In both law and politics, I think the essential battle is the meta-battle of framing the narrative.
– Ted Cruz
One of the interesting factors in debates is how people decide to frame their arguments. This is usually done to be part of a larger scheme. However, this limits the factors of the issue. It can also maliciously be used to adopt non-argumentative strategies such as name calling.
For example, we frame abortion as a “women’s rights” issue. Yet, far more factors play into the issue. It can easily be framed as a health issue. The health of the mother or fetus can be argued as a basis for or against abortion. It can also be a family issue, since the father could be involved along with the rest of the family. Yet, it is primarily framed only as a women’s rights issue. This could be done for several reasons. One way is to attach the idea of an attack on rights to it, that the idea of preventing unfettered access to abortion is attached to some kind of right turns opponents into authoritarians who will strip away personal liberty. The other method is the ability to call someone who opposes a “sexist”. This of course is not an argument nor is it helpful in debate.
Another issue framed in a negative way is immigration restrictions, either through directly banning certain groups or enforcing existing laws. It is very easy to frame it opposition to unfettered immigration as “xenophobic” or “islamophobic”. Of course, it is easier to frame it as an issue as one involving security. This is especially true when the travel ban was announced for a temporary period until proper vetting mechanisms are in place. This is also true when the very act of being undocumented is a crime. This alters the arguments made. Either enforcing laws is bigotry, or not enforcing the laws makes us less secure.
This pattern presents a disconnect between the different arguments. When one presents a particular argument, it is usually assumed that the opponent is against your argument, rather than possessing their own. It would be assumed that being against abortion makes the opponent a sexist, and being for it makes one a murderer. These extremes are not useful in any discussion. It cannot be thought of that the opponent has different priorities or ideals. The opponent must be against mine. It is important that the framing of an issue does not get in the way of argumentation.