A couple of days ago Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, made a big gaffe when he said:
“This election is not about issues,” said Davis. “This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.”
The Obama campaign rapid reaction team wisely pounced on these comments and released the following statement immediately:
“We appreciate Senator McCain’s campaign manager finally admitting that his campaign is not in fact about the issues the American people care about, which is exactly the kind of cynical old politics people are ready to change.”
As far as Davis’ comments are concerned he’s 100% true insofar as NO ELECTION is about the issues. EVER. Even when the election is about “the war” or “the economy” ITS NOT. If the election were really about the issues then we’d all sit down and read 400 page books and esoteric policy briefs from think tanks.
Elections are never about what people know (the issues) they’re about what people think they know (their feelings) We live in a culture where only 5% of the population understands the complexities of issues like our tax system, foreign policy philosophy, or health care reform. But ask anyone they know and they can tell you how they feel about how much they pay in taxes (too much), foreign policy (War is bad!) or health care reform (socialized medicine doesn’t work!). Or most importantly, people know how they feel about their party (I can’t stand that George W. Bush but I’ll be damned if I vote for that Tax and spend liberal!)
But the problem with Davis statement is that campaigns, and at its heart politics, is magic. Its the art of making someone believe in the illusion rather than the reality. This is why Republicans like Karl Rove and John McCain can repeat a lie over and over again and people still believe it. But like any trick, if you explain how the trick works then its no longer magic, its the guy on the corner trying to fuck you over at three card monte.