Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Politics of Change

Lately it seems that on a platform, or ideals, basis it's not a bad comparison to link presidential candidate Barack Obama and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. Patrick was elected in 2006 espousing grassroots change and sweeping government reform. Obama is running on many of the same ideals. One noticeable distinction between the two is that a gaping partisan rift is notably absent in the Massachusetts legislature, meaning Patrick serves within a body politic that looks much different than the one Obama may be elected to lead. Yet public opinion holds that, so far, Patrick has been largely ineffective at living up to his campaign promises, even with an overwhelming political majority as his base.

Considering this, there may not be too much to distinguish Obama from the 2006 class of Democrats that swept into a majority in Congress, yet who have themseves been largely ineffective in combating President Bush and his core suppoters. It's interesting to consider where Massachusetts would be if Patrick were working with a state legislature that more closely resembled that which sits in Washington. One must also not forget the possibility that we may end up with a Democratic president and Republican led Congress next January.

It's easy to hear too much of the ABB (Anything But Bush) rhetoric from Obama, reminiscent of the ABC (Anything But Clinton) platform we heard from Republicans in 2000. A platform as such is most often unproductive when given authority, unless, like Bush, it decides to completely rewrite or ignore the rulebook. It's unlikely that moderate or even liberal Democrats are looking for their own version of an executive wrecking ball, but rather seek a leader to restore moral and political order to our federal government. This is not to say that Hillary Clinton does not also conjure the specter of George Bush as an ethereal campaign adversary, but in doing so she has shown to be more effective at challenging Bush's policies, not his ideals.

When one examines the aftermath of electing an executive who has run on a strictly contrarian platform, most often seen is a damaging effect to the party of the elected. Jimmy Carter splintered the Democratic Party to the point of having his incumbency seriously challenged by a fellow Democrat (Edward Kennedy). Even the current president Bush has divided his party into factions that piece together the core conservative ideals of the Republican party with various moderate stances, all done in a reactionary stance to the neo conservative backlash occurring within the party. September 11, the run up to the Iraq war, and John Kerry's failed 2004 presidential bid served the same effect within the Democratic Party in that this chain of events served to separate many Democratic leaders from the long held ideals of the party and its constituents. This is so much so that it is still a hobbled party that gained Congressional control in 2006, and a divided party that seeks the White House today.

Those who wish to see Obama's platform of change and reform elected to office in November should consider these past events, and be careful what they wish for.

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