People Don’t Like Change All That Much

So David Broder pronounces the “Obama honeymoon over”:

I think the shift began when Obama moved beyond the stimulus bill to his speech to the joint session of Congress and his budget message. For the first time, the full extent of his ambitions for 2009 became clear — not just stopping and reversing the steep slide in the economy but also launching highly controversial efforts in health care, energy and education.

Before the election, I wrote that people don’t really want change. They like the idea of change but not actually changing. Change makes people nervous. Things are pretty good now, or good enough, why take a risk for something that might stink?

There are few people who are willing to risk much to gain much. Barack Obama was not elected because he was perceived as a big risk. In fact, he took great pains both rhetorically and in marketing himself to demonstrate his safety.

The change people wanted, in my book, was to have George W. Bush out of office. Secondary to that, people wanted less focus on the war on terrorism. Americans were tired of the news and tired of thinking about themselves under threat. Of course, the reality is that Obama must face foes, too. Shockingly, the world keeps on marching toward totalitarianism and tyranny. Do Americans want to sit on the sidelines while Russia and Iran cozy up to our Southern neighbors? Is that really the change Americans want?

Americans also saw an unstable economy and wanted stability. They wanted a change to stability. Change itself, can make things unstable.

Basically, Americans wanted a change back to the way things were before 9/11. Good economy, head-in-the-sand about the rising Islamic extremist threat, and general placidity.

President Obama had a far different notion of change. And those on the Right had ears to hear and didn’t like the subtext of the message:

Hope: America as it is now, is hopeless.
Change: America is a bad place the way it is and needs to be more like Europe.
Fair: American capitalism isn’t fair. Class warfare and redistribution is fair.

So, President Obama did reveal himself, but people chose not to see it. Americans count on politicians lying and the Democratic process being laborious and really, anti-change and more pro-status-quo. Change is incremental and gradual.

Problem is, Obama’s view of change does not match up with American’s view of change. It will be interesting to see how this crisis of definitions manifests.

Cross-posted at

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