A Review of The Little Blue Book

The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking DemocraticThe Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic by George Lakoff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I finished this book and I’m not really satisfied with it, although I can’t quite place my finger on why. I had really looked forward to receiving this book, assuming it would teach Democrats how to go toe to toe with conservatives in rhetoric, debates, etc. To a very minor degree, the second half of this book provides some terms and examples one could use, but that’s not really the gist of the book. It’s subtitle is “The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic” and I guess it might be partially accurate, but it left me feeling pretty empty and hopeless. I think most of the terms suggested here to replace commonly used terms in public discourse border on ridiculous and won’t ever come into play.

First, though, conservatives like to accuse Democrats of being “liberal elites,” which makes me wonder why Republicans want to be known as stupid dumb asses. Anyway, the first half of this book did nothing to make me think that the stereotype did not hold true for the book. It’s a scientific, linguistic explanation of morals, moral contexts, using “basic-level” words, neural logic and “cascades,” a “network of neurons that links many brain circuits…. the brain does not handle single ideas as separate entities: a bigger context, a logical construct within which the idea is defined, is evoked in order to grasp its meaning…. Language triggers cascades.” Confused? I bet Joe Six Pack would be if he picked this book up. This book is designed FOR liberal elites and feeds right into the stereotype so many of we Democrats fight to overcome.

The bulk of the book is taken up by Democratic ideas, such as those surrounding corporations, food regulation, public education, nature, and more, and it basically provides tiny chapters for each (like two to four pages) and gives alternative terms for words commonly used in political circles that the authors think have been hijacked by conservatives. This is where my big problem is. I’m right up there agreeing conservatives have hijacked public dialogue, but the alternative terms they advocate strike me as downright silly. Let me give you examples. On abortion and pro-choice terminology, they argue that conservatives make this a moral argument through their use of their own terminology, so instead of saying “pro choice,” we should instead say “pro-liberty.” Other options include “pro-family” and “family freedom.” They then go on to say, “the terms birth control and birth control pills are disastrous. The real issue is ‘pregnancy prevention’.” That’s right — we should talk about pregnancy prevention instead of birth control. Maybe that makes some sort of sense, but I can’t see society making that shift, no matter how many liberals start employing that term. So too, abortion is a dirty word. We need to replace it with — get this — “development prevention.” Yeah, that’s right. Development prevention. I’m not pro-abortion, nor am I anti-choice, but no one’s going to start saying development prevention. I’m sorry — it’s not going to happen. To sum it up, this is a book of ideas, and maybe it’s a decent conversation starter, but the terminology solutions suggested here seem ludicrous to me and probably to a whole bunch of other people too. I was really disappointed in this book, especially after looking forward to reading it so much. I don’t recommend it.

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