By Jerome Grossman
It is hard to say what this political campaign is really about except that ambition has propelled some admirable and some not so admirable people to run for president. And, as though they all drank the same magical elixir simultaneously, to begin to utter the mystical word, “change.”
As a verb, change is transitive, must have an object; for most speakers it is America, but one candidate said, “We can change America, then we can change the world.” Where have I heard that before?
Change has become a cliché, somehow signifying that we are on the right track. It sounds dynamic without committing to anything in particular. Candidates and voters can give it any meaning they wish: to the right, to the left, or simply to install new people to pursue the same old policies.
The presidential candidates of real, serious change are Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Ron Paul, not taken seriously by their fellow candidates or many voters. In the ABC television Republican debate in New Hampshire on January 5, the GOP candidates were actually laughing at Ron Paul’s exposition of a needed change in U.S. foreign and military policy. No discussion, no rebuttal, simply disrespect. And Kucinich wasn't even invited to the Democratic debate. On issue after issue the candidates of both parties give the problems a little tweak or a few new words and call it change.
But the exercise makes everyone feel good. Mission accomplished. We have talked about change. Do Americans really want their politicians to change public affairs significantly? The average American, like people everywhere, are accustomed to the status quo and will not accept change until forced by events and we are far from that point. Social Security and Medicare, for example, are far from perfect, but politicians had better keep their hands off if they wish to stay in power. Furthermore, only about 50% of eligible voters actually go to polls and they are usually richer and older, heavily representative of the most satisfied, therefore the least likely to vote for change.
Besides, significant change never comes from voting. Almost always It is the result of deep and difficult organizing in the community of people who are being hurt by current policies, who become angry, who threaten, who don’t put their cause in the hands of politicians. The most important changes in U. S. history were forced upon our greatest presidents. Abraham Lincoln was pressured to issue the Emancipation Proclamation by the Abolitionists and the need for African - American soldiers in the civil war. Franklin Delano Roosevelt expanded the humanitarian role of the federal government in response to the threats of organized labor and the unemployed. Real change is forced on the politicians, always has been, always will be.