I don't usually read The Daily Kos, but I'm well aware of that blogs influence in the liberal region of the blogosphere, and the fact that Kos himself is fast becoming a serious player in the Democratic party. So, when Kos highly recommends a book by George Lakoff, calling it "the best book of this cycle," and linking to the Rockridge Institute, I know Lakoff and his ideas have arrived in the blogosophere. In fact, I've seen him all over, lately, from several posts at Fair Shot to Language Log's frequent mentions of his work (not surprising, since Lakoff is a linguist). This is a good thing, because Lakoff's ideas are insightful and important, especially for liberals. However, I can't help but wonder why it's taken so long for these ideas to be noticed by mainstream liberals. They're certainly not new (the study of rhetoric goes back to Plato and Aristotle, for Christ's sake!), even to Lakoff, who was writing on framing and political discourse back in 1992. The only thing new to the political discussion (though not to Lakoff) is the conceptual metaphor perspective, which is the weakest aspect of his work. I think you can just throw it out entirely, and keep his discussion of frames.
Who can possibly explain the fact that mainstream liberals have been so slow to jump on the rhetoric bandwagon? I certainly can't. It makes no sense to me. The people who've been studying rhetoric over the last few decades have, by and large, been liberals, as have the philosophers (postmodernists, pragmatists, etc.) who've been talking about this stuff since the 60s (from Foucault1 to Rorty). Lakoff's view of frames is not very different from the core insights of both the liberals studying theories of rhetoric or the philosophers talking about the role of language in thought. For some reason, it took a linguist who is, by any standard, still at the fringe of his field (cognitive science) to convince us that language, labels, and discourse are important, even more important than reasoned argumentation. Is this because mainstream liberals have still been wedded to their Enlightenment ideals? Is it because Lakoff's just a better writer of material for lay people? Is it because Lakoff explicitly ties it in to American politics (so does Baudrillard, but for most, he's all but unreadable)? Whatever the reason, I have two hopes. The first is that Lakoff's newfound popularity will lead mainstream liberal intellectuals to start taking rhetoric seriously, and delve into all of the insights rhetorical theorists have had over the last few decades. The second is that at the same time people take Lakoff's view of frames, and the gap between the skillful use of frames by conservatives and the poor use of them by liberals, seriously, they don't try to use Lakoff's own theory of cognition to implement the ideas and bridge the framing gap. That would simply be counterproductive.
1 I know, I know, Foucault isn't a liberal, and his critical of liberalism. But if you get rid of his fatalism, you can treat him as a liberal, and even if he's not a liberal, he's still influenced many liberal academics.