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Writer’s Island #2 – Do You Believe in Political Magic

February 2, 2008

Do You Believe in Political Magic? 

The Magic Touch? Winfrey Lends Her Brand and Her Empire in Support of Obama’s Presidential Bid. Washington Post, Sept 5, 2007 

Clinton’s pull “Magic” out of their hats at surprise DM stop. Des Moines Register, Dec. 18, 2007 

Huckabee looks for more “late night” magic. USA Today, Jan 4, 2008 

McCain looks for last-minute-magic in Iowa. The Swamp, Dec. 27, 2007 

I find it curious many articles written about our presidential hopefuls use the term magic to describe what each candidate needs to claim the White House prize. Over 140 years ago, Otto Von Bismarck, then Prime Minister of Prussia, defined politics as being the “art of the possible.” Magic on the other hand, is defined as the “art of creating illusions of the impossible.”  Given these two definitions, I offer the following as a composite definition of Political Magic: the art of creating the possible through illusions of the impossible. A closer look at the magic tricks used by the top two contenders in each of the two political parties will better explain the phenomenon of Political Magic.  

Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama is obviously a slight-of-hand rope trick. In the Rope Trick, a magician places the ends of a rope into his hands and closes his fingers around the ends. The magician shakes the rope slightly, says a magic word, blows on his hands and drops one end of the rope. Poof!  By magic the end now has a knot in it! Ooohh, ahhhh…the secret: The rope already had a knot in one end. It was just kept hidden until the appropriate time to reveal the knot. Obama could not have a more solid political magic knot to hold onto than Oprah Winfrey.

In her endorsement speech of Obama, Winfrey, declared she felt “a responsibility at this point in time” to come forward, thus she tossed her rope into the political arena of the candidate’s presidential campaign.  Ooohh, ahhhh… what would prompt the mega-queen of the O Factor, who had never officially endorsed a political candidate before, to suddenly provide a lifeline knot for Obama to hold onto? The secret or the illusion of the impossible… it was not a sudden decision. It was more than two years ago when Winfrey and Obama began discussing her financial role in his bid for the presidency.  Her seemingly unexpected public support was actually part of a carefully choreographed marketing campaign. What??? you say, can this be true? Oprah’s statement on Larry King’s show is proof of this as she said, “My money isn’t going to make any difference. My value to him, my support of him is probably worth more than any other check that I could write.” And, she is right. She has a long and successful history in the art of creating the possible by using her powerful influence to promote sales of books and bras, while decreasing the sale of the American dietary staple, beef. The O Factor has also launched the careers of the now rich and famous Dr. Phil and Rachel Rae. Will the rope trick work for Obama? An old adage advises, ‘When you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on.” Obama has the Political Magic of an O Factor knotted rope – hang on Obama, it just might swing you into the White House. And while Obama is swinging from the O Factor rope, Hillary Clinton is pulling a rabbit out of her hat.  

Pulling a rabbit out of a hat is one of the oldest of all magic tricks and relies on diversion of the audience for its successful completion. In this trick, the magician sets a top hat on a table and distracts his audience with one hand while using his second hand to put the rabbit, located below the table, in the hat. A less skilled magician simply places a “special hat” that has a spring top that will open down into a hole in the “special table” which he can reach through to retrieve the rabbit located below the hole in the table. The amazing thing about this trick is everyone knows the rabbit is there, somewhere; no one truly believes a magician can create a rabbit out of thin air, but still they allow their attention to be diverted and do not see the rabbit until the magician magically makes it appear.  And what little fur-ball did Hillary Clinton plan to pull out of her bag of political magic tricks? Who else but Bill, of course. Not that this was a surprise – we all knew he was somewhere lurking, waiting to make a grand entrance to Hillary’s campaign when we least expected it. The bigger question is why she chose the timing of her grand finale Political Magic trick? 

Early on in her bid for the White House, Hillary Clinton was viewed as a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination. Hillary was seen as a strong advocate for change in a time when Americans desperately wanted change. Hillary is also smart, very smart in fact. She knew her facts, she remained committed to her ideals and she is one the most accomplished speakers in recent presidentail-bid history. And, she is tough – she has survived marriage to Bill after all, along with the very public scruitiny of the sexual details of his affair in the very same office Hillary is now seeking to place her roledex and nameplate.  And she is experienced. She has over 30-years of political experience, with eight in the White House. Yes, the art of the possible of having the first female president in the White House was definitely on the horizon. With such a big bag of political magic in her favor, one would think this skilled political performer would have been able to divert the attention of the voters for several more months while shrewdly planning just the right moment to pull Billy-bunny out of her hat. Having a former President as your husband, even if that President is Bill Clinton, is the crème de le crème of political magic. However, Hillary was not the expert political performer that she and her Hillaryland cohorts believed. Her initial campaign focus on policies was received as being too heavy-handed; she was too tough, being perceived as a royal bitch instead of a strong leader; and as her numbers began to fall, her political followers began looking for the rabbit. Pulling Bill Clinton out of the hat through the hole in her presidential table bid, in a grocery store in Iowa of all places, was so ungraceful it was dubbed as a “Bill in a china shop” move by the New York Daily News. Graceful or not, the rabbit is now out of the hat and it is not going back in. It has been reported Bill has seized control of Hillary’s campaign. He has taken the campaign focus off policies and placed personality and charisma, his and hers, in the forefront. Where Hillary was once seen as cold, calculating and controlling, Bill has created the illusion of the impossible: Hillary as a warm, caring, and capable candidate. Will the hat trick, despite its clumsy execution, work for Hillary Clinton? It depends on how well behaved Billy-bunny remains and whether other political magicians decide to perform the “make the cast-away girlfriend re-appear” trick to put Hillary back on her “offensive” march to the White House.

 Political Magic is not only performed by the Democratic front runners, the Republican hopefuls have a few tricks up their sleeves too. Mike Huckabee has put a political magic twist on the shell game. The Shell Game is performed by placing a pea under one of three walnut shells. The magician then moves the three shells around each other several times and then asks the viewer to pick the shell the pea is under. Regardless of which shell is selected, the  viewer is incorrect. The last shell to be turned over always has the pea. Hmmmm . . . how can this be? This is another slight-of-hand trick. The pea is actually removed from under the shell in which it was placed prior to the shells being moved around each other. Then after two of the shells have been turned over, the pea is cleverly placed under the third shell as it is being picked up.  Ahhhh. . .and the twist that the Huckster has added to this little game of musical-chair-deception; the pea is always under the first shell the voter selects, it just doesn’t always look like the same pea. 

Being a former Southern Baptist pastor, Mike Huckabee won his bid for Governor of Arkansas on his Christian conservative convictions. He is a very likable, average American type guy, with little financial resources to mount a presidential bid for the White House. He is the proverbial David fighting the wealthy Goliaths; a candidate worthy of the art of the possible. However, once he threw his hat into the presidential arena, Huckabee had to slide his convictions around the table. Not that he has actually changed his convictions; instead, he uses a different label on the pea under the walnut he feels his current voter-audience wants. He appears to have accepted that to achieve the American dream that anyone can grow up and become President of the United States of America; he has to be all things to all voters, the ultimate illusion of the impossible. In Iowa, Huckabee never came right out and said he was 100% against abortion or disapproved of same-sex relationships, although these are his very fundamental values. Instead, he campaigned with his “Christian leader” pea, which he placed under the appropriate shell for liberal-conservative voters. Once he began campaigning on the New Hampshire political trail, his pea was now called “proven leader” and “authentic conservative,” which would be better received by the conservative-liberal voters. To appeal to an even more diverse group of voters through some late night magic, this Baptist pastor traded his Bible-thumping sermons in for guitar-picking rock tunes with Jay Leno’s house band, a clever political magic trick he learned from Billy-bunny. Will Mike Huckabee’s shell game of value labeling win him the Presidency? Anything is possible, it is America after all.

John McCain, the current forerunner for the Republican nomination, has become very skilled at the Coin Pass Through magic trick. In this trick, a spectator is asked to hold out his or her hand palm up. The magician then places his hand on top of theirs, palm down. With his other hand, he places a quarter on top of his hand and explains to the spectator that with one quick slap of the coin he will make it pass through his hand and into theirs! Slap! the quarter is in the spectator’s hand. This trick is achieved by the magician already having a quarter lightly taped in his palm before he places it above the spectators waiting palm. Then, when the quarter on top of the hand is slapped, it is caught up by another piece of stronger tape in the magicians other palm. Hmmm…how does John McCain use this trick to advance his bid for the Presidency? The tape in the palms of his hands is his calling card, Liberal Republican.

Being a liberal Republican with a mixed bag of political values, affords McCain the opportunity to “almost” be all things to all voters. Unlike Huckabee’s illusion of the impossible for wanting to “be” all things to all voters, McCain’s almost being all things to all voters is his art of the possible. Voters, whether Democrat or Republican, can hold out their palms and be assured they will receive a quarter of the values they hold dear from McCain. The Straight Talk Express, is McCain’s illusion of the impossible. First, “straight talk from a politician” is an oxymoron to the nth degree. Second, McCain’s straight talk greatly differs from his voting records. Although he says he would overturn Roe vs Wade, he has a mixed voting record on abortion issues; he says he would veto all pork-barrel bills and announce all pork spenders, but skipped voting on the Woodstock Museum project; and in 1996 he voted yes on prohibiting same-sex marriages but in 2006 he voted no to a constitutional bad of same-sex marriages. Will John McCain’s use of the Coin Pass Through trick slide him into the Oval Office? It is possible, as to many voters, getting a quarter of what we believe is better than getting nothing at all, which is what we have had for two decades.    

Do I believe in Political Magic? I believe all political candidates are actually operating a business, a business to get elected to whatever office they are seeking. The ability for any business to succeed is directly related to their marketing strategy. The art of creating the possible through illusions of the impossible is simply a marketing strategy. What I do believe is that through the art of political magic, America has evolved from the land of opportunity to the land of opportunists, one trick at a time. I also think choosing any one of the candidates in this presidential election as our next leader is like selecting one piece of candy from a box of chocolates; you do not know for sure what you’re going to get, but you do know it is going to be brown and gooey.    

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The above is my submission on a prompt from Writer’s Island. For additional interpretations on “Magic”, please visit the following blogs:

 Gemma Wiseman      Jadey      Anthony North      Tumblewords

jeques      Just Jen       Constance      chicklegirl      Robin  

watermaid      Selma       Marja      gautami tripathy

17 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2008 1:59 pm

    Well spoken. I think that about covered every angle. This is a presidential race I am dreading.

    **I agree. How sad our country has evolved from the land of opportunity to a nation of opportunists. Thanks for stopping by. Cricket

  2. February 2, 2008 3:54 pm

    While I am not well-versed in the travels and travails of American politics, I have read and heard enough to totally love your “political magic”. In fact, all the way through your narrative, I imagined parallels in our own Australian political arena.

    A wonderful, lively write!

    Smiles and Light

    **Thank you for stopping by for a visit. I have always wanted to visit Australia. How disappointing to learn our two countries have parallels in their politics – I was so hoping yours would be better. Cricket

  3. February 2, 2008 4:28 pm

    Politics an illusion in itself I guess. I loved reading your take on politics and magic, it was more interesting than listening to the candidates running for our votes.

    **Ohhh, yes I believe you have hit the nail squarely on the head. Politics is an illusion – the illusion of a system of selecting leaders we Americans have convinced ourselves is an honest and fair way to find citizens who want to serve for the good of the people. Cricket

  4. February 2, 2008 6:40 pm

    I’ve nothing against politicians, as such. It’s political parties that are the problem. They offer careers, and this is enchanting, and takes them away from their cause.
    But the real magic is dark. How DO they get us to vote for them?

    **I think the average American voter ends up voting for the lessor of two evils. And you are correct, that is dark magic. Cricket

  5. February 2, 2008 11:07 pm

    Incredibly fine post. People are so easy to fool and there are always those ready to pull the wool and stuff the rabbit. Your writing is concise and wonderful!

    ** Thank you! I enjoy doing the research needed to write this type of article. I fear sometimes I get into it too much and go a bit over the top. I do not believe I have ever had any one tell me my writing is concise. lol Cricket

  6. February 3, 2008 6:37 am

    I’ve never seen politics from this angle. Your points of view is enlightening. Indeed, getting elected for a position depends much on the marketing strategy that politicians use to get votes. There are many different roads to take to get to the office and each of them has taken their roads. The question now is who’s going to make it? Who’s marketing strategy or magical trick would best work?

    The answer still lies in the citizens’ votes. The future of the politicians lies on the votes we cast.

    Great idea!

    I wish you well.

    ~ Jeques

    **I agree with you, the succes of a marketing campaign for a product or a candidate depends upon the final purchase. It is up to the buyer(voter) to decide if he or she is going to purchase (vote) the product(candidate) because it has the best quality and value(values), or because it had the best marketing (political magic). We can make a difference. Cricket

  7. February 3, 2008 12:56 pm

    This is very insightful and I learned a few things. I didn’t think to look at it in this light but you are right, it is an illusion to win the white house prize….I don’t follow american politics much (a canadian over here) but I do like portions of how the system is set up vs canada’s but I wonder, after watching this years debate after debate after debate of american politics, how much is fabricated and how much is real.
    I’m awakened to the magic of politics now!

    **Blogging has opened a whole new world to me. I am excited to meet people from different countries and receive their perspective on my political scribblings. I guess the adage, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” is true. Cricket

  8. February 3, 2008 3:42 pm

    Very wonderful take on politics. I really enjoyed reading it. Thank Goodness the one I’m voting for [in the primaries] isn’t up there, LOL. 🙂 Although, honestly, I think that taking any of them isn’t good enough. I wish I could take a piece of all of them and put them together to make the perfect President, LOL. 🙂 Great piece. Thank you for that perspective.

    **Hhmmm…now I need to thank you for giving me a new perspective. I did not think about how each of the candidates do have good qualities and if we could extract the good of each, we could make one great president. I must admit I have been so disillusioned by the last two presidents we have had, that I have become jaded in accepting anything good about any of them. Blessings, Cricket

  9. February 3, 2008 9:39 pm

    Awesome essay. You make several interesting points on the political machine. An astute analysis of the candidates. I enjoyed this.

    **Thank you Constance for taking the time to read my essay. I appreciate your kind words. I enjoyed visiting your blog. You are quite talented in many genres. Blessings, Cricket

  10. February 4, 2008 1:24 am

    I loved your definition of political magic: “the art of creating the possible through illusions of the impossible.” So true. It’s really hard to know who or what to believe when it comes to politicians; I always get the sense that they’re trying to tell as many people as possible what they think those people want to hear.

    **Thank you for stopping by. I agree with you, unfortunately what our politicians have not learned is telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear will only create a bigger problem, not solve or correct anything. Cricket

  11. February 4, 2008 3:57 am

    I often wonder if it is possible for a plain-speaking honest politician to even exist. By the time they’ve reached the heights of a presidential campaign they have sold off so many pieces of their soul that what is left can’t be more than a shell…

    **Ahh, my grandmother would have agreed with you. I remember her saying during the Nixon-Goldwater era, “The Bible tells me it is easier for a camel to fit through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven. I think these politicians better learn to ride a camel because they don’t have much hope either.” Cricket

  12. February 4, 2008 4:15 am

    This was a great read and very cleverly put together. I’m a political animal but after finding that Blair’s Britain was no better than Thatcher’s I’m somewhat disillusioned. In my country there is little difference between the parties and more people vote for the winner of Big Brother than in the General Election. I’m watching your race to the White House with great interest. Thanks for dropping by.

    ** And thank you too. I do find it amazing how many other “happenings” can get our citizens attention, for much longer periods of time than it takes to vote. We just had the Super Bowl Game last night. I did not hear how many people watched that game in America, but I would not be surprised if there were more people spending 3-4 hours watching a football game than will show up for 10-15 minutes to vote in this presidential election. Cricket

  13. February 4, 2008 5:23 am

    What a creative and clever interpretation of the prompt. I am also watching the race to the White House with interest even though I live in Australia. Regardless of which ‘magician’ is successful, there are global ramifications. Excellent post!

    **Thank you. How right you are! The earth gets smaller everyday. We all need to be aware of what is happening across the oceans, but it could be in our backyard tomorrow. Cricket

  14. Carol permalink
    February 4, 2008 2:10 pm

    This was a great post! I think that you should send it as a press release to major newspapers across the United States because I think that they would print it. Americans need to wake up and see through the “magic” and vote on what is important to them, while looking at campaign promises to decide if they are “magic” or possible. My 17 year old made the comment that he wishes they would do away with political parties and focus on issues. I think he has seen through some of the “magic”.

    **You have a very wise teenager there Carol. I am very impressed he even has noticed the political magic show happening each day. And thank you for the praise. I may consider your suggestion. Cricket

  15. February 4, 2008 6:41 pm

    I am usually not interested in politics but this was such a captivating post and I chuckeld at the magic tricks (especially the billy bunny) and learned a lot about American politics along the way.

    **Ahh, the ultimate compliment for a writer – a reader not interested in the subject matter, not only reads the article but enjoys it. Thank you! Cricket

  16. February 5, 2008 3:39 am

    One very different post. It made an interesting read. Politics all over the world is similar.

    **Thank you for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed this. Cricket

  17. writersisland permalink
    February 6, 2008 2:51 pm

    Hello Islander –

    This is a note to tell you I’m genuinely happy to see you on the Island. I founded the Island originally as a temporary destination for those of us set adrift when Poetry Thursday sunk. But the Island has flourished… because of writers, like you, who come to enjoy the tropical breeze, and just write — for the sheer pleasure of it! So, the beaches remain open, and all are most welcome!

    Poetry Thursday is now ReadWritePoem. Check them out if you haven’t. The crew at Totally Optional Prompts is doing a fine job. Both are excellent writing destinations.

    I am slowed a bit with back pain. This has hampered my time at my computer — so, I have not been able to read many of the posts. I will catch up when I’m steadier at the helm. I am dictating this to my wife, who will kindly post it for me. Kathy is a dear!

    See you on the island. I have a prompt for this Friday I think should spark some fun and interesting writing.

    May your muse be kind…


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