very much worth watching. Lakoff offers much insight into how progressives need to frame issues in order to reach the broadest possible spectrum of voters:

Here are the opening paragraphs of Lakoff’s blog post “Understanding Trump,” written and then updated before Trump was elected president. It provides the baseline for understanding what Lakoff has to say in the interview with Tavis Smiley about what progressives need to do now and going forward:

“There is a lot being written and spoken about Trump by intelligent and articulate commentators whose insights I respect. But as a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon. This perspective is hardly unknown. More than half a million people have read my books, and Google Scholar reports that scholars writing in scholarly journals have cited my works well over 100,000 times.

“Yet you will probably not read what I have to say in the NY Times, nor hear it from your favorite political commentators. You will also not hear it from Democratic candidates or party strategists. There are reasons, and we will discuss them later I this piece. I am writing it because I think it is right and it is needed, even though it comes from the cognitive and brain sciences, not from the normal political sources. I think it is imperative to bring these considerations into public political discourse. But it cannot be done in a 650-word op-ed. My apologies. It is untweetable.

“I will begin with an updated version of an earlier piece on who is supporting Trump and why—and why policy details are irrelevant to them. I then move to a section on how Trump uses your brain against you. I finish up discussing how Democratic campaigns could do better, and why they need to do better if we are to avert a Trump presidency. . . .”

The complete post is available at:



3 thoughts on “Lakoff on Selecting Language to Contest Trumpism

  1. There are other ways of saying essentially the same thing as Lakoff, though coming from other perspectives. I, for instance, see the divide as Calvinist authoritarianism and Enlightenment egalitarianism. There are plenty of other ways of describing this basic difference in American perspectives. These do not contradict each other but rather confirm that the division’s emotional roots are much deeper than its intellectual ones.

    Thanks for the post and the links. We need to be trying to make sense of this unfolding calamity. Only then will we be able to effectively respond.

  2. Pingback: Language and Resistance | Seeking Good

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