Candidates of Change

Massive ChangeI suspect very few of you watched the debate Saturday evening, giving that it was a Saturday night and playing opposite a football game. Regardless of your politics, one big idea stuck out that applies to everyone, and not just politicians. It’s the idea of change.

A good chunk of both debates involved the candidates, particularly the Republicans, arguing with each other about who is best equipped to bring about change. According to Gov. Mitt Romney, during Saturday’s debate:

“…this is a time when America wants change. Washington is broken. That was the message coming out of Iowa. I’ve heard it across the country. Washington is broken. Not just the White House, not just Congress—Washington can’t get the job done on immigration, on lowering taxes, on fixing schools, on getting health care, on overcoming radical jihad. They want change.” (link)

In case your wondering, we want change. I shouldn’t poke too much at Romney, but I think he’s missing an important point. When it comes to change, actions speak louder than words, and his actions are making it easier for people to wonder about his rhetoric on change. Then, as candidate Giuliani points out:

“…change is a concept. Is it change for good or change for bad?”(link)

In the real world, I believe many people abhor change, otherwise, I can’t believe they’d continue to vote for the same people that make a mess of things in Washington, D.C., but perhaps that more of a lesser of two evils issue. Any time I hear a political candidate, or anyone for that matter, tout themselves as standing at the forefront of change, I cringe a bit. For me, change is one of those things that you either do or you don’t, so why waste time talking about it?

True Changers

For example, while I have mixed emotions about Apple as a company, they continue to produce products that change things. The business world seems more comfortable with true change than the political world. I would place very few politicians in the category of being true change leaders. Historically, we know who the great changers in politics were—the Founding Fathers, Lincoln, Roosevelt (both of them)—and it’s highly doubtful we’ll see their like again given how we currently elect officials.

I not sure when or where I heard it, but I do remember being told that it takes three weeks to form a habit, but at least twice that to break one, if you ever do. That’s why I find rhetoric focusing on change so interesting. As change is described, both in politics and everyday life, I have my doubts that society could truly withstand it if all described changes were enacted. I think there would be a large number of mental breakdowns if suddenly everything changed, but that doesn’t keep politicians or CEOs from touting the value of change.

Respect for Change

I’m not opposed to change, but I would prefer that it be spoken about honestly instead of thrown about casually in a stump speech. For all that we talk about it frequently, I think we overlook how important and big change can be, and its impact on our lives. Just consider some of the “minor” changes that happen in our lives.

For good or bad, starting a new job is a huge change that can be mentally draining—meeting new people, learning new systems, creating new routines to name a few. The same thing happens when you move to a new place. It doesn’t matter if it’s better than the old one. You’re still living through a change that requires adjustments. Now, just imagine people’s reactions if they suddenly woke up and had a government that truly changed every time there’s an election. I wonder if the country could continue to run.

My recommendation? Take the talk about change lightly and focus on the people who are actually doing something different. And maybe consider having more respect for the power of true change, because I believe the good kind is an endangered species.


(Image courtesy of 416style. Some rights reserved.)


2 Responses to “Candidates of Change”

  1. January 8, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Britt: I think Americans want change, but not a president who’s changes like a chameleon. Unfortunately it seems certain candidates (two of whom you mentioned) seem to be just that when it comes to some of their stated views on the issues.

    So I think can’t just reduce things to neat little sound-bytes the way the media always seem to want to do. “Change”? OK, fine. But change to what, exactly? Change in what direction? Tell me where we’re going, and then tell the route you want to take to get there, and I’ll decide whether to vote for you or not.

  2. 2 Britt
    January 9, 2008 at 11:35 am

    @Joe: I agree with your assessment of not wanting a candidate with chameleon-like tendencies. However, I also don’t want someone who can’t admit to mistakes and make corrections in policy either, and we’ve made it difficult for that to happen. This complication makes officials more dependent on polls and certain voting blocks because they are known quantities that can be played to accordingly.

    I fear we’ve shackled our political figures with demands that they fit a particular mold, and they’ve done it all too well, which limits their ability to actually get anything accomplished. I keep hearing people calling into the radio stations that identify themselves as a certain type of voter and then lament they can’t find a candidate that speaks to them. This inability to find a candidate they like couldn’t be because we’ve reduced candidates to two-dimensional characters, could it?

    We don’t want to vote for “real” people because they remind us too much of ourselves, so we settle for the caricatures that have become common in 21st century politics. That’s why I find this discussion about change so fascinating. The first place change needs to happen is in our election process and yet it will probably be the last place that change happens.

    Your point about wanting specifics on change is anathema to how modern elections are conducted. Too much information is dangerous because one’s opponent might use it in an attack ad. Actually saying something of value goes against almost everything accepted as gospel in today’s political environment.

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