Making (or Promising) Change in Washington

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

To listen to the political rhetoric these days, you'd think all of Washington, DC is going to be swept out of town, no matter who wins. Democrats and Republicans alike are promising change, and lots of it. In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times last month, Timothy Noah couldn't help but wonder what that really means:

But why? Since when did "change" become the Holy Grail of American politics — and what can the word possibly mean if all these disparate candidates are for it?

We'll talk with Tim, who writes for Slate.com, about whether or not "change" is as good a reason as any to elect a President.

Comments

 

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It's nice to know I'm not alone as change mantra skeptic. As soon as I heard Barack Obama yammering about change my first though was "What would he change?" Would he fire K-Street. Would he stop Republicans or for that matter Democrats from pandering to K-street. Would he veto pork. Would he refuse to take calls from all the "special interests" that propel him into office? And, as suggested in Mr. Noah column, would he change for the better or worse?

Sent by Rick Evans | 2:27 PM | 2-4-2008

why aren't republicans giving serious consideration to Ron Paul? He is the only real "republican," a la Barry Goldwater. The remainder of these candidates are "conservatives" which has more to do w/ religion and morality than good governance.

Rich, Tulsa Oklahoma

Sent by Rich | 2:36 PM | 2-4-2008

After seven years of being driven by fear the American people are suffering from "Fear Fatigue" I feel the change people are yearning for, the impulse that Obama is tapping into is a craving for hopefulness.

Sent by Chris Harris | 2:48 PM | 2-4-2008

Your short changing, I believe, what Obama is saying when he talks about CHANGE. Certainly, CHANGE is what he talks about but he describes it further: to bring people together, from the ground up as he says, to bring pressure to resolve long standing issues. You're not being fair to say OBAMA is only talking about CHANGE - he clearly describes what that means. Lynn Neary is NOT LISTENING NOR PAYING ATTENTION.

Sent by Larry J | 2:50 PM | 2-4-2008

Good afternoon. To me, change means a new generation in the U. S. Congress and Presidency. The old are addicted to power, this include Senators Clinton and McCain. They had their chance; time for a new cadre. For example, change would be a one state solution for Palestine.

Sent by Pat and Sandy O'Brien | 2:50 PM | 2-4-2008

I hear all candidates talking about change. Regardless of the candidate, Democrat, Republican, or Independent, I know that only real change will be what is left in my pocket after the politicians get through with me.

Sent by Al Hubbard | 2:50 PM | 2-4-2008

The only way the US will see real change is when we draw congressional districts so that Congressmen really have to run for office every two years.
But Congressmen will never make it difficult for themselves to keep their job.

Sent by Richard Schrenk | 2:55 PM | 2-4-2008

Obama is running his campaign based on the notions of change and civility his platform is based on. He has "changed" the tone of Democratic primary. That is no small accomplishment, and it is a tangible result of what sort of "Change" he embodies.

Sent by shaun fogarty | 2:57 PM | 2-4-2008

Many candidates talk about "change", but you have to ask what kind of change. Many of the candidates talk about how they will bring change to Washington. It is only Barack who tells us that we will bring change to Washington. This is obviously resonating with Americans and especially with young Americans. I feel like signing up to volunteer for some cause, just to be involved.

Sent by Ben | 2:57 PM | 2-4-2008

"Change" to what?

It seems to me the Democratic candidates have tapped into the malaise of the American voter. The idea seems to appeal more to the voters emotions than their minds.

"Change" sells.

Sent by P. D. Pasternak | 2:57 PM | 2-4-2008

Just realized I posted my comment on the wrong post.

I think Obama's notion of change is great. BUT HOW?? In addition, if he is so pro-change, then why is he lavishing in all his old-school political endorsements? Just a couple reasons why I am supporting Hillary Clinton.

Sent by Stefanie | 2:58 PM | 2-4-2008

People are attracted to the word 'change' not because they know what change they want but because they don't want what they have. The biggest change you could make is to get lobbiest out of the white house which was Edward's message. It fell on def ears.

Sent by Larry Hunt | 3:00 PM | 2-4-2008

When John Edwards was polling at about a dead heat with Hillary and Barack, the media gave these two candidates disproportional coverage, turning their names into household words (well, Hillary's already was.) You ignored Edwards' campaign, possibly because you feared being too far to the 'left' of the far right wing media?
The discussion of 'why so vague' seemed to be focusing on the chicken when the egg was superficial media coverage.

Sent by Lisa Barr | 3:01 PM | 2-4-2008

Change to me means an individual in the white house that's strong enough to lead his or her administration. For the past two presidential terms, our leader has been nothing more than a puppet of his administration. That said, I am sorely disappointed that Christopher Dodd dropped out of the race so early. Not only did he clearly and concisely paint the global situation for what it is (such as China), he also provided solid solutions for on various domestic policies. He was a man who would make his administration work for America and after eight long years of the Bush administration, THAT would have been change.

These remaining candidates on the other hand are the same old, same old - especially Obama! He has the ideas and the charisma to inspire change; however, when the time comes to execute these ideas, it's going to be the more-experience and established figures within his administration that will be providing the methods. We need a leader that is both experienced and STRONG enough to take put the presidency back into the president's hands. That however is just my $0.02.

Sent by James Downing | 3:01 PM | 2-4-2008

If Americans really want change, it's time to re-examine the Constitution -- not to change it, but to begin to adhere to it once again.

The rise of executive power and the abject cowardice of the legislative branch has pushed the nation into a shape that anyone from the founding fathers to Harry Truman would find utterly unrecognizable. Oddly enough, Reagan came into office promising a re-balancing of the federal relationship, but it took Bill Clinton to actually carry it out.

Bush and Cheney have re-imperialized the presidency, to the detriment of American freedom. This must be reversed, immediately and forcefully.

Sent by Jim, Fort Collins CO | 3:02 PM | 2-4-2008

"Change" is easier to campaign on than "Reality".
"Make Substantive Progress On Problems That Could Take Most of Your Adult Lifetime To Solve" doesn't fit well on a banner.

Sent by Janet, Minneapolis | 3:02 PM | 2-4-2008

According to Lewin's change model, unfreezing is the first step to create the motivation to change. That step seems to be taking place at this point with all the new and young voters getting involved in the process, the media's attention on the subject, etc. In general, there are very little disagreements when it comes to the issues on the democrat side. They could spend hours talking about the details of whether to mandate or not mandate people to buy insurance. However, after all is said and done, the president is not even going to be the only one drafting those proposals. Bringing up the subject of change, uniting all Americans for bipartisan politics, reducing corruptions, and talking to our friends as well as our enemies (but not necessarily trusting them) is a very good start. Vote for Obama!!

Sent by Felix | 4:51 PM | 2-4-2008

We all know nothing will change in Washington no matter who he is. The only tangible change that we can count on is if we put woman there.

Sent by Dee | 6:21 PM | 2-4-2008

Clinton and Romney only started talking about "Change" after Obama won Iowa. They jumped on the bandwagon because they saw it as a "winner". Obama's been talking about it all along.

Sent by Marlene E. | 6:37 PM | 2-4-2008

Change means starting to live and do what we have professed to be all about in this country for the past 200 years!! Seems to me all we are about now is trumpeting the message of what a great people we are and can't back it up!! I don't believe all of the message either but only hope we as the people demand the message of hope will come true again!!!!!

Sent by Steve Tucker | 7:41 PM | 2-4-2008

I love that no one, the corporate media, the alternative media, the so called progressive media all ignore the fact that there is still a third candidate for the Democratic party. Obama talks about change, but he really doesn't know the first thing about actually making change. Now you you want a president that promises change, and will actually make good of it, look at Mike Gravel. Mike Gravel is the only candidate still running who has the courage to make true change. Gravel while in the senate truly made change; he ended the draft for the Vietnam War, he released the Pentagon Papers despite facing threats from the Nixon administration, and he ended the underground testing of nuclear weapons in Alaska. Senator Mike Gravel is the true candidate for change, who will make good of the intentions of the founding fathers by making American people the ones with power.

Sent by Eric Koch | 11:47 PM | 2-4-2008

I would change the way I plan on voting, if Obama made a real change and announced Ron Paul as his running mate. It would be a real change to reach across the isle and start unifying the Nation.

Sent by Charles | 9:05 AM | 2-5-2008

Change needs to BE a reality, and when Barack Obama speaks about it he's not saying "I am going to do this" "I did this and this so I'm a good candidate" Obama is the one candidate not talking about himself, he IS talking about he's saying "Our country is in dire need of help, we are the answer". And when he says "we", he means all of us.
As one very admirable caller pointed out, this REQUIRES sacrifice, and we have not had to do that. As other comments allude, 'change' is general and if its not substantiated, it is nothing more than a buzz word.
Obama and his campaign, AND his supporters, are ready to make sacrifices to do what it takes to get us all on a better track in homes, society, and internationally. I am supporting Obama over Hillary because he is the only one who seems to understand (even if his speech writers dare not utter the word) that after the last decade of decadence, we need to reassess all of it, and make sacrifices.

un-imperializing the government for the good of the people. Obama is a gateway candidate to true change, paving the way for all the apt minds in Washington.

Sent by Hodges | 11:51 AM | 2-5-2008

Just a thought, as the comments from people roll in:
Everyone is saying "change is too ambiguous". IF you take the time to read each candidates websites, info, listen to debates, and their speeches it is very apparent what kind of change each candidate is talking about.
Its our job to look at the buzz words and hype in the context of the individual candidate; reading slogans and posters isn't going to help you makeup your mind.

To Rich-
Ron Paul wants to dissolve the IRS and the Board of Education along with other drastic changes that probably wouldn't be viable on the national landscape.
His support is rallied mostly by a younger upper-class demographic that is within the lowest voter turn-out age group, along with Independents, so his chance to get through the primaries is poor.

Yeah, Paul has the ideals of capitalism and personal liberties, but the G.O.P. is looking for someone to preserve their interests in Washington, and general Republicans are looking for someone to uphold their values.

Sent by Hodges | 12:08 PM | 2-5-2008