I’ve already mentioned George Lakoff and his applications of the cognitive science of language and metaphor to current political thought. He mentioned that the reason that conservatives were winning the political struggles in this country was that they have better metaphors — they’re better a framing the debate. Then hoped that he would give some constructive help. Looks like he’s doing just that. He and some other UC Berkeley and UC Davis faculty have
started a progressive think tank to work on how progressives can use language to better frame the issues. The article is an interview with Lakoff, and the deepest quote is on the second page contrasting the conservative approach of investment in cognitive infrastructure to the liberal approach he says:
Also, within traditional liberalism you have a history of rational thought that was born out of the Enlightenment: all meanings should be literal, and everything should follow logically. So if you just tell people the facts, that should be enough — the truth shall set you free. All people are fully rational, so if you tell them the truth, they should reach the right conclusions. That, of course, has been a disaster.
Though I think an equally plausible theory is that Democrats held power in Congress for so long that they became complacent, while the republicans had to struggle to find a way to reach people.