The False Allure of "Hope and Change"

The now famous election mantra, "Hope and Change" suggested that widespread political change was possible so long as people were willing to have faith. Concerns about the ongoing War in Iraq, including the rising costs and casualties, along with the souring of the US economy helped to convince many voters that the US was in desperate need of "change"–whatever that might mean. Obama, the candidate, succeeded in convincing roughly 52% of the national electorate that he was the very change for which they had hoped. However, since winning the election, the President-elect has signaled that any hopes for meaningful change in Washington were sorely misplaced. First, he quickly drafted an administration of political insiders and Democratic loyalists, all of whom share the same ideological committment. In so doing, he demonstrated a palpable disregard for those voters who worked tirelessly to elect him to the nation’s highest office. Such voters, based upon the oft repeated campaign promises, had every right to expect the appointment of extremely ethical, capable individuals with a fresh political outlook untainted by anything that might suggest they were Washington insiders. To the contrary and without the slightest hesitation–as if the list had already been finalized during his candidacy–the President-elect chose a cabinet virtually equivalent to that of his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton. This is a sufficient cause for concern: Clinton was just the second president in our nation’s history to ever be impeached, and was continuously embroiled in serious ethical and political controversy.

The second signal of political sameness is clearly represented in the ongoing criminal investigation into the now disgraced Governor of Illinois. While a state senator, Obama was extremely intimate with Blagojevich for years, serving twice as a high level consultant in his election committee. Furthermore, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s incoming Chief of Staff, likewise was very intimate with the Illinois Governor. It seems entirely incomprehensible to accept-as the President-elect has repeatedly insisted that we should-that both Rahm Emanuel and President-elect Obama were at all times unaware of the Governor’s conduct, especially as it was Obama’s seat that was being sold. Even the mere failure to promptly report such behavior to the authorities constitutes a felony, and it seems plausible to assume that both the President-elect and his incoming Chief of Staff are likely to be at least guilty of this crime alone, if not potentially more. Illinois politics, which is run entirely out of Cook County, has always been riddled with corruption, and the allegations against the Governor likely only represent a tip of the iceberg.

Consequently, the promise of "Hope and Change" has been reduced to a reorientation of the political pendulum markedly to the left–the same as if any Democrat had been elected. The bitter reality is that US voters now face 4 more years of political sameness, of the complete absence of any real change. In retrospect, "Hope and Change" may be viewed for what it was: a (albeit effective) marketing ploy designed to restore a desperate political party back to power in the White House. What often constitutes fraud at the consumer level, may for certain political candidates, be labeled a "victory." However, US voters, who now are likely to grow even more cynical of politics, are the real losers. Many Americans have expressed frustration at the actions of a president with whom they openly disagree. However, the dismay is likely to be much deeper as a result of being misled by a candidate that 52% of Americans-many of them young people and minorities-were falsely led to believe was the harbinger of change.