Walking People Up The Crazy-Idea Ladder

Digby, in Preparing The Ground, and Matt Stoller, in Ok, Here’s a Big Idea: Citizen Coupons and a Government By the People are writing about this Kos diary, Why the Right-Wing Gets It–and Why Dems Don’t.
They are talking about the Overton Window. Here is the original. It’s about how to “advance ideas” – take a wild idea and get people to accept it. This is a concept studied and practiced by the right – and they are talking about ideas like privatizing Social Security, or getting rid of public education. But there is a lot to learn here.
The idea is that you walk people up a ladder of acceptability of an idea, one step at a time. As the people climb the ladder, their thinking about the idea at the top is walked through stages. The first stage is that the idea is unthinkable, then after hearing about it for a while it becomes just radical, then after enough repetition it becomes acceptable, eventually it sounds sensible, then seems popular, and finally it becomes policy.
For example, let’s say you have in mind getting rid of public education. To walk people up the ladder you get them to accept, in this order, allowing kids to leave to go to private schools, then legal home schooling, then tuition tax credits with public schools, then a voucher system with public schools (and “charter” schools), eventualy all schools become private with government regulation, and finally no government involvement in education. And make no mistake about it, getting rid of public schools is the ladder the Right is walking us up, one step at a time.
The same process is underway with getting rid of Social Security – IRAs are getting rid of pensions, then Bush’s push to partially privatize Social Security, and finally to get rid of it. (Bush might have lost a battle, but they will never give up that fight.)
Please go read the links, this is important stuff to understand.

10 thoughts on “Walking People Up The Crazy-Idea Ladder

  1. This is the underlying strategic view of the Vast Left/Right Wing Conspiracies. There are plenty of tactical reasons to have a vast media networks, but the long term strategic goal is this.

  2. Gee, that sounds just like the whole movement to impeach Bush. Seriously. Two years ago it was unthinkable. Now look at where it is at. I think in some ways the Democrats already are doing this.

  3. It hit me while I was reading this that, without being aware of it, the Democrats have in a very real sense become the true conservatives! It’s the Democrats who are trying to preserve and protect once radical ideals like Social Security and the public schools. I’ll add old-fashioned notions like fiscal responsibility, the Constitution, etc. I’m sure you get what I mean. I find it hard to think of anything more important, either. But how do you sell ideas that aren’t radical?

  4. So what you’re saying is that First Lady Hillary started walking people up the Crazy-Idea Ladder by suggesting Universal Health Care way back in the ’90s…
    A woman ahead of her time. And now it’s gained respect and growing acceptance.
    It works for Progressive ideas, too. Yay!

  5. You mean like gay marriage, then polygamy, then dog sex in the streets? Like that?
    Or gun control, gun banning, weapons banning, then slave labor in concentration camps?
    Or removing crosses from public buildings, then removing religion from the public square, then outlawing religion?
    🙂 J/K
    You talk about this like Dems don’t do it. They do.

  6. Excellent post, Dave! Don’t let the trolls tell you otherwise ..
    And I have to say it again: same old down under.
    Re education: our current government now subsidizes all sorts of ‘Christian’ schools but seriously underfunds public schools.

  7. Troll he may be, but it is how we got the unthinkable ideas of equality under the law for blacks and women to become not merely law but the accepted standard. The ERA may never have passed, but all those people who say, “I’m not a feminist, but…” are really saying, “Look, I may not be Ti-Grace Atkinson or Valerie Solanas, but I’m a normal person who believes in women’s equality and reproductive rights.”
    The way to make – or keep – an idea part of the standard is to keep talking about it. The libertoonians actually talk about slavery like it is thinkable. We have to say, far more loudly, that it is not acceptable under any circumstances. That’s how it works.

  8. Amazing, you’ve just written a post that attacks the validity of inductive reasoning. All you need to do is trash the scientific method and you’ll be all set!

  9. Man, I wish the Republicans were moving to eliminate public education…

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