Opinion

It’s the substantive, stupid

2008, you’re no 1992.

“Change Versus More of the Same; It’s the Economy Stupid; Remember Health Care.” This James Carville-inspired ‘haiku’ was the compact marketing tool that summed up Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign 16 years ago. Certainly we got change. Whether that change was good or not, I’ll leave up to you.

So here we are a generation later and change seems to be the watchword again, with the economy and healthcare pulling up the rear. Looking at it, one might be tempted to see similarities and on the surface there are a few. The most glaring is, then as now, we’re about to reach the end of an extended period of Republican control of the White House. Then as now, the economy is front and center in people’s minds. Then as now, the Democrats are discussing universal healthcare as a central part of their campaigns. The surface similarities don’t end there; they just become less important when considering the most important difference: that which was considered new 16 years ago is now considered that which needs to be changed.

It even goes further: that which was once new and representative of change- the Clintons- is now even characterized by some as the status quo. That either Bill or Hillary Clinton would ever be called the status quo by other Democrats is not something I thought I’d ever hear. I recently asked former UM Young Democrats’ President Luke Kosar why he supports Barack Obama and he said, “I just wanted something new.”

The problem is that unlike 1992, the change that’s being touted as the new is really either nothing more than a change of personality or simply all the stuff the Clintons ran on 16 years ago, recycled into a nice new telegenic presence. Symbolism over substance once again. True to type, what seems to energize the Democrat base, and an apparent majority of college students is the symbolism. To paraphrase Bill Clinton: a fairy tale indeed.

When the predominant reasons stated for supporting someone all center around emotional reactions- “He brings us hope”; “I just want something new”; “We want change” -you’re really doing nothing more than advancing the intangible. That someone with a message like Barack Obama’s resonates so strongly with the most unreliable segment of the electorate- the youth vote- is a testament to his personification of the symbolic.

Am I saying that he never presents any specifics in his agenda? Of course not. They’re there on his Web site. But ask anyone who supports him and they never begin with, “I like Barack Obama because of his policy position on.” It’s always an answer that centers on what makes someone feel good. Problem is, feelings don’t endure precisely because they’re almost always emotive in nature. In the end, righting the ship of state will require something far more solid than just feeling good about the idea.

Scott Wacholtz is a graduate student in the history department. He may be contacted at s.wacholtz@umiami.edu.

January 31, 2008

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

The land of palm trees, beaches and mojitos gave way to the land of the Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks a ...

The University of Miami on Thursday launched a national search as it begins the difficult task of re ...

It would be hard to blame Avery Huff for rethinking his commitment to the Miami Hurricanes right now ...

The losses keep coming for Miami Hurricanes football and Mark Richt. And this feels like the biggest ...

The University of Miami is losing the architect of one of the nation’s best defenses. UM defensive c ...

During a news conference Wednesday, a UM medical team talked about the clinical findings after exami ...

Your one-stop shop for University of Miami fall commencement information. ...

The University of Miami will welcome more than 1,000 new graduates into the UM alumni family during ...

A UM medical team has released the first report of acute symptoms and clinical findings in 25 person ...

UM public relations students unveiled their plans to reposition March for Our Lives to attract colle ...

Fall graduation ceremonies held Thursday at Watsco Center. ...

The Miami women's basketball team ascended one position in each of the major national polls thi ...

Gerald Willis III added to his postseason awards list, picking up second-team All-America honors fro ...

Following its longest break of the season thus far, the No. 25/23 Miami women's basketball team ...

Miami head women's tennis coach Paige Yaroshuk-Tews announced Friday the signing of two players ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.