Slight of Hand

I caught most of the Biden/Palin debate. Or, if you prefer, Palin/Biden debate.

The most useful thing for me in the debate was that it touched on one of my favorite examples of politics in action. When asked about rights for homosexuals, Biden of course was quick to make it clear that his team supports the same rights for couples, regardless of orientation. Palin was of course quick to make it clear that marriage in her opinion is between a man and woman. Fair enough. But notice that when pressed, Palin’s team admittedly supports the rights and Biden’s team admittedly doesn’t support redefining the word marriage. None of this should come as a surprise, since rights are rights and (I tend to think) nobody at the federal level is in any way interested in redefining marriage since it would be a serious legal nightmare. And as far as I can tell, the same was true for Bush and Kerry; two candidates with the same stand on each side of the issue—when pressed to say so.

This is the concise, clear example of one way politics functions. Imagine a rock held in each hand. One rock gets held behind the back, while the rock which appeals most to the emotions of one’s base is waved around as if it were a diamond in the rough, possessed by only one party. Slight of hand, smoke and mirrors. Something from nothing. And it works. With respect to a great many issues, this trickery works. And for that reason and that reason alone, that it works, politicians employ it.

This slight of hand is so unsophisticated that there is only one general reason it works, which is that the voters are already biased and willing to believe that the rocks brandished by their respective candidates really are diamonds. This step is accomplished by convincing the voters that the other candidates are liars, the implication being that they lied once, so they’re lying now, but (by gawd!) there must be truth somewhere, so by elimination it must belong to us (or, at least, we’re the only shot you’ve got). To put it a little more brutally, you know the other side has no diamonds. They don’t even have rocks. They have fistfuls of turds. So, hey, even if I don’t have a diamond, at least I’ve got a rock. You don’t want to vote for some party that deals poop, do you? Of course not. Rocks are better than poop. So, uh, check out this nice shiny rock. Could be a diamond, don’t you think? Maybe? No? Well, just forget that. Instead, just think about how bad poop smells.

Slight of hand, smoke and mirrors. Something from nothing. And it works.


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