Essentially, the Left thought it had a “magic candidate” in Obama. He would be beyond normal criticism. He would be both person and symbol. He would speak with such power and transcendence that normal considerations of logic and rhetorical connection would not apply. His mystical relationship with the message of the future of mankind would resonate in each person of good will without having to be explained in detail. We would all just know that he was “the one” to change everything. Indeed, he seemed untouchable: though there were scandals and questionable relationships in his background, it seemed not to matter to the electorate, surely another sign that he was blessed. What other presidential candidate could have gotten away with being friends with terrorists and America haters? Surely it must have been because people could see through these surface things to the soul beyond, and were moved by its purity and grace. (After all, Jesus associated with publicans and sinners, and elevated them by His presence.) His meager background was almost a plus, proving his uniquity and special annointing. He was untouchable.
And then came Sarah. She was, in most ways, the exact opposite of Obama. She spoke simply, and clearly. She seemed to get away with just being herself (unlike Obama, she was the same on home video as on stage before tens of thousands). She did not appear to self-consciously cultivate an image or presence: she simply was. She did not seem to need a script. Shooting from the hip (literally and figuratively) she was on target. People simply responded to her. And despite the best the a scandal mongering media could throw at her, she simply sailed above it all, and let her acolytes defend her. There were pleny of acolytes.
Obama was supposed to be special. He would not have to make sense according to the normal rules of logic and evidence, because to know him created a faith that transcended the merely rational.
Yet, here was Sarah, actually making sense, very simple, unassailable sense, artlessly appealing to the perceptions of the people as the outsider who was the real agent of change, the unknown, waiting in the wings, whose time had come. She, too, was the symbol of longings held by many.
Suddenly, Obama was not the only transcendant figure in the race. He knew how to fight people who merely used logic and facts. He appealed to the higher sense of personhood in his listeners. But what could he do against someone who had as much mystical magnetism as he did, and also made simple, logical sense?
It was a pretty problem. Someone would have to be destroyed for the other to prevail. And Obama was determined that it would not be him. His minions would see to that.
There are plenty of minions, in and out of his campaign.
The contest rages, for now, but it is no longer one of rationality against spirituality, because now both can be found on one side. And the real game changer was not Sarah Palin… it was John McCain, who selected her as his running mate, proving a defter hand than anyone suspected at crafting his image and staying true to his own often stated values at the same time. And McCain is showing something else: he doesn’t care that Sarah Palin polls higher than he does, because all that matters is success in the election so he can do the work that needs doing, with her help.