Misunderstanding Calls for Change: Refracturing the Political Crucible

Throughout the last two years, public support for the current administration has remained under 35%. This was punctuated during the numerous elections for Congress in 2006, when voters came out in decisive numbers to reject the status quo, creating momentum for Democratic victories and a changeover in the U.S Senate and House. Media sources and political analysts considered this a clear indication that U.S citizens wanted change. In an Associated Press article dated November 9, 2006, House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi poised herself and the Democratic Party as representatives of this change:

Pelosi, who voted against invading Iraq, said the Democrats’ victory meant the American people were calling for a “new direction.”

And she was adamant about a new direction for the war in Iraq. “This is something that we must work on together with the president. We know that ‘stay the course’ is not working,” she said.

Pelosi and her party members established themselves as the manifestation of the voters’ decisions, as it is the defining political capital for this decade. And this may have been the very rationale that that inspired Senator Barack Obama to adopt it as his message for his presidential bid back in 2007.

But as different Republican and Democratic candidates declare themselves the harbingers of change, the question remains as to what does this change really mean? In many ways, pundits and analysts inaccurately assume that rejection of the status quo translates to support of the opposition. If anything, the public opinion polls on the U.S Legislative and Executive branches show this to be the opposite, with the lowest rating of Congress coming this month. Nancy Pelosi’s attempts to align her party with the call for change did not stick. This point has not gone undetected by candidates outside the Washington political carnival. Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have often cited their absence from the national government system as a benefit to their candidacy, and this has been one of the talking points for Barack Obama when defending his experience.

Yet with all the public rejections of the current administration and acknowledgments by candidates that “Washington is broken,” the remaining top tier candidates are very much entrenched in the national political system. It is an almost certainty that a U.S Senator will rise to the Executive office, a feat not accomplished since the days of John F. Kennedy nearly 40 years ago. Voters may be reaching a clear majority in rebuke of what they perceive Washington and its politics to be. If this is the case, it could explain the push for difference and the lack of momentum for experience superstars such as Joseph Biden, Bill Richardson, and Fred Thompson. For although Senators McCain, Obama and Clinton represent Washington with their offices, their identities stand in stark contrast to the typical associations of Washington politics.

And if voters were feeling disgruntled with national political processes and scandals before, their frustrations are only increasing with current Republican and Democratic Parties policies and tactics, which are disenfranchising voters from their respective primaries. For the Republican Party, the “winner-take-all” decision by individual states encourages Republicans to feel alienated from the political process– unless they voted for the winner. And for the Democratic Party, the dimension of super delegates along with the Florida and Michigan controversies (which are still looming), threaten to alienate the majority of voters from the political process.

Some Democratic leaders are taking note of this and issuing warnings. Senator Tom Harkin feels that superdelegates need to be eliminated entirely, and former Clinton campaign chief David Wilhelm cautions his fellow super delegates that a vote against the popular vote could spell disaster for the Democratic Party. However, Howard Dean, chair of the Democratic Party, has remained relatively quiet on this subject. And while Democratic Party controversies swirl around issues such as 21 year-old super delegates and petitions to reinstate Florida’s and Michigan’s delegates, conservative notables such as James Dobson attack their soon-to-be Republican nominee.

People across the country are expressing discontent with the U.S government, and their calls for change are widely being misunderstood. I would argue that many Republicans and Democrats do not want an Obama, Clinton, or McCain presidency. They simply want greater voice and clearly this is not present in the current Bush administration. Their complaints of feeling disenfranchised will only develop as fractious behavior within the Republican Party, and a possible Democratic super delegate coup approaches. Neither Party is looking centered and united as the months to the presidential election dwindle– and this makes the political environment all the more friendly to a Third Party nominee.