United States of Animus

Illustration by Sean MacEntee via Flickr.com, (cc) some rights reservedIf you want to unite people, identify a common cause. But if you want to galvanize them, invent a common enemy. 

This week alone, consider the Rush Limbaugh backlash or viral KONY 2012 firestorm

The enemy doesn’t have to be a person. We fight against new taxes, big government, terrorism, SOPA, breast cancer, animal cruelty, the 1%, nuclear Iran, high gas prices and the list goes on and on. 

That’s because people will often fight harder—and louder—for what they’re against, rather than things they are for. Al Franken’s new petition—“My Boss Is Not My Doctor”—leverages that dynamic: 

Dear Republicans: My boss is not my doctor. My health care choices are none of my boss’s business—and none of yours, either. 

It’s a clever frame that cunningly recasts “Are you for or against a woman’s right to contraception?” into “Are you for or against your boss sticking his nose in your family’s healthcare choices?” 

It’s too bad the frame wasn’t delivered by a different framer because being “anti-Franken” is its own galvanizing force.