The Politics of Change - Island of Sanity

Island of Sanity

Liberals & Conservatives

The Politics of Change

I've often heard people say that liberals favor change while conservatives want to keep things as they are. A few years ago I saw a magazine quiz that attempted to classify people politically, and one of the questions on it was, "Do you favor change?" If you said yes, they added a point to the liberal column.

A moment's thought will show that this doesn't work. Suppose that liberals want to change national opinion or law about ... whatever, say X. They work hard and get X done. At that point it would be conservatives who want change -- X to be reversed -- and liberals who want things to remain the same.

Indeed, these days our government has many liberal policies, and so there are many things conservatives want to change. Conservatives want to privatize social security, deregulate business, implement school choice, end abortion. Liberals want to keep all these things mostly the way they are now. Today there may be more things conservatives want to change then there are things liberals want to change.

Even when people are agreed on the general direction of change, they often differ on how far it should go and how fast and how to get from here to there.

Every now and then a politician campaigns on a platform of "change". I just saw a picture on the news of a campaign rally where everyone is waving signs that say, not the name of the candidate or a slogan about an issue, but "Change we can believe in" with "change" in big letters. What exactly is the point of such a slogan? Change from what to what? I realize that any campaign slogan is inherently simplistic, but can't a slogan at least give a clue what the candidate would do if elected? "Change" could mean ending the war, or expanding it. It could mean cutting taxes, or raising them. It could mean ... well, you get the idea.

© 2008 by Jay Johansen


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