Sunday, January 06, 2008

What does "change" really mean?

I have been following the primaries closely and enjoyed US democracy in full action. As for who I support, of course Senator John McCain is my man. On the democratic side though, inspite of all the fuss about Barack Obama, I still can't figure out what he (not to mention the irksome populist John Edwards) really means by the word "change." Instead of bickering over who is the real agent of change with the contender who seems to have the patent for it now, I believe last night in the debate, Hillary Clinton (I'm not gonna hide this. I prefer Ms. Clinton to all other Democrat hopefuls) should have tried to force Obama's hand by making him define the word "change" in the context of current US policies in the world and political conditions in Washington rather than a vacuum.

In regard to what "change" really means to Americans, Michael Kinsley makes some great points today in Ny Times:
The appeal of “change” as a cri de coeur is that it sounds dynamic without committing you to anything in particular. Any slogan shared by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is going to be pretty meaningless. Not only can voters give it any meaning they wish, it can have different meanings for different voters. Best of all, being the candidate of change in some vague and meaningless way gives you cover to come out for stasis in most of the particulars. Americans say they want change, and think they want it, but there is room for doubt. The candidates of real, serious change, like Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul, are going to be dropping like petals. And no wonder: they are scary. Change is scary.

Don't get me wrong. I respect Mr. Obama and believe he has run a magnificent campaign so far. But it is exactly for what has become the driving force behind his campaign that I can't warm up to him. To see what my point is, take a look at this brilliant piece by Tish Durkin, titled "What I hate about Obama:"

You know what I hate about Barack Obama? He's so bright and fresh and new. So young, so idealistic, so untainted by the dirty dealings of Washington. He may or may not get bogged down in all that policy crap, but he sure will inspire us... It's not just that he's handsome and smart and articulate and charismatic. It's that he's new. And just by being new, he can, without promising anything, promise to realize that sweet, recurrent American dream: the dream that after all these years of disillusionment, some untold chevalier is going to ride up to the Capitol on his white horse and, with a brandish of his boldness, kick Congress in its cronyism, and finally, you know, 'bring the country together' and 'get things done'... Like all rescue fantasies, this one has tremendous power - and tremendous problems when it has the sore luck to hit the light of day.

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