All of the presidential candidates are spouting “CHANGE” as their “catch-word of the day.” Change the health care system. Change the economy. Change the corporate hold on middle-class Americans. The only thing they’re not relying upon to get votes is spare change. A multi-million dollar campaign needs corporate investment—the kind the candidates say they oppose, but most are taking, nevertheless.
From Iowa in January to the last primary in June, candidates are dishing out heaping platters of rhetoric that are meant to make us believe that not only are they the forces of righteousness and, yes, change, but that they’re the Avis Rental Car underdog trying to topple the establishment. But, every one of them is establishment.
On the Democratic side, we have three U.S. senators and a governor leading the pack. Sputtering at the bottom of the leaders is a congressman who opposed the PATRIOT Act and the invasion of Iraq, and has as much a chance of getting the nomination as does a social worker becoming a Fortune 500 CEO.
Leading the Republicans are two U.S. senators, a former senator, a former governor, and a former big city mayor who, Sen. Joe Biden once said, constructs every sentence with three words—a noun, a verb, and 9/11.
It’s understandable that the Democrats want change. After all, for the past seven years, Americans have been subjugated to the arrogant abuse of power, innumerable constitutional violations, myriad no-bid multi-million dollar federal contracts that benefit corporations with White House connections, an undeclared and unprovoked war in Iraq, a failure to protect the environment or American cities, and an economy that is in nuclear decay. What the Democrats don’t say is that for most of the seven years, by their failure to organize and speak out about the problems, even if it may have cost them votes in re-election campaigns, they solidified their position as part of the establishment.
But, the Republicans are also calling for change, as if they weren’t part of the problem to begin with. They quietly say they support President Bush, but never mention his name in public, and secretly hope the tainted President and Vice-President puppet-master won’t bless them with an endorsement.
Somewhere in the mix is a congressman from Texas, whose third party candidacy is marred by his honesty that change is necessary to return the nation to the eighteenth century.
The American people themselves may say they are tired of the same old politics, and they want change—thus precipitating the pollsters to tell the candidates that “change” will work in the campaigns. But the voters continually re-elect incumbents.
The problem with pushing for “change” is not that change is good or bad, but that the political process is soiled by a reality that transcends all others. Those out of office want to be in office, so they drag out populist appeals to try to convince voters that things will be different once there’s a new person in the—fill in the blank—city council, state legislature, congress, presidency. For the entire campaign, promises will flow until the flood eventually drowns the people. Once elected, the politicians’ mission is to stay elected. They can’t understand why their new opponents, the ones who want their jobs, are so mean as to attack them. After all, the officials, so they believe, only have the people’s best interests at heart—even if it appears to violate the constitution or benefit friends of the officials.
“Change” may be the new buzzword of this campaign, but “establishment” is what perpetuates the system.
[Walter Brasch is professor of mass communications/journalism at Bloomsburg University. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available at amazon.com and other bookstores. You may contact Brasch through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]