Here’s what we know about Barack Obama: He wants change, and he wants hope. The only question seems to be in what order.
Both of these promises are somewhat perplexing. How is being for “change” really a serious position in a presidential campaign? News reports actually refer to some voters as “change” voters – as in, “Barack Obama is winning the ‘change’ voters two to one over Hillary Clinton.” One would think merely voting for a new Commander in Chief qualifies one as a “change” voter. There’s probably one guy sitting at home in Nebraska that goes to the polls hoping his vote will keep things exactly the way they are. So when they say Obama is winning the “change” voters, they’re basically saying he’s leading among voters who don’t go into the booth and accidentally vote for George W. Bush.
After all, who can forget the famous “status quo” marches on the White House in the 1960s?:
“WHAT DO WE WANT?!”
“PRETTY MUCH WHAT WE’VE ALWAYS HAD!”
“WHEN DO WE WANT IT?”
The “hope” talking point is even stranger. “Hope,” by definition, is a desire for something that hasn’t happened yet. So promising people “hope” isn’t promising them any substantive action – it’s merely promising them the expectation that something will. I currently harbor a hope that Charlize Theron will come to my house and play Guitar Hero with me. If two years from now, I’m still hoping for that to happen, I will still be hopelessly disappointed. Promising someone “hope” is like promising them hunger – you won’t get to eat, but boy, you’ll enjoy your time thinking about those nachos bellgrande.
Of course, nobody wants to be on the wrong side of either the “hope” or “change” issues. By making these themes the lynchpins of his campaign, Obama has all but accused Hillary Clinton and John McCain of accepting contributions from big money, “anti-hope” organizations. During the general election, we’ll probably see heavy independent expenditures for John McCain by Citizens for a Hopeless America.
(Side note: can you think of any more depressing job than being a fundraiser for “Citizens for a Hopeless America?” Why even make any fundraising calls – there’s probably no hope of anyone contributing, right?)
Recently, Obama has tried to move past the accusations that he lacks substance.* This includes attacking Hillary Clinton for not sufficiently wanting to destroy the health care industry in the United States. The two candidates are taking turns ripping each other on health care, accusing each other of lacking the guts to implement a full government takeover of doctors and hospitals. Hillary Clinton’s plan calls for a mandate requiring individuals to purchase insurance, while Obama’s plan involves larger subsidies for making health care more affordable.
Since there’s little chance of either of these plans ever making it through Congress, it seems reasonable to wonder why the two candidates even limit their plans in any way. You have a better chance of seeing a unicorn drinking a Slurpee than either plans have of becoming law – so what really limits the promises they can make? This is akin to daydreaming about Katherine Heigl wearing a Hazmat suit. Once the orgy of big government promises is on the table, there’s no sense in not going all the way. Both candidates should promise each American free health care, no reduction in service, lower gas prices, and a Cinnabon.
I think that would be change we call all believe in.
* – Or, he’s “all mustache and no flowered shirt,” as fans of Magnum P.I. often say.
-February 25, 2008