When John McCain's campaign manager said last week that this presidential election "is not about issues," it wasn't a Freudian slip. It was an unvarnished preview of McCain's new campaign plan.In the past week, McCain -- with new running mate Sarah Palin always close by his side -- has transformed the Republican campaign narrative into what amounts to a running biography of this new political odd couple. [...]
Considering the big challenges the country faces -- two wars and a wobbly economy, for starters -- the focus on personal narratives might strike some as jarringly superficial for the times.
There is also significant danger for a campaign that emphasizes the personal over policy: The allure of even the most compelling -- or unorthodox -- life story can fade, begging the question: Where's the beef? For McCain, the answer comes largely in policy positions that mirror those of an unpopular president, and for Palin, her brief time as a public figure prompts many more questions than answers.
But the McCain campaign is betting its best chance to win is by aiming for the gut, not the heads, of voters.
That sounds right, and it tells voters quite a bit about the merit of the Republican ticket's agenda -- voters who think won't like it, but for those more interested in "feeling" than "reading," have they got a repackaged failure for you. Superficial? Sure. Dishonest? Of course. Void of substance? No doubt. But if you like substantive honesty, you're an arugula-eating elitist and part of the nation of whiners.
It's an extraordinary pitch -- actively discouraging people from caring about the issues that affect their lives -- all the more extraordinary when we notice that people, at least right now, are falling for it.
Ed Kilgore argues on behalf of "passionate wonkery," in which Democrats acknowledge that voters have "concrete concerns that are connected to specific needs," and voters will gravitate to the party on substantive grounds.