Do we REALLY want change?

One of the key buzzwords of this Presidential race is change. The voices of change cumulated in a Democratic victory in 2006, and since then, the voices of change have only gotten louder and louder. Supposedly. And yet, when we look at the front-runners for the election, we see that the conventional candidates — Hillary Clinton and John McCain — are poised to take the nomination starting with Super Tuesday. A showing below 15% in South Carolina could doom John Edwards, while both Hillary and John McCain are leading by substantial margins in California. While the Republican primary is a lot messier than the Democratic primary, it seems that with his wins in South Carolina and Louisiana, Mike Huckabee’s home turf, it seems that McCain is an odds-on favorite to take over the Republican nomination.

This brings us to the question of change — do we really want change? The buzzword of this election has been change, yet we see the two establishment candidates, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, establishing themselves as frontrunners in the primary. It seems that people on both parties say that they want change, yet saying that they want change and actually having the courage to vote for change are two different things. It is a lot like a bad relationship — we say that we want to break up, yet when it comes time to actually do it, it is much more comfortable to stay in the relationship than it is to make a clean break and start over. We say that we don’t like where we are and want to move and make a fresh start; however, when it comes down to do it, we are more afraid of the unknown than we are of staying in a bad situation.  

If we had followed through with our desires for change, we would have voted for Edwards or Dodd or Kucinich or Richardson or Gravel. But instead, most Democrats voted for Hillary or Obama, the two media-anointed candidates of the race. The same thing happened with the Republican side. People were willing enough to flirt with change — enough to vote for Mike Huckabee in Iowa. Yet, when it came down to it, when it came time to vote for change, people got afraid and voted in their comfort zones in New Hampshire — they revived what had been a campaign on life support and gave McCain badly-needed momentum.

So, once again, how much do we really want change? Even at places like this and at Daily Kos, we still rely on the conventional media such as the New York Times, The Post, MSNBC, CNN, and the main media networks for our sources of information. Over at Kos, the most vicious of the candidate wars are the ones that involve the Clinton/Obama he lied/she lied wars. But if you REALLY want change, there are two rational choices for President on the Democratic side — Mike Gravel and John Edwards. Contrary to news reports, Mike Gravel is still running for President. And John Edwards is still alive, bolstered by a strong debate performance in SC.

But pushing for change in electoral politics requires pushing for change within the media — that means that if we really want to create change and sustain it for the long haul, then we must stop relying on the SCLM as our default choice and rely on alternative sources of information. Any of Alternet, Mother Jones, New Progressive, Raw Story, BBC, The Independent, The Guardian, The New Statesman, IPS News, McClatchy, or In these Times would be good places to start. There are, of course, sources that cannot be trusted in the alternative world just as there are sources of information that cannot be trusted in the main media. The point is that in order to create change, we have to stop relying on the SCLM for our main sources of information and judge each source of information individually — don’t rely on something as gospel truth.

And we can’t just turn to alternative sources of information. The problem with Daily Kos these days is that too many people blindly rely on Hillary or Obama to feed them their talking points; they rely on them as gospel truth and people who think different are somehow lying or shilling. People who support Edwards are somehow Naderites who are depriving Obama a chance for victory. That leads to people on each side saying that they won’t vote for the other candidate because they are too much of a liar or a corporatist shill. And all of that is fueled by Clinton and Obama themselves, who made things even worse in their acrimonious free-for-all in the last debate. Blindly relying on Hillary or Obama is better than blindly relying on the media, but it shows that people have not sufficiently learned the lessons of the Bush administration — the lesson that blind faith in one leader or one source of information will get you killed. But if we turn to Alternet and blindly rely on it as a source of gospel truth, then we still will not have learned our lesson — Truthout, for instance, seriously damaged their credibility as a news organization when they not only falsely reported that Rove had been secretly indicted; they refused to retract that claim even after they were called on it, and people were still defending them.

With the rise of the Internet as a source of information and platforms like blogs, Daily Kos, Docudharma, MLW, Booman, and other such places, we can easily debunk the lies of the right and make it available to a wide audience. But we have a responsibility to grow up and break out of the old habits of the past and learn a new way of thinking — evaluating information for ourselves and forcing ourselves and others to back any claims up with proof and evidence. It’s a matter of using it or losing it — there is a phenomena in this world called atrophy.  


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    • Alma on January 25, 2008 at 03:30

    I did vote for Kucinich.  YES, I want change.

  1. I concur with the bad relationship analogy. well said.

    on a vaguely related note, I’m reading in Crashing the Gate right now and there was a section that argued the loss in 2004 wasn’t **all** bad because it meant everyone put more energy into party- and movement-building. I suspect that a loss in 2008 will fuel the process, at least if the netroots/grassroots continue to gain and the numbers get a little better in Congress.

    I think people do want change, but I don’t think we’re strong enough to make it happen yet. the worst thing that can happen, imho, is that the election plays out in a way that makes it harder for the net/grassroots to keep growing.

    • pfiore8 on January 25, 2008 at 06:53


    • feline on January 25, 2008 at 19:41

    I do think that we really want change, but we’re running out of options and resources politically –  especially in the electoral process.  Our backs are getting very close to the wall.

    I think that we need to look more to social methods of bringing about change, rather than relying so much on the political methods that aren’t working for us.

  2. I think they want their habitual, bland, comfortable status quo politics.  Most voters haven’t yet discovered how badly they need fundamental change, so they’ll settle for change-lite, which is basically the same old bs in a new wrapper.  Sure some folks are starting to wake up from their slumber, and more will wake up because of peak oil, economic recession, the housing slump, the endless wars, the entire catalog of bad news.  But so far in this election cycle, tepid, seeming but not actual change is what voters want because voters are really deeply in denial.  Most voters cannot or do not want to believe that things are completely f*cked up.  They harbor the illusion that a little tinkering, a little change of personnel will once again set things right.  That, of course, is utter nonsense, but the corporatist Dems and the traditional media know what side of their bread is buttered.  So don’t expect them to go around shouting for voters to wake up, smell the coffee, and turn things around.

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