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Frank Luntz

Ralph, David, and Steve invite Republican pollster, Frank Luntz, coiner of the terms “climate change” and “clean coal,” for a freewheeling conversation about – among other things – why he has changed his mind about the climate crisis.

Frank Luntz has long been a loyal Republican insider. Mr. Luntz made his name by advising Republicans to repackage their policies with language designed to play more on constituents’ emotions. For example, telling conservatives to say they opposed the “death tax” rather than the “estate tax”. Mr. Luntz helped the Republicans understand the importance of building messages around small business rather than big corporations. He is well known as a pollster and a political commentator. He conducted focus groups for HBO and Vice News before the 2018 elections. And he appears regularly on HBO and Fox News. He served as a consultant to the NBC show, The West Wing. Mr Luntz wrote the book Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary”.

“I think that [the Democrats] need to talk about genuine reform. And ‘reform’ might not be the word anymore. But they have to show the specific changes they would make and the changes they would make within the first 100 days. Second, there are some things that Trump has done that they specifically oppose. Give three examples to the public. These are the three things that I would overturn if you give us the power to do it.”

Frank Luntz, Republican pollster & wordsmith

 “The problem with Donald Trump’s communication is that it’s all about Donald Trump. And his people don’t have the guts to tell him ‘Sir, you’re doing yourself damage’.”

Frank Luntz, Republican pollster & wordsmith

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 331 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. Theresa Barzee says:

    Wow, gentlemen! That was a painful episode to listen to! It kind of broke my heart to have to hear my favorites demeaned. “Probably worth reading…” is funny, only because after hearing this guy, Luntz, slam you-all, it did not make me want to check out his written words! Please accept my huge applause for trying to open a discussion on what Dems need to do! And? The moral highground!? Cannot be “taken” so much as earned. By actions! Likewise, respect. I bow to all of you, because you only prove this every episode. Peace! Or as Martha Graham might encourage:
    “There is no peace; only this blessed unrest.” Also Paul Hawken’s book title on many kinds of activism around the world! “Blessed Unrest.”

    • elizabeth crum says:

      ‘The moral highground!? Cannot be “taken” so much as earned.’ Well said.

      • Bruce K. says:

        > The moral highground!? Cannot be “taken” so much as earned.

        Someone please tell the Republicans this.

    • Stephanie Sutera says:

      OMG I know! Please do not ever have him on again! That guy is a jerk and so rude! Couldn’t even answer Ralph’s question about the effect of Trumps stupid slogans.

  2. Joy Marx-Mendoza says:

    Always so helpful in understanding our responsibility to
    join in the debate! Joy Marx-Mendoza

    • Tom Over says:

      What was Ralph Nader trying to accomplish via this episode?

      It’s great to hear out someone we disagree with.

      But why didn’t Nader politely but rigorously press Luntz on how corporate abuses of power are damaging US national interests, political and economic freedom, and the habitability of earth?

      Maybe more than anyone else, Nader’s knowledge on that is extensive. So where was his rigorous questioning?

      Focusing on “messaging” instead of the actual issues unavoidably implies the notion that regular folk such as myself are too stupid to be truthfully engaged.

      Cynicism and disengagement among the public often results not from our collective stupidity but from our disgust with being lied to or “messaged” to by politicians and pundits as if we weren’t full adults.

      I don’t see how this conversation with Frank Luntz helps us to build grassroots power to counter plutocracy.

      Please focus on how to build social democracy to counter the slide toward oligarchy.

      • Stephanie Sutera says:

        He was trying to make a point that of how much influence political strategies have on the country. It’s practically brainwashing. The point was to use Frank solely because he changed global warming to climate change and the people ate it right up. It happens to be a familiar example .if you are old enough you would have heard global warming everywhere and now you don’t. Unfortunately Frank is a jerk and the whole thing unraveled. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t think it’s an educational tool to build grassroots power. Wouldn’t citizens be more willing to participate if they understood they are being manipulated by political strategists?

  3. James Roberson says:

    Hey guys! I’d like to comment on David’s back and forth with Frank Luntz. While I do agree that progressive policies like medicare for all and climate change are moral issues, I don’t think that alone is a winning strategy. While morality should be core, I believe explaining it with less of a sense of morality and more common language that preaches pragmatism in a way that can coincide with American ideologies is the way to go. This is because of how Americans have inaccurate connotations of labels. I’ve learned from going to right wing conferences and talking to moderates and how they conflate concepts like democratic socialism with communism. I am 21 years old and explain medicare for all to my father and he agrees with the concept but because it’s been so conflated with socialism which means communism in his 60 year mind, he denounces it even after agreeing because “it’s not the American way.” It’s as you guys said, explain medicare for all one way then people agree. Explain it another way they don’t. You can see this how Frank Luntz responded to medicare for all. “I don’t have the freedom to choose.” He wants the freedom to be screwed by the medical system, and his framing of it as a government take over. That’s what we should be focusing on. Either way, is that not what Bernie Sanders did? I’ve heard him say countless times use the word “immoral.” He did rally the logical people who know this but moderates and right wingers didn’t bite. Why? Because of their connotations with his labels and US supporters beating them down with our sense of morality. Plus pushing more morality makes more “justice warrior” type people that many on the left and right do not like. Because I’ve realized the right thinks we are the bad guys, just like the left thinks they are in many circumstances. Both dems and reps do this morality pushing anyways, from black rights matter, to reps concept of abortion. I’ve changed my way of arguing with Republicans and moderates by being respectful and not push my morality in their face and instead give statics and pragmatic simple ways of looking at it. All while using words like “my brother” or “my sister” (thing I picked up from Cornel West), and after all of this I see people are much more open to work with my framing of the conversation. If you frame things in a more moral imperative, people who disagree become defensive and want to resist it completely because they want to resist thinking they are the bad guys. All of you please reply to my assessment. Thank you all for your great work!

    • Well said, James. The Left already suffers from being seen as sanctimonious in the eyes of conservatives so moralizing/sermonizing is unlikely to be appealing outside the choir. It’s a real dilemma b/c I absolutely love Rev William Barber and what he’s trying to do with the Poor People’s Campaign. I see him as someone wiht enormous moral authority and, at the same time, every time he uses the words “moral” and “immoral” I cringe b/c I know that some people here that as a judgment on them and their morality.

      • Bruce K. says:

        > The Left already suffers from being seen as sanctimonious in the eyes of conservatives so moralizing/sermonizing is unlikely to be appealing

        Very true … but I am not sure if the problem is that the Left is sanctimonious and moralizing, or that they are sanctimonious and moralizing but never do anything about it or even attempt seriously to bring about change. I believe the Left are just people collecting their paychecks from the supporters of the Right in order that we can pretend we actually have two parties or a democracy at all.

        The real Left, labor unions, independent thinkers, academics, scientists, philosophers, etc have been banished from our public space and debate, replaced with cheap hacks.

  4. John Puma says:

    I, too, respect the right to be heard of the ideas I hate.

    However, I choose what I listen to precisely to avoid having to hear those ideas, yet again. They seem to get priority in the main-stream-media. That’s why I’m here!

    So Ralph and crew, please have on the show Henry Giroux and/or Michael Parenti to help cleanse the RN Radio Hour of the stench imparted by the con job attempted by Mr Luntz.

    It must be clear that for an, admittedly extremely skilled, wordsmith, like Mr Luntz, to also do polling means that the results of those polls are predetermined to promulgate ONLY the views that Mr Luntz wants heard. His allegation that he seeks the opinion of the people MUST be taken as the profound, cynical lie that it is.

    I’d suggest that the “moral” aspect of national health care insurance be substituted with the notion that said health insurance in simply and completely the realization of first enumerated inalienable right of Americans as stipulated in Declaration of Independence. That is: LIFE.

    Further, the reason “to save the planet” is of no use to generate support for effective approaches to the climate disaster. Rather, the challenge is to “save our species.” I’d suggest this is the ultimate in “personalization” of issues as recommended by Mr Nader.

  5. Don Harris says:

    Frank Luntz was correct that the word reform is not the right word. We should use the phrase Political Climate Change.

    Luntz was wrong about Biden needing to talk about what he would do in the first 24 hours, 100 days or year. What Biden should be talking about (and we need to make him do it) is what he is doing and not doing right now to bring on Political Climate Change.

    What Biden is doing is nothing. Just more of the same that put us where we are now.

    What Biden could be doing is committing to run a small donor only campaign in the general election in 2020. And we need to make him do it. (see my comment from last week’s show for more details on Biden running a small donor only campaign.)

    It is what the public wants (80% want the big money out of politics), needs (see the pandemic as just one of many examples) and deserves.

    That is how the Dems can seize the moral high ground.

    We need to boycott big money candidates. If you keep voting for big money candidates you will keep getting big money legislators.

    You have many guests you agree with on the show and guests such as Frank Luntz that you don’t agree with.

    One thing lacking is a guest that you with agree with on the goals but apparently not on the approach to achieve those goals. (I can only assume this since you have not told me why you have not had me on your program to discuss my approach to the common goal of getting big money out of politics as you said you would on Washington Journal on 10-24-2018.)

    Why does a person advocating this approach not deserve to be given the opportunity to speak about this approach (beyond your comments section here)?

    If this approach does not deserve to have the opportunity to have a voice in the public discourse, doesn’t it at least deserve an explanation of why it doesn’t?

  6. Mark Hughes says:

    Great interview but I have bones to pick with Luntz.

    First, getting the so-called business community involved in this pandemic response is asinine. From two fronts: one, our entire healthcare system is totally private sector so the “business community” is and always has been intimately involved and has been since Day-1. The healthcare system itself is a syndicate among major corporations, and employers determine whether or not you have insurance and how good or terrible the coverage is. How much more involved do you want these parasites to be? And two, I live in NC, and every restaurant and bar owner (local business community) wants to just re-open so they can get back to exploiting low-wage slave labour as usual. This insistence by government and state wonks to bring in the business community into every single social decision exposes how utterly incompetent the former are and how little desire they have in doing anything good for the people they’re allegedly elected to serve.

    Second, compounding this is that we have this ignorant little movement called “Re-Open NC”. These aren’t “business community” per se, these are everyday people who actually are not wanting some rational response as Luntz states; they outright want to re-open no matter what. Some on the right tell us they’re doing this so they can get back to work and earn money to take care of their families and such. Sounds great in theory but that’s not reality; I see them in the news at least weekly and it’s repulsive. Tell Luntz to come to the south and see the ugly side that his side’s brand of “populism” stokes.

    David asks why have the Republicans seized the moral high ground and the Democrats didn’t. Answer is simple: the Christian Right. This country was founded on a warped interpretation of the Bible, one that justifies slavery and genocide (things that actually happened in the Bible and therefore these geniuses view some inherent virtue in them), and that rancidity still exists today among southern white Christians. And Luntz is being thoroughly disingenuous to lead listeners to believe that Puritanical work ethic and pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps self-reliance isn’t a core value of the Republicans and their right-wing base. Rush Limbaugh has been hypocritically preaching that for over 30 years. Yeah Frank you guys own this one.

    But Luntz is right, we’re not like the governments of Russia and China who tell their people what’s good for them and what not. Our government never cared enough about its people to do that. No, we leave that to corporations (again, bringing in the “business community” to make decisions for them), namely via an obscene amount of marketing and advertising that doesn’t exist in other parts of the world, Europe being one example. Great alternative. While David may have flubbed his words on his stance on that, there’s a two-fold larger issue afoot that chronically gets ignored: our government doesn’t get involved because it’s never cared, and it’s therefore let corporations, who only care for the wealth they can extract from society, take over that crucial social role. For all the bloviating that the Republicans have done over the decades regarding the demand for small government (nevermind they wouldn’t be able to wage endless war nor bail out their rich pals with one), they conveniently overlook that corporations eagerly step into that role and massively fail the American people on a chronic basis, including selling out their right-wing base (something that Saagar Enjeti regularly states).

    On healthcare, it’s also disingenuous to fret over choice of healthcare coverage (M4A vs. private) as Luntz was doing when many people lose their healthcare coverage altogether when they lose their job. And neither COBRA nor the ACA, both of which have high premiums and deductibles, are alternatives in the least. Some choice when you lose your job.

    By the way isn’t a political wordsmith just another way of saying propagandist?


    Ralph asks, “When’s the last time you saw a demand for a corporate CEO to quit because of the corporate crimes that are committed under this CEO?” Not many, but John Stumpf of Wells Fargo is one example. And he should have been cancelled.

    Nevertheless cultural cancel culture needs to be taken seriously. Racist or hate speech should never be entertained, those should be cancelled. Those who speak and exemplify it IMO should never have any protections under the first amendment at least. The hard right is succeeding in perverting the spirit and essence of the first amendment in order to preach their vitriol. Not acceptable. Because their “free speech” fuels things like unhinged gun nuttery and reveling in legalized intimidation, like counterprotesting peaceful protesters, which in some cases ends up killing innocent people like Heather Heyer. Or it just outright fuels terrorism like that which killed the Emanuel 9. The list of examples has become endless. Of course canceling someone is not going to be the solution, our cultural problems run much deeper and go back several generations. Like the listener question from Martin Smith, we are indeed hopelessly divided and unfortunately that’s not gonna change anytime soon. He’s exactly right about rednecks; I too am around them quite a bit; they are arming themselves against the left and not against the government because they know the latter has six ways to Sunday to get to them. So they only go after those they view as weaker, the mindset of a bully. Yeah they need to be cancelled, they are a cancer in any society. Anyone on the left who defends these fascists as “being like us” has never been around them.

    • Erica Etelson says:

      Mark, what do you believe the goals of the Re-Open NC activists are?

      • Mark Hughes says:

        Erica, judging from the local news and my own experiences, putting them together, they just want to reopen because they’re inconvenienced.

        Re the news, I’ve not heard one argument why they’re wanting this, but then again I’ve yet to see the local news interview one of the protestors. The overall narrative is that small business owners are needing to reopen so they won’t go under. I do indeed understand that, fully. But most of the protestors are clearly not small business owners. Many of them are regular people, mostly white and across all age groups. So from the news standpoint, it’s still unclear to me.

        However re my experiences, I strongly don’t believe it’s to get people back to work so they can earn an income and such (although I would understand that to an extent). What I do believe is it’s because they’re largely inconvenienced. Reason I say this is I personally know a handful of those on the (very) far right, and they don’t believe the pandemic exists, whether it’s in their words (one used the word “misinformation”), or their actions (getting in large groups including parties, no mask, etc). Not really. And these aren’t young people either; we’re talking about those in their mid-30s and into their 40s, and they have children also. I told my wife I feel like we’re the only ones we know who are taking this seriously.

        But I live in NC, and I’ve lived in a few different states in the south. What I can say is in the south, there is no such thing as a moderate right. Whatever is on the right down here, it’s to the extreme. To the point of fascism for most. Sorry if this bursts anyone else’s preconceptions but these are what I’ve witnessed.

        • Bruce K. says:

          Do you think that the words Republicans say bear any relationship to what they are thinking or what they are doing?

    • Noelle Gillies says:

      thanks for your reply, it really helps us understand the “reopen” mentality. This COVID disaster could have been averted(like in Canada) by refusing to politicize anything about this and by following public health science. Our governor in CA, Gavin Newsom started responding correctly but in May caved into the critics, the business community and disgruntled Californians who don’t want to be inconvenienced.

  7. Don klepack says:

    Great show has ever. There is a question I would of ask Frank Lutz the pollster. How did all the polls in 2016 get the Presidential election so wrong. This election was the most historical in my long lifetime, when 1 candidate spent more money, push by main stream media, ahead in all polls, and given 85% chance of winning by the New York Times. Can the same thing happen in 2020?

    • Mark Hughes says:

      The fact is Hillary won the popular vote over Trump, by almost 3 million. Yet the Electoral College and the phenomenon of Faithless Electors gave the presidency to Trump anyway. We can get into the weeds and technicalities all day long about how this happened, but that’s the beauty of this system; it’s designed to overturn the will of the people. So yes, this can happen in 2020, 2024, 2028, and on and on. So until the Electoral College is completely done away with and the president and VP are elected by popular vote only, then we’re stuck in what is essentially an antidemocratic structure built into our electoral system.

      And we love to strut around the world claiming to be a democracy.

  8. elizabeth crum says:

    26:00 – Let’s not forget that the Senate Intelligence committee (senators Burr & Laffler) knew exactly the dangers of covid way back in December. They made a profit by dumping stocks and keeping mum on that information.

  9. elizabeth crum says:

    “Democrats can win by taking the moral high ground,” says Dave. It is worth noting that absent from the New Democratic platform (with considerable input from Bernie) is Medicare-for-all .

  10. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    Bernie Sanders didn’t win the majority of the nomination in both 2016 and 2020 because he was blatantly cheated in a large number ways (some criminal), and his own sheepdogging campaign refused to challenge the cheating. Poll after poll after poll over the last decade has demonstrated widespread popular support (among Democrats, Republicans, and the independents that make up half of eligible voters) for a large number of his campaign’s platform planks. How can Frank Luntz consider himself a pollster and not know this? Bernie Sanders is quite frankly a centrist on the public’s politics distribution. It is Frank and the oligarchs that he and his politicians serve who are the actual political extremists. They can only maintain their control through a myriad of anti-democratic mechanisms and media propaganda.

    I have to say it’s rather shocking to hear comedians support the concept of deplatforming or “canceling”. Haven’t you ever heard of Lenny Bruce? Ralph nailed it with his take: the solution to speech you don’t like is more speech. If you drive the views you find repugnant underground, it only fuels a victim complex and lets those views fester in an echo chamber where they aren’t subjected to debunking.

    And it is certainly not a problem that only affects right wingers. An excellent recent example of the utterly caustic nature of this mindset has been the New York DSA’s deplatforming of Adolph Reed (a decades-long Marxist academic with critiques of race essentialism) after first inviting him to speak, then forcing the format into some kind of debate, and then finally canceling the entire event. The whole thing and the people who orchestrated it are a textbook example of social climbers attempting to score virtue signalling points.
    “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
    –George Orwell

  11. Bob Magyar says:

    So Frank Luntz believes the human right to medical care here in this country is a “government takeover” basing this on his own personal experience of losing his medical coverage for a claimed period of six weeks. One man’s experience out of 300 plus million Americans. But it just so happens he is the one American who has the ears of the Republican elites who want a reason, any reason to deny this basic human right in order to keep medical coverage as highly profitable pay to play game. What Luntz said regarding why he believes what he does on this issue is perhaps the best example ever on why we should always hear what people have to say. As Ralph correctly points out we need to hear out all people, particularly those we might not agree . In my opinion, this is the only way to learn how and why these people think the way they do and expose it for what it is, a narrow personal view of a very large and complex issue.

    • Noelle Gillies says:

      It made me think, why is it OK for someone like Steve Jobs to tell us what we don’t know we need yet? Is it an emotional response to liberals who are seen as lecturing people? And does some segment of the population has an emotional response to lecturing(people who had trauma at school? people who react against scientific method?)

  12. Barbara says:

    Sunday, July 12, 2020

    Dear David:

    I heard you today on the Ralph Nader Radio Show. You not only took the cake but the moral high ground too. Of course you did! And you were right! What is it with the Democratic Party anyway?

    Why is it when Frank Luntz speaks I hear alarm bells going off.

    In Barbara Radnofsky’s book – A CITIZEN’S GUIDE TO IMPEACHMENT, she states “The U.S. impeachment process can result in the removal—but not the criminal punishment—of a U.S. public official who would cause substantial harm: ……..”

    Now, if there ever was a man in charge of this country and who daily lied and lied day after day about everything since day one starting on January 20, 2017 …then who in the hell needs a crystal ball to predict the future.

    Just look at us today, and here I thought I was not smart enough to be in government. Day after day, I kept watching and listening as MY people just let this scumbag take this nation deeper and deeper into shame and despair.

    What was the American public thinking, that maybe they were watching some kind of sci-fi drama? Maybe it’s my fault because I kept waiting for them to wake up and do something. Every day I would say to myself surely today with this President’s misdeeds they would get mad and we would all hit the streets with our pitchforks and torches. Then as I listened …..all I heard was …..crickets.

    The Democrats, or rather their ringleader, Nancy Pelosi, lost the moral high ground last year when she chose to impeach on a suggested quid pro quo made on an overheard telephone call.

    What about the thousands of captive children and their families at our borders forced to live in filthy and unsafe conditions like caged animals and accused of the crime of seeking asylum?

    Who has the high ground here, someone seeking the safety for their families trying to keep them from harm or a malicious man who holds the highest office and is in charge of the mightiest country in the world and who purposely with mean spiritedness seeks every opportunity to find ways to harm others?

    So tell me Nancy, for Frank Luntz sake use your “words” and tell me whose is the bigger crime, and why didn’t you impeach “for the harm done to others?”

    There you have it David, my simple mindedness at work.

    Barbara Hensley


    “And when they seek
    to oppress you
    And when they try
    to destroy you,
    Rise and rise again
    and again
    Like the Phoenix
    from the ashes
    Until the lambs
    have become lions
    and the rule of Darkness
    is no more”
    — Maitreya (Sanskrit) Future Buddha

  13. Tony Litwinko says:

    Given the reference Ralph had at the end of the Luntz interview, and a point of agreement with both men, this is a valuable interview. In that upcoming face-to-face-distancing meeting between Ralph and Frank, the polling of the American people regarding a national health care program–overwhelming as I have seen over the years, should be given to Luntz beforehand. It seems like Luntz fell into a trap of regarding ObamaCare with a national healthcare program. The problem with opponents of a national healthcare program is that they always stress “choice.” What choice–and I am hearing Pete Buttiegieg here–do folks who have lost their jobs and their medical coverage? Good interview. Many thanks.

  14. Jeff Story says:

    Where Luntz and Republican campaign strategists excel is simplicity and practicality.
    I agree with Bernie Sanders’ take that Medical Care is a human right. It was a mistake to frame it that way, however. A better way of putting it is, we can’t afford anything but National Health Care for all. The private insurance approach is impractical and too expensive. Medicare for All is much cheaper and more effective, like it or not.

  15. Tim W says:

    I’m glad to see that Ralph had Frank Luntz for a guest. He’s useful to progressives in the respect that he emphasizes the need to carefully consider the use of language in the marketplace of ideas. I don’t necessarily agree with his positions on many issues — he’s not a progressive by any means — and especially so on the topic of Medicare for All. Luntz tried to conflate his own bad experience with the ACA as health care by government control, which he clearly thinks is a bad thing. That’s fine, most of us do think that “government control” of our health care isn’t the optimum choice. The government will be the PAYER of the health care that will be provided by our own doctors — as Steve pointed out. He also claimed that the public doesn’t want M4A. He said M4A would take away his choice of healthcare. That’s ridiculous. Every poll I see shows that the majority of Americans DO want M4A, especially since the COVID crisis. Frank, the public WANTS medicare for all, they NEED medicare for all, they DESERVE it. That’s using your own words.

    I think Luntz is in the middle of a personal transformation, but he’s got a long way to go. Still, his emphasis on the careful use of language in politics to frame an issue is extremely important. It’s stating the obvious, but the Democrats are so weak in this area, that someone needs to shake them up.

  16. Erica Etelson says:

    At the end of the show you touched on the controversial Harper’s letter and described it as a defense of free speech. I saw it more as a defense of the right not to be criticized for one’s speech. I’d love for you to do an episode on this where you have esteemed signatories like Noam Chomsky in dialogue with any of the many intellectuals and activists who decried the hypocrisy and challenged the motives behind the letter. What is cancel culture? What are some actual, proven instances of people being deplatformed or otherwise penalized for their speech? How much of cancel culture is online shaming and is this something that needs to be addressed or should public intellectuals be prepared for this as part of their job? Does the inclusion of someone like JK Rowling (who has been criticized for making transphobic statements) invalidate the letter?

  17. Erica Etelson says:

    I don’t agree with David’s characterization of good leadership as telling the public what they want, feel and need. That sounds totalitarian to me. How about having Yale philosophy prof Jason Stanley on to talk about his book, How Fascism Works, and his conception of what constitutes good leadership in a democracy.

    • Mark Hughes says:

      Agreed Erica. I went back and listened to that particular dialogue, and David did say “it doesn’t matter what the public wants”, and that “real leadership is telling the people what they want and what they need and what’s good for them”. That was indeed a self-inflicted black eye and Luntz loved every bit of it. That said when Luntz told David that he isn’t a pollster, David should have replied “yeah but you’re a shitty one”. That would have been what I would expect a comedian to do with a heckler.

  18. Tara L Carreon says:

    Exactly what was the point of this show? To show that Republicans are really good at taking everything for themselves and leaving everyone else with nothing? This man has not a shred of moral decency to him, and I am not going to be fair and give a hearing to a long-time paid operative of the Republican party. Paid operatives never deserve a hearing on anything, and their voices cannot be trusted to be true even to themselves.

    • Bruce K. says:

      See how knowing the identity of the person you are listening to ruins your ability to listen to their argument. Anonymous speech is critical … if you are honest and actually want to collect data, analyze it and react to it. I had a similar feeling to Luntz, not to mention a negative reaction to his picture, but I listened to what he said, and in some of his comments I agreed with it and even learned something.

  19. Avery Ray Colter says:

    I have read the previous comments, and these are not convincing me to keep from writing what I came to write: it is shocking to me how easily David walked right into the kind of language which would make Luntz chuckle gleefully. I read regularly writings from DSA, Socialist Alternative, Movement for Black Lives, and others. What I see there is precisely that the populace doesn’t need to be told what it wants and that it’s a moral issue, but that it needs to be educated on the strategy and tactics and techniques of organizing, of creating a political machine fueled by the moral sense and the wants and needs they already know. Someone up there wrote “propagandist” as a scare word. I think this is another bait too many have swallowed. Everyone has their own propaganda, and no one who says everyone else uses propaganda except them should be trusted with a red cent. When the population says they want something they’re not getting, the socialist response from what I can see is: let’s research how we can get together and build a process for that, and where necessary let’s see how capitalism is precisely road-blocking your freedom to build for that. I’m sorry, but I could clearly hear David sounding like a Clinton-clone neoliberal adherent of the idea that the lumpenproletariat don’t know where their morals and desires are. I can’t be the only who rolled eyes at this. Unfortunately, I also think Bernie took attacks on socialism too quietly. Shaking his head at Bloomberg and chuckling as if red-scaring is just bemusingly ridiculous, I don’t think that cuts the mustard. I’ve argued elsewhere that Bernie should have responded to Jorge Ramos by asking how Ramos’s idea of capitalism is different from that of Bautista, Trujillo, Duvalier, D’Aubisson, Somosa, Rios-Montt etc, and should have jumped on Bloomberg with questions like “Do you support interracial marriage? Because we’re both old enough to remember those who held up signs claiming interracial marriage is communism.” Maybe I’m over the edge. All I know is, I keep hearing that age makes one more conservative, but it’s sure not happening that way to me! I think the young people Sanders may have helped mobilize who see socialism in a favorable way are going to articulate it in a far more assertive way. Indeed, they already are, all around us!

  20. Nick Donofrio says:

    Republicans like Frank ruined our country and then refuse to vote to fix it. If the environment is such a big deal to Luntz, why does he continue to support Republicans? If it’s a bipartisan issue he should vote for the people who will solve the problems, but he says he identifies with the Republicans. As worthless as James Mattis.

  21. Ben Truscott says:

    Sure, we will take conservative focus group input on getting public support behind mitigating the unfolding climate disaster (so long as it doesn’t breed more ethno-nationalist torrorists).

    On the subject of climate solutions, a suggestion for a future guest is Andrew Revkin. I have been liking his exploration of ideas at Columbia University’s Earth Institute #SustainWhat series.

  22. Henrik says:

    Thank you for yet another engrossing discussion that was all too brief. Please consider doing another program (or two) that digs a little deeper into the relationship between language, politics and policy from different perspectives. And do continue to invite guests with conservative views, like Frank Luntz. We need to understand their opinions and arguments. My only criticism concerns the discussion about policy. Nobody denied Luntz the right to be heard or listened to (why he even brought this up escapes me). But what did Luntz actually say concerning policy? Except for some arm-waving motherhood statements, nothing specific. Ralph and David failed to probe Luntz’s assumptions, reasoning and framing of issues, which could’ve revealed more about his underlying worldview, rather than his grasp of facts and polling data. Ralph sort of made this point indirectly when he stressed the importance of selecting the appropriate level of abstraction. Steve and David tried to push Luntz a little, but David needed to go beyond simply saying that healthcare is a moral ‘issue’. Of course it is, but **why**? And how does a conservative view, as represented by Luntz or Republicans, differ from a ‘progressive’ one? For healthcare to be socialised is not, as Steve implied, government ‘takeover’ or ‘totalitarian’. He could’ve simply contrasted the US healthcare system with any of a dozen other countries, such as Norway, Finland, Germany, Denmark, Australia. These are all capitalist countries based on representative democracy.
    The point to make instead, I think, is that healthcare cannot be isolated from the political and socio-economic system of which it is a part. For instance, the US has the costliest health care system in the world, about 17% of GDP compared to the OECD average of about 9%, yet worse health outcomes, particular for those who are black, brown and indigenous. Why? Because of a for-profit healthcare system (hence, the lack of masks, hospital gowns, gloves, ventilators, etc.) that operates within an inherently racist socio-economic system. If you’re black or brown you live this every day and don’t need to be told by a pollster or politician. Further, a system whose fundamental motive force is the accumulation of profits, rather than human welfare, simply cannot provide the social goods that people need. This is why in social democracies, such as Finland or Germany, healthcare and education are socialised. No ‘takeover’, no ‘totalitarianism’, and no scary ‘socialism’.
    Continual accumulation and growth also explain why the climate catastrophe is becoming worse at an ever faster rate. And yet, without continual growth, such as during this pandemic, in the US millions of people have been thrown out of work and tens of thousand made homeless. While this is going on, from mid-March to mid-May this year, the wealth of the roughly 600 billionaires in the US increased by $434 billion! Any of these inherent and deplorable attributes of rapacious and destructive socio-economic system could’ve been laid bare.

  23. Ben Leet says:

    I thought David clarified the issue well with his advice that the Dems take a moral position. Is it a death tax or a billionaire’s tax? Make it clear. Is it an axis of evil or just baloney? Those of us who support the Sanders’ programs also admire the consistency of his proposals, they are not big corporate and big money positions. The poor Dems would have it both ways, resisting the 90% top income tax rate of the Eisenhower years, but claiming to be pro-little-guy. They haven’t understood their reason for being, frankly. Perhaps all issues are both good and evil, right and wrong. But the Dems don’t understand the gravity of despair and hopelessness facing so many, perhaps a majority with an actual wolf at the door, snarling. And they coddle the richest who have usurped government, and created “The Predator State” as James Galbraith said. I read once that Trump in 1999 called Washington DC “Disneyland on the Potomac”. His nick-names are amusing, and carefully non-offensive. Is she Pocahontas and is he the Paunchy Plutocrat? I think of him as President Tremendous, it’s his favorite word. It would be nice to hear an interview with Adam Schiff, Congressman and prosecutor during the Impeachment. He would spell things out like a compass pointing north all the time. Then I might stay interested.

  24. Evan Kroeker says:

    I got a word for ya: pretend. Why was Luntz permitted to keep pretending Medicare and Obamacare are the same thing?

    His few molecules of possible good faith accrued thru the hour evaporated at that moment.

    • Bruce K. says:

      Try to understand what Luntz is referring to from his conservative point of view, anti-social and incoherent as it is – he is grouping government paid for health care all together.

      • John Puma says:

        Re: ” – he is grouping government paid-for health care all together.”

        That’s precisely the point that Luntz and you, apparently, fail to understand. Obamacare is NOT “government paid-for health care.” Obamacare mandates that everyone have health insurance coverage and then provides the (in)famous exchanges of PRIVATE health insurance companies, only, to make the obligation of the mandate somewhat easier to fulfill.

        • Bruce K. says:

          > Obamacare is NOT “government paid-for health care.”

          Part of it is, and there was originally designed to be a public option … you cannot just pretend that is not an issue. The comment may have been overly broad or confusing, to you, but no one can qualify everything they say in a brief interview. It is just not a big deal.

  25. Jason says:

    Conservatism is neither right nor wrong; it’s just too narrow an approach given the magnitude of the problems we face. This was really uncomfortable to listen to. The overall effect was like being subjected to a shower of slime. Given Luntz’s bad-faith arguments, his predatory tone of voice at times, his smarmy compliments and creepy (and perplexing) expressed wish to be in the same room with Ralph next time he has the chance to be interviewed…I’d take a rain check.

  26. Bruce K. says:

    Interesting, Luntz is saying just what I have been saying in my comments here about the Middle East since I’ve been listening to this podcast and noticing Ralph’s obsession with the Palestinians and hatred towards Israel – and this podcast’s moderators allow content-free insults to post – TWICE now. Those should be deleted by the way.

    Ralph, your whole framing of the Middle East issue is wrong. Especially for the Palestinians. I hope you wake up.

  27. Bruce K. says:

    The Democrats are not too timid or too stupid to use the term “billionaire tax” instead of the Republican term, the “death tax” ( and I am sure there is some way to work in that it is not really the billionaires or the people who earned the money it is a tax on their trust fund kids who are so insulated, clueless and aloof, i.e. their kids, like Donald Trump Jr. ).

    The issue is that the Democratic Party only exists around because the Billionaires pay for them to maintain the illusion that we have a Democracy, or Republic … whatever you want to call it. Democrats are decoy, a dummy target, for political dissatisfaction so that nothing can change.

    I think Ralph has brought this to light himself, and yet he behaves on-mic like he is mystified or contemptuous of the Democrats about it.

    There used to be roughly 35% of labor that was unionized … and now after 40 or so years union membership is around 5%. In those 40 years the money that has gone to the 1% at the top has tracks directly into the bank accounts of the of the billionaires that benefitted from all these tax cuts and who want more tax cuts. The same billionaires who have bought off the government and are now strangling it and and emasculating it.

    What would they do to all those Democrats if they started talking like what they think is communists?

    Why does Ralph bring these issues that he seems to understand so well up at select moments but refuse to frame out the whole issue. This is similar to how he perceive the issue of Israel too.

  28. Bruce K. says:

    The replacement term I like for Climate Change, Global Warming is “P L A N E T A R Y H O T B O X I N G”.

    And to so all the re-cycling and re-processing that Frank is talking about will need a lot more energy than solar and wind – even with batteries can bring about. Thus – we need to embrace and go all out on NUCLEAR POWER.

  29. Noelle Gillies says:

    I found this interview valuable in that it shows very explicitly the communication differences between political ideologies). the Dem Party still has failed to appeal to everyone they are supposedly fighting for. Bernie seems to be the only one of the candidates who was able to succinctly make his case.

  30. Bruce K. says:

    You guys publish insults against my comments that were not relevant to the issues, and now in this edition fail to publish my valid and relevant comments about this issue. Isn’t that hypocritical given all your talk about democracy and free speech?

  31. Paul Kulas says:

    Thanks for having Frank on.

    re: the exchange with David.

    Frank is right. I’ve been in tech since ’89. Every time I’ve tried to give the customer what I wanted, I failed. When I listened and gave them what they wanted, I succeeded.

    You listen to the customer, do what they say. Plus you surprise them.

    What I heard David saying is that the public doesn’t know what’s best for them. I agree, in that the public didn’t know they’d love the iPhone. Where I disagree, is you can’t sell the customer something they’re not ready for. In the case of the iPhone, they were ready – they were already carrying around a Walkman, Pager, Brick Phone, and a Camera.

    Democrats fail consistently with messaging. They’re doing it now – defund the police, black lives matter, and income equality are current examples.

    People think defund the police means get rid of cops. Or black lives matter means their life isn’t equally as important. Income equality sounds like take from those who’ve worked hard, and give to those who haven’t.

    Try disagreeing with one of the protestors. If you do, you’re instantly a racist. But dissent is what this country was founded on. Dissent ties to Gore Vidal’s definition of liberalism — the discussion of all thoughts. They don’t see it that way – it’s their way or nothing. That’s a turn off and the wrong message.

    The protests in Portland are sending the wrong message. So does taking down statues or any attempt to erase history. If campuses don’t welcome unpopular and controversial speakers, the message is censorship. If the KKK can’t march in peace, the message is free speech isn’t tolerated.

    It all ties back to messaging, what Frank is so good at. .

    I think things are going to get worse before they get better. Let’s hope along the way wars don’t break out. Or maybe they already have?

    • Bruce K. says:

      I agree with much of your post Paul, and Frank did have a lot of great points. I wonder if you think it is possible that these things that rile people up emotionally in different ways are purposefully done instead of consistently stupid honest mistakes?

      The amount of money transferred to the billionaire class is almost equivalent to the amount of money they have saved in labor costs by the demise of the labor unions – straight into their pompous self-righteous and dishonest pockets. Why wouldn’t they “tax themselves” to buy and maintain a stake in the Democratic Party in order to manipulate it and to purposefully make deniable mistakes like that this and purposefully lose – just like Charlie Brown taking another swing at bat, the Democrats keep unquestionably seeing their own party perpetually losing for the most stupid of reasons. Are Democrats really just not smart enough?

      On YouTube Joe Biden’s first three ads that I saw anyway all had him stuttering and doddering like an old demented man. This is video, they can re-take and re-take these spots until the candidate gets it perfect, but they went with the ad that shows Joe looking senile. Then the videos from his basement … what a terrible image. Doesn’t he have a home office, or a back yard or something more scenic. At the worst they could green screen in some image like the American Flag.

      From the get-go I made the criticisms about the slogan “Income Inequality” which sounds like they want everyone to be paid the same, or Occupy Wall St. which doesn’t criticize anything that is wrong with the economic system when the issue is economic justice. The issue is injustice not inequality – no matter what happens there will never be income equality, nor would it be desirable.

      Defund the Police is another one. “Police the Police”, “Reimagine The Police”, “Policing For The People”, “Police Morality” … just about anything would have been better. Democrat’s messaging is so bad that I have a hard time thinking it is random chance that the Democrats always go with the worst branding anyone could think of – 100% of the time.

      Some journalist needs to investigate the origins of these memes? Are they chosen by the media? Are they put out there by Republican moles in the Democratic Party. What is the history of these branding failures? But, same problem with the media, it is money that controls the media and its priorities. We don’t have a Press any more.

      On the other hand the best slogan came from a Republican … “of the people, by the people, for the people”. The Democratic establishment seems to have this plausible deniability argument that they need to take billionaire and corporations money to play the game and do politics within the system that has evolved or they will cease to exist. Maybe it would be better if the Democrats rolled the dice and stopped taking corporate money and did not show up anywhere on TV or media so the whole country and world would know America is completely driven by elitist money rather than pretend we have an actual opposition party that represents the people?