Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Reform ISN’T the Same Thing as “Change”

( – promoted by chrisblask)

Senator McCain and Governor Palin do have some record of reform.  That record is obviously mixed, but yes, they have accomplished some feats of reform in their careers.  That is to their credit and I’m not trying to diminish that.  You guys know me.  I like to give credit where it’s due.

That said, Senator McCain and Governor Palin are trying to conflate “reform” with “change.”  Yes, a facile understanding of these words would make that a passable construction, but in so doing one misses the whole theme of the Obama campaign.

Yes, reform connotes change of some kind.  However, Senator McCain is talking about “reforming” Washington, making it more patriotic, more honest, more earnest.  These are all good things, but reform in this context doesn’t involve any significantly different policy goals.  Rather, Senator McCain wants our leaders to be more patriotic and honest in pursuing pretty much the same damned policies we’ve been grappling with since 2001.

Is that an improvement?  Sure is.  I won’t lie.  I’d rather my President and (at the time) Republican Congress put the country ahead of their own machinations, and perhaps they could have been competent in executing their disastrous foreign and domestic policies.  That would have been a bit better than what we got.

Senator Obama isn’t talking about doing the same damned things just a little better.  When he talks about “change” he is telling us that we need to fundamentally change what we’re doing, not superficially “reform” it.  Senator McCain honestly believes that most of what we’ve been doing of late is right and just, simply flawed.  That’s a perfectly fair opinion to hold, but it’s one that I believe would be disastrous for this country.

Again, you can put lipstick on a pig.  It’s still a pig.  Had John McCain been in charge of the invasion of Iraq I honestly believe it would have gone less horribly.  However, it would have still been a horrible mistake that would have ended far too many lives.

Reform isn’t the same thing as change, and McCain thinks we’re stupid enough to believe that it is.  Fighting earmarks isn’t what Obama supporters want.  I mean, sure, that’s great, but that’s small ball.  I want home runs.  I want a fundamental reassessment of how we do business, not just editing and spell-checking around the periphery.


  1. …of the Alaskan fiddles they’re all playing while Rome burns, is not good enough.

    Everyone knows this. Change isn’t just some marketing slogan. People don’t just want to change the face of the head of state, they want the state itself to fundamentally change direction.

  2. because I think some Americans fear change, and see “reform” as a more soothing concept.  “Hey Americans, nothing’s broken, nothing’s bankrupt, everything’s okay, just needs to be tinkered with.  Certainly no upheaval.”  Reform tells people that the structure is sound, just needs to be tweaked here and there and some bad apples cleaned away.  Whereas change, the kind of change I’m looking to Obama to provide, involves as you say a more fundamental recasting of the way things are done in this country.

    This is one of those places that I think America is by and large more conservative than not.  And I mean little-c conservative in the sense of preferring slow change to fast, stability to upheaval, status quo to some uncertain future.  If McCain were smarter he’d hammer Obama as risk, risk, risk, and if Obama were more confident in the electorate’s desire for real, substantive change, he might elaborate more on what that change will involve.

    It’s not that hard to sell ‘reform’ to a ‘change’ crowd, because I think people to some extent are willing to settle for soft reforms.  Obama’s trick will be to sell ‘change’ to the ‘reform’ crowd–to convince them that tinkering with Bush’s failures isn’t enough, that the unholy GOP-MIC-energy-K street alliance has a malign grip on the gears of government, that the foreign policy of the last eight years needs to be not just tweaked but actively undone.  It’s a tough sell but I think he can do it.

    Also, nice site, guys.

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