It may be fetching to some voters, but the theme of "change" so embraced by so many candidates in this year’s presidential contest is vacuous, an idea with absolutely no content in and of itself.
We need change, we are nevertheless told: change, change, change, as if any kind of change would be ipso facto wonderful.
But change obviously can be bad as easily as it can be good. And in a land with more liberty, justice, opportunity and prosperity than could scarcely be dreamed of before it was made a reality by America’s founders and then by a mighty force of self-governing, self-correcting people, you should be careful not to change in the wrong way.
That, it seems, is what a lot of these candidates want to do: lead us to more governmental encumbrance instead of to enlarged possibilities.
You come to that conclusion when you get a glimmer of the often vague, sometimes slight content they do inject in their talk about change. To be fair, some of the change rhetoric does address real problems, which always exist but can as a matter of nonplatitudinous fact be ameliorated without sweeping transformation. Much of it is hallucinatory gibberish, as in the imaginings of Democrat John Edwards, who seems to think America is imperiled by a plutocracy.
In a New Hampshire debate among the Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton pushed Edwards to be specific about some concrete, beneficial change he had brought about, and he couldn’t, of course, but he did talk ominously about the terrible, awful threat of the status quo, of special interests, of corporations. He said that, for him, it was a personal thing, and that on his first day as president, he would stand up to these threats.
Barack Obama does not sink so low as Edwards, but what is this jabber about Americans coming together to fight the special interests? What does he think these interests consist of — Martians? They are in fact Americans themselves, business leaders, educators and others who have already come together to petition their government, as is their right and maybe even their duty, for they often bring needed expertise to the table and at least now and then protect the general interest while protecting their own. Obviously, their policy successes can sometimes be detrimental to the common good, but so can majority opinion, which is more successful. Democracy is not a business of certain truth jumping up and announcing itself.
A Gallup poll shows that 84 percent of Americans are happy with their lot these days, as they should be considering extraordinary economic and other blessings. Candidates in both parties do bring up such legitimate concerns, such as the difficulty some have in obtaining health insurance, but even here they often dodge how their schemes will work. Meanwhile, virtually all the candidates are hiding out from the most pressing domestic issue the federal government faces: How to keep Social Security and Medicare alive without oppressive taxation.
The real change we need in America is a change from political chicanery to political honesty.
Decades ago, I was a reporter in Albany, N.Y., working for a newspaper at the foot of a hill that could be ascended only with huffing, puffing, knee endangerment and sweat unless you employed a trick.