Sunday, August 24, 2008



There has been much justified criticism of the Obama campaign’s mantra of “Change” since that particular piece of pabulum surfaced at the beginning of the campaign. The main objection to the banal “Change you can believe in” and other such trifles is that it is so much cotton candy for the mind, an ethereal surfeit of political pap that means nothing. Obama loyalists will argue that “Change” is only a tagline and that voters should examine Senator Obama’s position papers for the “meat” of the argument. But most people don’t do so, and those that do are, unless having drunk a particular candidate’s kool-aid, recognize that even the position papers are mere shallow wish lists that end up being honored almost exclusively in the breach. Even a simple tag line needs more than the innocuous, and increasingly boring, “Change.”

There is a bigger problem, however, that may lift the ceaseless repetition of “change” from the banausic to the baleful for the Obama campaign. Not only can “change” mean anything (to what? from what?) and thus means nothing, but most people, and certainly most voters, mirabile dictu, don’t want much change. Think about it. Yes, we have problems, plenty of them. And many (but certainly not all; mirrors are called for here) of those problems can be laid at the feet of the Bush administration and its Republican henchmen. However, for all our problems, we have a pretty good deal in the United States in 2008. Life may not be quite as good as it was a few years ago, but it still beats life just about anywhere else in the world, especially for the middle class homeowners who constitute the vast majority of the electorate.

People say they want “change,” but one suspects they really want it only if it is undefined (so that it can be whatever they want it to be) and limited. Yeah, maybe trim around the edges a bit, but don’t cut it all off. But the incessant repetition of the amorphous “change” tagline may have already reached the point at which people fear having too much shorn off their figurative pates.

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