Update, October 9, 2010: The Rockridge Institute archives are no longer available from the links in this post. They are now available from the website of the Cognitive Policy Works, a think tank formed by former fellows of the Rockridge Institute. Thank you, Zack Lym, for contacting me and letting me know about this so that I could update this post.
I’m not sure how I found out about the Rockridge Institute, a now defunct think tank founded by George Lakoff, the subject of another post on this blog. I haven’t read any of his books yet, but I do believe that he has some important ideas to contribute to the debate about why the Enlightenment ideals that infused the principles that this country was founded upon are no longer part of the public discourse. The following excerpt is from a little booklet that is available on this Rockridge Institute web page, entitled Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision. If you are intrigued by the thesis, why not head on over there and download the rest of the booklet?
“America today is in danger. It faces the threat of domination by a radical, authoritarian right wing that refers to itself as “conservative,” if it were preserving and promoting American values. In fact, it has been trampling on them. American values are inherently progressive, but progressives have lost their way. As traditional Americans, that is, as progressive Americans, we are beginning to lose our identity, the very values that have made America a great and free country—a
country where tolerance has led us to unity, where diversity has given us strength, where acting for the common good has brought our dreams to fruition, and where respect for human dignity has increased opportunity, released creativity, and generated wealth. But progressives have so taken these values for granted that we no longer have the ability to articulate a progressive vision. We have lost hold of the terms of political debate, and even ceded the language of progressive ideals—like “freedom” and “liberty”—to redefinition by an extremist right wing. The radical right understands its values and knows its agenda. It has imposed its ideas and its language on America. It has dominated public debate, which has allowed it to seize power.”