January 7, 2008
Loose Change (Bob Franken)
@ 11:39 am
“‘Cheer up,’ they said. ‘Things could be worse.’ So I did. And sure enough, they were.”
Isn’t it ironic that the “change” everyone demands would really reverse earlier changes?
Each and every candidate is jumping on the “change” bandwagon. Each argues that he or she has the unique ability to end the self-interested deadlock in Washington and force the compromises necessary to get things done.
But isn’t that the kind of accommodation that was so vilified by the forces of “change” a decade or two ago? They argued that negotiation was “dealing with the devil.” That’s what they said then, that’s what they say now.
Let’s face it: This campaign is fueled by nothing short of hatred. We have nothing that resembles the common-goal “competition of ideas,” where advocates on either side of an issue respect the other.
All of this amplified by the simple-minded “he said, she said” news coverage that celebrates a battle of the sound bites more than anything else. Someone once said that the media’s marching orders are to “Get out there and scratch the surface!” It would be funny if it wasn’t so true.
It is a poisonous atmosphere. Instead of “competition” we have a contempt for ideas other than our own. One has to wonder whether we can ever get back to an environment where those who disagree are “opponents,” not “enemies.”
First of all, we have to decide whether it’s a good idea. The kind of “bringing folks together” that looks so good in the abstract inevitably results in the kind of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that leaves the rest of us being screwed and not knowing exactly how. No one wants to frame this as a question about the lesser of two evils. All we want to hear is that something has to “change,” whatever it is.
All we really have thus far is a frustrated clamor for “Back to the Future” “change.” It rolls easily off of the candidates’ lips, but no one really goes beyond the platitudes. Platitudes in politics? That will never change.