So far in this presidential campaign the big buzzword has been change. I am not sure how anyone can find this surprising or groundbreaking given that President George W. Bush has had some of the lowest approval ratings of all time. Nobody wants more of the same-the Republican candidates included. It is not only the poor policy and even poorer execution of the policy that has America so ready for something new, but also the fact that President Bush has been in charge for a long time. Eight years of Bush has been ample time to make even Stephen Colbert a semi-legitimate candidate. The Democratic primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire essentially became referendums on change. Which candidate really stood for change? Which candidate’s changes would actually work? Was it possible that the middle age white guy actually represented more change than the woman and the black man?
This is all ridiculous of course. If there is one thing I have learned about politics that holds true the world over it is that what people say to get elected and what they do once they are in office is always very, very different if not the opposite in some cases. Take all the campaign promises with a grain of salt. The problem is that in all these empty promises and sound bites the true nature of the change that America does deeply desire is getting lost. We want our pride back. Not that I am ashamed to be an American, but Uncle Sam has taken a bit of a beating recently. We have discovered that our booming economy was built upon a fragile house of cards-a devastating combination of a swelling housing bubble coupled with unchecked financial innovation. Tales of foreclosures, bankruptcies and write offs come anew daily. If the coming recession isn’t enough, our international reputation is also in the dumps, not to mention the national pastime. No matter how rapid the progress, we have entangled ourselves permanently in Iraq and have committed to combating terrorism the world round. Being listed as a “sponsor of terrorism” is now analogous to being on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. Waterboarding. We have a black eye at best.
But we are ready for a change, and to start this new era we have to ask ourselves which candidate is truly the most transformational. My feeling so far is that none of the Republican candidates have really defined themselves yet. Unfortunately, the Democrats don’t have room for John Edwards this time around (except maybe as an excellent vice president). So, is Hillary Clinton really going to be the one to bring profound change to this country? Something tells me we have seen that act before.
Which brings us to Barack Obama. I know I know, he’s not perfect, but he doesn’t try to be. He owns up to mistakes from his past and is willing to learn. I prefer that to “Mission Accomplished.” His historic presidency would represent a complete 180 in international affairs from this administration, and who can argue against that. His economic policy is less left leaning than the other Democratic candidates. It is time for some new ideas; even if they sound impossible or na’ve, revolutionary ideas often do. He has the rare ability to inspire people and a candidate with that power does not come around often. All the candidates in the race would bring change. That is not the question. But the change that Americans really want comes not just from the candidate but also from us.
An Obama victory would be the complete manifestation of that desire for change and a clean break from the Bush/Clinton era. A clean break is the only way for Uncle Sam to get back up off the mat. We need to be reenergized and Obama brings a youthful zeal to the job and does not bear nearly as much political baggage as the other candidates. We have stayed the course for eight years and enough is enough, its time for change.