By Patricia Wilson-Smith
Anyone willing to bet what next year’s ‘word of the year’ will be?
I’m guessing it’ll be ‘change’. Since Senator Obama’s decisive win in the Iowa caucuses this week, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a word uttered so much by so many. The cable news pundits, the candidates themselves, the focus group members, my family members, strangers on the street – all talking about ‘change’ as if it were some sort of new age cure for everything that ails us.
What strikes me as most interesting though, is that the other candidates in the Democratic field, namely Senators Clinton and Edwards, hardly knew how to spell the word before January 3rd, and yet suddenly, they’re both proclaiming themselves as professional change agents, and the only ones who could possibly bring about the transformation that Iowans proved the nation so desperately wants.
There’s only one problem – neither of them seems to understand what real change means to all of us, and unfortunately for them, the concept can only really be defined by the ones for whom change is most important – the American people.
Hillary Clinton in particular has begun to screech about affecting change in a shrill and insistent way that makes her sound like a spoiled teenager trying to convince her parents that she’s ready to date. On several occasions since the Iowa Caucuses, her main battle cry has been “it takes experience to bring about change”, and that she effectively has been ‘making’ change (as if there’s some magic recipe book for it) for the last 35 years. And that’s where she has gone sorely wrong. Or at least where she’s pretended to.
During the ABC News/Facebook debates tonight in New Hampshire, Hillary could be heard at one point impatiently exclaiming (and I’m paraphrasing), “if balancing the budget and improving the economy is not making change, then we all must have some kind of amnesia!” I cringed for her – I literally wanted to hop a plane to Manchester, grab a cab and dash over to St. Anselm College, fight my way past the Secret Service, dive for the stage, drag myself to where she was sitting and give her a hug. It was at that moment in the debate that I realized that when it comes to the subject of change, Senator Clinton is clueless, an unwitting victim of her own denial, backed into a corner with no way out – and what’s worse – she doesn’t even know how she got there.
It’s as if she doesn’t see what’s 100% obvious to everyone else. By handing Senator Obama the decisive victory that they did, Iowans made it patently clear that they wanted to be the ones to usher in a new political reality, one free of the baby-boomer, Vietnam and Watergate era politics that created the divisions that exist between the citizens of this nation today. One that is inclusive of the everyday American, and promises an earnest attempt at unification for the greater good of the people of this nation, rather than more of the same partisan sniping and bad judgment that has left our global reputation in shambles, our military weakened and fighting wars for no reason, and our collective political spirits broken. A new political age that only Senator Barack Obama has been able to convince us is possible, and that only Senator Obama has helped us dare to dream of.
The kind of change Senator Obama can bring about has little to do with pure policy, though heaven knows that for the last eight years we have been saddled with a myriad of policies by the Bush Administration that have been disastrous on every imaginable level. Further, the kind of change Senator Obama can bring to office represents so much more than anything getting in a time machine and heading back to the nineties, or trying to enact the same old failed Clinton initiatives can bring. Senator Clinton rants about the changes she can make because of her perceived breadth of experience, because she doesn’t understand that the change that we long for, the change that Iowans clearly showed they want to see has to do with not what we do as a nation, but how we do it. It runs deeper than either she or Senator Edwards (or even Bill Clinton for that matter), is capable of understanding, as proven by her knee-jerk reaction to her 3rd place showing in Iowa.
The numbers bear it all out – Senator Clinton may have won the majority of votes from older Americans, but in practically every other category that mattered – women, younger voters, independents – she was left in the dust by Senator Obama, sputtering, and wondering what the hell had happened. Fortunately for me, as a loyal Obama supporter from way back, I can tell Ms. Clinton exactly what happened. Senator Obama has somehow single-handedly managed to challenge a new generation of thinkers to imagine what kind of nation we could be if we would be brave enough to shake off the shackles of the past, and abandon the notion that we can’t communicate with enemy nations, or talk to our neighbors who are not of our same political affiliation about the problems that plague us. We’ve all been conditioned to not talk to one another, ever. We’ve been conditioned to believe that real, meaningful discourse is not possible across political aisles, and that no leader could possibly work with members of the opposing party to do what needs to be done to fix our nation’s ills. We’ve been conditioned to view our nation through a murky, dirty glass, that Senator Obama has shown us can be cleaned, and polished, and made bright again, so that we can all collectively begin to see a brighter future for this country. He’s challenged us to imagine real change. And Lady Hillary just doesn’t get it.
It’s probably not her fault. Senator Clinton can only see what she’s been doing for all those 35 years she brags so much about. All she can see is the political maneuvering, and the polls that direct her actions – like the ones that told her that she must talk about change now. It would be nice if someone in her camp could get her to slow down long enough to explain to her what change really means to the brave citizens of Iowa and to the nation. I’m not going to hold my breath though.
It’s best if those of us who get it just remain steadfast, and undaunted by the Clinton’s attempts to yet again scramble for a bandwagon in order to align themselves politically with what the polls say they should. They’ve not fooled anyone so far, certainly not Iowans, and I’m betting that New Hampshire will see right through them as well.
It makes me wanna sing hallelujah – it’s a new day! Hillary and Bill Clinton’s day is over, and our future looks brighter than it has in a very long time. It’s too bad that we’ll have to endure more dry debates, primaries, and stump speeches before we get to that glorious end, but the bottom line is that we’ve come too far to turn back now, and it will be SO worth it. Thank you Iowa, for creating a defining moment in my life, one that I will tell my grandchildren about one day, one that I can proudly say I was a small part of. And thank you for showing that America is still the greatest nation in the world, capable of reinventing itself even during the most difficult of times. Aren’t we lucky to have the architect of that reinvention right here, right now, ready to one day lead us all, black, white, young, old, Democrat, and Republican, by standing on the world stage and proudly proclaiming to all who will listen that “America’s back”?