Wednesday, January 21, 2009

...And, inaugural fallout

I didn't think Obama's speech was too bad. It was pithy and focused on the high points, and even implied that motherhood was a noble struggle.

I did have a cynical epiphany on my way to lunch Tuesday, though. I don't so much believe it's simply true as think it might be a fruitful mental exercise to consider how it applies to politics.

Every politician preaches hope and change, after a fashion. Some change is an advancement toward a good, other change is a retreat from evil. Still other change is change we want to avoid, the things that the candidate you vote against stands for. Hope is the desire to see the desired changes realized and the motivation to help them along.

Why did Obama get so much milage on just speaking those two words?

The impression I have is that, in the past, politicians tended to couch their rhetoric in terms of what we could hope for and what we should change. "Hope" and "change" were vehicles to political or societal ends, or perhaps more precisely, the fuel in the vehicle.

So, we got used to politicians promising to clean up the mess they'd inherit and get us back on the right track. What it seemed like, just for a moment, was that while Obama was specific enough to keep his reputation with the Democratic Party, his rhetoric about hope and change itself felt to many people like a revelation, like an unveiling of the things they wanted to achieve all along, no longer masked or sullied by particulars. "He's right," they might have thought, "all I really want is for things to get better," and there was enough generic grist for the political mill that people could flavor it with whatever prejudices they wanted.

But I don't know that anybody thought this way in particular.