Commentary: Change is an Action Verb | KERA News

Commentary: Change is an Action Verb

Dallas, TX –

I do not share the fascination that our presidential hopefuls have in the current in-vogue verb: change. I am weary of its overuse by Barack Obama, as well as John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and Hillary Clinton. Equally tiresome are the media news story sound bites that capture the bravado of an impending "change" revolution that the heir apparent will bring upon Washington, D.C. The reality is that whoever is elected as our next president will have limited individual power to bring about the meaningful, substantial change that we eagerly clamor.

An inconvenient aspect of our form of democracy is that our framers established a template of governance that is trilateral in nature: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. Although we have witnessed a variety of abuses in the current administration, under the umbrella of executive privilege, changing anything at the federal level requires expressed consent, incessant negotiations and collaboration among the three entities and their staffs. Change in any form does not occur easily with any democratic rubric and with political interests and money at stake it is likely to be glacial at best.

Those spouting the "change" agenda have failed to share exactly what they are going to change, who they intend to fire, departments and agencies they propose to restructure, or laws they will enact or repeal. Isn't that the essence of change?

What we, the common folk, as grantors of power, need to understand is that for every intention of the "changer", there will be an effected "changee". Newton's Third Law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, holds equally true for politics as the physical sciences. Quid pro quo - the Latin meaning "something for something".

Michael Johnston, Charles Dana Professor of Political Science at Colgate University, notes in his book, Syndromes of Corruption, that voters seem to have little hope for genuine reform; a feeling that suppresses our inclination to vote or participate in the electoral process. Johnston reviewed the last major Congressional collaboration to bring about change, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill of 2002, and found the legislation accomplished little of its goal to take the money out of politics. Rather, the "change" made it easier for incumbents to raise funds and stay in power.

Yet, history points out that we will unashamedly return for decades our federal and state representatives to keep so-called pork dollars flowing into our state, our local projects, and for private interests. Multiply this mentality of localized self-preservation by hundreds of congressional districts, countless special interests, and lobbying firms, and pretty soon we aren't going to change anything.

Rather than continuing this downy prattle on change, we would do well to ask our candidates and elected representative to pledge to demonstrate the words of the prophet Isaiah: "I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the doors of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron." Leadership, righting wrongs, leveling the playing field, opening doors, breaking, and cutting - those are the action verbs of change I'm looking for in a candidate.

Mel Hays is a North Texas-area teacher who lives in McKinney.

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