The National Basketball League introduced a new basketball this year, the first change in over three decades. The new ball was a microfiber composite ball that replaced the old leather ball - the league spent years and millions of dollars on testing and proving the new ball was better.
As NBA Commissioner David Stern said "Testing performed by Spalding and the NBA demonstrated that the new composite basketball was more consistent than leather."
The NBA had all the facts on its side, the new ball is better, on paper. But yesterday, the NBA tossed the new ball and is bringing back the old ones. Why?
The players hated it. Absolutely hated it. Hated it so much they filed a labor grievance about it. (Insert joke here.) Because to the best players in the world, touch, feel, memory and emotion are more important than scientific studies on durability, consistency and shooting percentage.
Republican 08 strategists get the point of this story. Bob Shrum is still wondering why New Coke didn't work. (Does that make him 0 for 9 not 8 because surely fucking up an American institution like Coca Cola is the equivalent of losing a Presidential Election?)
Democrats spend millions on polling in Presidential Elections so they think they know what the people want. Then, the consultants tell the candidates that if they speak to these issues, they win. They spend millions more, minus the consultants cut, on commercials with speaking head candidates talking about the issues that the polling showed were important and then they focus group the commercials and then they march to victory.
How'd that theory work President Kerry?
When the moment calls to pull the lever in a Presidential election, it comes down to feelings, perceptions and emotions - it is not a purely logical decision and that's why the Republicans spend millions, tens of millions, smearing Democratic and Progressive leaders and selling the myths of their heroes. Which, by the way, works incredibly well. Not just on the majority of voters who are people who don't really pay attention but to many who do.
Less than 2% of all Americans visit a progressive blog by my estimation. The top newspaper in terms of circulation, USA TODAY, sells just over 2 million copies a day, less than 6/10ths of 1% of all Americans. With people so poorly informed, maybe advanced issue discussion such as is de rigeur in Washington social circles might be a poor choice too?
We need to remember this. Engrave it on the walls of 08 Campaign Headquarters. Policies are how you govern. Managing the emotional connections to a candidate is how you win.
I had breakfast this week in New York with two beautiful powerful women who know far more about Democratic politics than I. They both have a favorable impression of Ronald Reagan and an unfavorable one about many current and recent Democratic leaders. The perceptions accentuated by the Right Wing and the Sell/Smear Strategy work.
They also admonish me correctly but don't tell them I said that, that I am too blog centric, too hyper-aware of what's going on and where. I stand guilty. But it is also true that if you read a newspaper, vote and give any money at all to a politician or a cause, you too are hyper aware. If selling and smearing work with these two, it's killing us with the 80-90 million Americans who vote on instinct.
Just as the ball in the hands of a NBA basketball players is all about what feels right, so too is the moment a voter pulls the lever or marks his X in the ballot box. That moment can't be triangulated, moderated, polled, or focus grouped.
It just is.
And it's why we have had only two Democratic Presidents elected since 1965. It's not that we're not getting the bounces, it's just that we don't even understand the game.