There’s been a lot of noise today about Change™. Some are disappointed that Obama has chosen to endorse Barrow in GA-12, some feel he’s shifting to the right, still others are getting the idea that we may not be able to believe in his version of change as much as we originally thought.
The problem is that everyone has a different idea of what Change™ is. To many, Change™ may be anything other than what we have now. To others, Change™ is a more specific brand of transformative policies and positions that, when married together in the right quantities, make the perfect stew of Progressivism or whatever particular ideology that you hold dear. The truth of the matter is that Change™ is such a vague idea that nearly everyone is for it, until their sacred cow is up for the slaughter.
There seems to be an idea out there on the interwebs that Change™ is somehow easy. Certainly, to the people who know what kind of Change™ they want and have their specific hills to die on, it is. The reality is that Change™ is a messy exercise that instantly pleases and pisses off large groups of people with one stroke of the pen, one bill, one gesture. My idea of Change™ is probably not what you had in mind, and your idea of Change™ is likely something that I wouldn’t agree to in a million years.
So, with this in mind, how does a person, a candidate, or a party, manage Change™ in a way that neither alienates them from their core values and supporters, but doesn’t scare away all the other people that are vital for achieving even on tenth of the Change™ that they propose? They take it down a notch.
You see, the big problem with Change™ is that no one is really happy with how things are going, but they are also strangely, frighteningly, comfortable with the status quo. There’s a level of comfort that comes from the knowns and the known unknowns, to borrow a phrase from Rummy. It is the genuine unknowns that scare the hell out of people, (unknown knowns are fictional figments or Rummy’s circulation socks) and the only way to quell that fear is to work to somehow make those unknowns impact people less. That also means less Change™.
In Presidential politics Change™ is even sketchier. Not only to you have to ease the fears of your constituents, but also those who you will rely on to push your agenda through the legislative process. Like it or not, legislators are in the business of getting re-elected, not legislating. As a result, legislators are far more reluctant to Change™ because Change™ is messy, and they don’t want to be blamed for a potential adverse outcome. This reluctance puts the onus for Change™ on the people who should ultimately be in charge of it, the constituents.
Ahh, but constituents aren’t good at Change™ either. They want to balance their household budgets while owning the biggest big screen HDTV with 4 picture in pictures and total immersion surround sound. They want rock solid abs after a mere 20 minute workout and to eat that carton of Twinkies in one sitting. It’s a startling contradiction. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want some kind of Change™ in their life. I hardly know anyone who is willing to do everything, or even anything it takes to make that Change™ happen, myself included. Are we lazy? Are we stupid? Nope, we’re scared…all of us.
We’re scared that all we’ve worked for might magically disappear. We’re scared that all we’ve bitched about may be resolved with no appreciable positive impact, leaving us searching for something new to bitch about. We are, at once, infatuated and terrified of Change™, because that very Change™ may, or may not be, the thing that puts us over the top. Either way, we’re content the way we are because in the absence of Change™ we have a scapegoat to blame for all that ails us.
Sound negative? Then get your fat ass on an ab machine for 20 minutes and tell me how it works out.
The truth of the matter is that Lasting Change™ doesn’t happen overnight, it happens in stages. The trick to Lasting Change™ is that in order for it to work there has to be enough institutional memory to avoid the bad ideas and implement the good ones, lest we see saw back and forth ultimately achieving no Change™, which is exactly what’s happened in America for the last 40 years. We have to put our blood, sweat and tears into every contest that can affect the kind of Lasting Change™ we want, all the while knowing that making that Lasting Change™ happen will take the sheer effort and will of a large group of people for a sustained period of time. We have to be dogged, diligent, and determined, all while lovingly shepherding those who are more reluctant, and carefully culling those who just plain won’t. It’s a tall order, and two years ain’t enough time to make it happen.
The key is continued drive and saintly patience. At some point we have to recognize that politics isn’t Burger King, we can’t always, immediately, have it our way.
Sure John Tanner’s continued suckling of the corporate teat pisses me off to no end. Sure I have dreams at night of moving to Northwest Tennessee and beating his ass in a primary contest. Sure that stunning defeat comes with an admission on his part that he has been horribly wrong for way too long, ultimately resulting in his transformation from corporate doucebag to man of the people. But I’m also realistic.
I know that Northwest Tennessee will not go for a crazy, wild eyed radical, but a person that understands the trials and tribulations of the average guy, and will work to shepherd them through their fear of Change™ instead of using that fear as a means to crush all opposition. In doing that, some of my more fervent supporters will perceive a shift to the right, and that may well be. No one understands Algebra in 1st grade, and it follows that the “average guy” will not understand or be comfortable with Change™ until they have learned to add and subtract and multiply and divide.
And that’s our challenge. If we want to implement Change™, we have to be willing to educate the people with the long term in mind, to quell the fear, gain confidence, and make it happen. It’s a long road, and it’s irritating for the faithful, but unlike religion, it’s not just a leap of faith, it’s a recognition of a national condition that has brought a blight on the American people.
It’s the realization that we can only rise up, by lifting other people up from the darkness of misinformation and fear. It’s the determination to keep working for the BIG YESSES despite the little no’s that we could focus on to undermine our efforts. It’s the drive to make a nation in the image of it’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence, maintaining a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Most importantly, it’s the dogged idealism of people like you and me that push the envelope of possibility to realize the promise of a nation.
This version of Change™ may not be all we thought it was cracked up to be, but it’s a step. Should we push the envelope? You better believe it. But we have to realize, at the same time, that not everyone is ready for the change that we are, and we still have to work like hell to educate the “everyman” to the benefits instead of beating them over the head with rhetoric and insults. We are talking about a transformation, and it will take some time to realize it. We can do it, as long as we don’t start eating our young to spite our future.
In an unrelated note, to step into the Feel Good Friday set, here’s a song by David Bowie.