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It's Not the Issues, Stupid
An Equal Opportunity Rant

by Everett Wilson
October 15, 2008

Do other old guys remember the days when the Big Lie (or at least the Big Delusion) during a presidential campaign was "I vote for the man, not the party"?

In my recollection it was dominant until Reagan's election. I haven't heard it much recently. It seems to have been replaced by, "I want the Candidates to Talk About the Issues."  

This is my twelfth presidential race since I qualified as a voter, which means that my memory is probably undependable; but I don't remember any of those races being decided by issues—partisanship, prejudice, fear, ad hominem argument, big bucks, and deceit, but not issues—unless avoidance of issues counts as an issue. This race will be no different. Whoever is elected, the issues won't be the reason. 

I am not missing the issues because I haven't believed in their relevance for years.  Neither has most of us. As a general rule, voters don't want issues; they want justification for what they are already thinking. The campaigns don't want issues; they want talking points, so that the candidate can Stay on Message and bore us witless. Nothing is as High Church as a candidate Staying on Message; he doesn't dare to miss a syllable of his litany or he'll be thrown off his rhythm.    

My theory is that talking points were invented to keep candidates from saying anything for which they may be held accountable. Campaigns are afraid of the Media, who prefer Stupid to Significant when quoting candidates. To escape Stupid, campaign managers settle for Inane. I suspect they pay big money to Inanity Experts. "Inanity Expert" is not a real title, because it is too precise a definition. Modern politics does not like precise definitions.    

I will grant that campaigns need a safe issue or two to vent about. A safe issue is one that arouses high indignation without evoking change. Abortion has been a safe issue for decades, a reliable hot- button issue generating heat but not light. Republican appointees have had the majority on the Supreme Court for decades, and they have controlled the White House for thirty-six of the last fifty-six years. They are not going to do anything about Roe v. Wade, because if they were going to they would have. It is handy to yap about, though.

About the Author:
Everett Wilson's first piece for TPO  was about the election of 2000, and was entitled Offending Everybody.  His union cards are in fiction, theology, and ethics.  In politics he is just another citizen spouting off.  He is no longer a Democrat, but will never be a Republican. 

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