Two posts by Kris Broughton at Big Think (here and here) look at the efforts of cognitive linguist George Lakoff to improve progressives' messaging efforts. This exchange from an old interview with Lakoff is quite telling:
POWELL: Why do conservatives appear to be so much better at framing the language?
LAKOFF: Because they've put billions of dollars into it.
Those billions of dollars--spent over the past forty years--have framed issues in ways favorable to conservatives for two generations of voters. As Broughton notes:
It is from this combination of coast to coast radio cheerleaders, think tank position papers whose "findings" are echoed by newspaper columnists, and TV commentators that words like armageddon, fascist, communist, muslim, radical, and babykiller have become the lexicons of the Republican Party and Tea Party activists.
George Lakoff explains how untellable truths are created by conservatives' " superior message machine:"
Dozens of think tanks with communications facilities, framing experts, training institutes, a national roster of speakers, booking agents to books their speakers in the media and civic groups, and owned medias like Fox News and a great deal of talk radio.
There is no comparable progressive message machine. [...] The conservative message machine has so dominated political discourse that they have changed the meaning of words and made some truths untellable by political leaders in present discourse. It takes a major communication effort to change that.
Broughton writes that "even if the progressives could hone their messaging and could lash together a permanent movement, they are still a couple a billion dollars a year and a few thousand message outlets short" of anything resembling messaging parity with Republicans.
We are all poorer for that shortfall.