TODO find/create decent answer.
I think the best answer is something along:
A basic non-precise intuition is that a good model of reality is that electrons do not "interact with one another directly via the electromagnetic field".
A better model happens to be the quantum field theory view that the electromagnetic field interacts with the photon field but not directly with itself, and then the photon field interacts with parts of the electromagnetic field further away.
The more precise statement is that the photon field is a gauge field of the electromagnetic force under local U(1) symmetry, which is described by a Lie group. TODO understand.
This idea was first applied in general relativity, where Einstein understood that the "force of gravity" can be understood just in terms of symmetry and curvature of space. This was later applied o quantum electrodynamics and the entire Standard Model.

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