Home > Brian's Blogs, Politics > Why This Election Won’t Change Anything

Why This Election Won’t Change Anything

“Change” is the buzzword for Decision 2008.  Both campaigns believe that they, and they alone, can change the American political culture.  But here is the reality: neither McCain nor Obama will change anything about American politics if they become President.

Let me first acknowledge both McCain and Obama will bring policy change to Washington.  If they have their way, either candidate will change our tax structure, our energy policy, our health care policy, and, potentially, the make-up of the United States Supreme Court.  These are not insignficant changes.  But the one change that they often talk about, a changing of the American political culture, simply will not happen.

During my renewal I read (to my Co-Pastor’s chagrin), Scott McClellan’s What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.  Regardless of what you think of President Bush and Scott McClellan, this is book is a “must read.”  I think it not only provides some fascinating insight into the last eight years, but provides a little glimpse into the next four years.

The thesis of What Happened is this: the American political system is so politically charged that Presidents, and other elected officials for that matter, govern by their quest for reelection (even if they don’t realize it).

McClellan believes that this highly charged political culture really goes back to Nixon, but reached new heights in the Clinton vs. Gingrich era of the 1990s and the Karl Rove era of the 2000s.  Take, for example, President Bush.  Scott McClellan expresses a deep love and appreciation for President Bush as a man.  He greatly admires the work he did as Governor of Texas and fully expected him to be a reformer in Washington.  McClellan’s problem with Bush is not Bush as a person.  Rather, McClellan believes that Bush got caught up in the system.  That is, rather than governing Bush was campaigning.  A small evidence of this is the fact that Bush, for the first time in history, allowed his campaign manager, Karl Rove, to be a primary advisor on policy!

Let me pause to clarify a point:  I certainly do not believe that every decision President Bush has made was motivated by reelection.  For example, I believe that President Bush’s commitment to fight terrorism and protect America is what led us into Afghanistan and Iraq.  In fact, I agree with these decisions.  However, even in these decisions politics came into play.  McClellan mentions how unwilling the Bush White House was to listen to the evidence of dissenters before the war and how unwilling the Democrats are to listen to the evidence of the Bush White House during the war.  They are talking past one another because of politics!!

Of course, blame does not reside with President Bush alone.  The Democrats in Congress, who are equally motivated by reelection, promoted this culture.  Their opposition to or agreement with President Bush was often motivated by their desire for reelection.

I see absolutely nothing in Decision 2008 that suggests the American political culture is changing.  I see absolutely nothing in either candidate that suggests that he can change the American political culture.  Both Republicans and Democrats want to control the most powerful and influential nation on earth and they both will do whatever they can a whole lot to achieve that power.

To prove this latter point, consider the 1994 Republican Contract with America.  One of the major platforms of the Contract with America was term-limits.  Term-limits did not pass and when the proposed term-limit time came up.  Most of these same Republicans sought reelection.  Why?  They tasted the power, lost their convictions, and were motivated by reelection.  I realize that some members voluntarily “retired” from Congress, but it wasn’t the majority.

I know there are good men and women in politics.  I know that these men and women have passionate convictions.  I even believe that most people who enter politics do so because they genuinely want to make a difference in the world.  But something happens in Washington.  The system gets a hold of you.  The power, the money, the fame, and the influence is infectious.  Rush Limbaugh is famous for warning newly elected politicians of this (including the Republican class of 1994), but few have the power to stand up against the system (including the Republican class of 1994).

On the other hand, there is one positive thing about everyone fighting over reelection: the more they fight the fewer policy changes actually get passed in Washington and, more often than not, less policy is good policy!

  1. October 20, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I think “must read” is overstating the value of this book.

  2. Brian McLaughlin
    October 20, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    C’mon Jeff…its a good assessment of reality in Washington even if it hurts.

  3. James H
    October 20, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    My thoughts as well. It ends up being less about the country and more about who is retaining power or position.

  4. Doug
    October 20, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    “Must Read” I don’t think so. I’ve read “must read” books and this one should rather be on the list of “book to read if you are stuck on a desert island and the Readers Digest condensed version is the only book available.”

  5. burton
    October 20, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    I am an independent. McLellan’s insights are dead-on about our political system. Sounds like neither Jeff nor Doug have actually read it since they are not citing anythng in it they find objectionable. I appreciate Brian’s analysis.

  6. Doug
    October 21, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    What I find objectionable is that someone who knew how the political system in D.C. worked before he was appointed to the inner circle of the White House, who knew the workings of the political system while he daily went before the public and then, only when he no longer held that position for whatever reason cried foul or sour grapes if you will. To work your way into that climate and then work in that climate and then, after your ride is over, cry foul does not merit my time or interest.

  7. Lhaull
    November 2, 2008 at 8:21 am

    “I believe that President Bush’s commitment to fight terrorism and protect America is what led us into Afghanistan and Iraq.”

    You have got to be kidding.
    It has been proven that Iraq had zero to do with terrorism against the USA.
    More mind garbage which you should dispose of sir.

  8. Lhaull
    November 2, 2008 at 8:26 am

    “I believe that President Bush’s commitment to fight terrorism and protect America is what led us into Afghanistan and Iraq.”

    Oh one last thing, Bush ordered the invasion of a sovereign nation when he attacked Iraq. You weren’t led in like sheep, well perhaps you were like sheep, however, Bush ordered the country to be invaded, an act of war, an act of aggression, He attacked them after God told him to apparently, then occupied and still does occupy a country full of people who have no other reason to hate Americans but for the very reason that America attacked them.

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