What I learned from the Democratic debates

Being for “change” is good, as long as it’s change in other people. Actually changing your own opinion is bad. To paraphrase part of the New Hampshire debate on Jan. 5:

Obama: I’m for change.
Edwards: Me too!
Clinton: Obama has changed his position on health care, the Patriot Act, and fifteen other issues in the past 3 years.
Obama: No, I didn’t. [Maybe he’s not for change?]
Clinton: Yes, you did. And you said Edwards was “unelectable” because he changed his position on other issues.
Obama: I never said he was “unelectable”… Anyway, I’m for change. [Maybe he is!]
Edwards: Me too! The evil forces of the status quo want to stop us.
Clinton: What do you mean, evil? I’m for change, too!
Richardson: When did experience become a bad thing?

Now, inconsistency generally isn’t a good thing, as it lies a little too close to “lying” for most people’s comfort. But I have no problem with a leader changing his or her mind over time, as new information comes to light; in fact, I consider this a good attribute of a leader. Why is no one willing to step up and say, “Yes, I changed my mind on that issue. Here are the reasons.”? Do we really want a static leader with frozen opinions that don’t respond to the current state of the world? Haven’t we had enough of that already?

In my opinion, one of the major strengths of humanity is our ability to adapt to changing environments and to come up with new strategies and ideas when old ones don’t work.

And as for the near-hackneyed concept of “change”, it cannot be characterized as an unadulterated good or bad thing. Does it even make sense to say that you’re for “change”? Changing the status quo could result in improvements or in things getting worse. It’s the quality of the proposed change that matters. I would like to see the candidates stop picking on each other for being for or against “change” and simultaneously for “changing too much” (I’m getting confused as to what the real issue is, and I’m sure I’m not the only one). Instead, how about focusing on what kind of changes they each propose?

2 of 2 people learned something from this entry.

  1. jim said,

    January 8, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” — Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

    I think you’ve nailed why I’ve had a hard time getting excited about any candidate. How politics be steered away from sound bites, e.g. “Yes, I changed my mind on that issue [snip]”, to meaningful discourse? (“… because the information I have now is substantially improved.”)

  2. wkiri said,

    January 8, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Apparently there was a Saturday Night Live skit poking fun at the candidates’ emphasis on “change” by portraying a bank (“We make change! That’s what we do! Here are two fives for your ten!”). :)

  3. Jon Berney said,

    January 11, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Maybe even funnier than an SNL skit is the real thing:


  4. Rex said,

    January 17, 2008 at 12:57 am

    (Learned something new!)

    Reasons?! Horrors!

    The reason why no one is willing to step up and say “Yes, I changed my mind on that issue. Here are the reasons.” is because no one is willing to step up and say, “Here are reasons.”

    If you have reasons, there are all sorts of dangers. Someone might show that your reasoning is wrong, and you’ll look stupid. You might reason your way to a position that is contrary to your political party’s position, which kills your political future. Not all voters may be able to follow your reasoning, so they may not be on your side. Most voters will be bored to tears–well, okay, will be bored and switch to HBO–by you and your dry, long-winded “reasons”.

    Reasons are bad. Unless, of course, you want to have a good idea of how your actions will affect the world. But who would want that? And anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that Change is Good! (Or, if you prefer, Terrorists are Evil and Fighting in Iraq is Good, but that’s the other debate.)

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