And that, of course, has been the theme of the Obama campaign from its inception -- "change." It is the word found on nearly all the placards at Obama rallies. It is the word most often cited by the candidate himself.
But for all its ubiquity and for all the passion of its advocates, what this change is about is not entirely clear.
Of course, Obama himself often has spoken about the overriding need for change from eight years of President George W. Bush's policies. But this is not what he or most of his supporters really mean when they talk about change. In fact, it cannot be. This is easy to show: All candidates for president run on a platform of change from the party in power. If they don't stand for change, why vote for them?George W. Bush wanted a change from Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton wanted a change from the first George Bush. And so on back to the first candidate for president to run from a party other than that of the prior president.
If change in policies from those of George W. Bush were all Barack Obama meant by change, "change" would not elicit anywhere near the passion it does. Nor would it be the basis of the depth of his appeal to his left-wing supporters. Surely John Kerry wanted as much of a change from George W. Bush in 2004. Yet he did not run on a platform of "change."
What Barack Obama is tapping into with the word "change" is nearly eight years of the left's constructing a description of an America that has been made so awful that "change" means changing America, not just changing policies.
The truth is that aside from the Iraq war, which is turning out to be quite successful, George W. Bush's policies have not been particularly controversial or even particularly right-wing. But the left has constructed for itself a view of America that, if you subscribe to it, makes radical change imperative.
The left, from The New York Times to MoveOn.org, has led itself and others to believe that:
--George W. Bush lied America into war.
--Tens of thousands of Iraqis and more than 4,000 Americans have been killed in a war waged in order to line the pockets of Vice President Dick Cheney's friends.
--The Constitution has been trampled on.
--America has become a torturing country.
--America's poor have become far more numerous and far more downtrodden.
--American troops in Iraq repeatedly have engaged in atrocities against innocent civilians.
--The opportunity for economic self-improvement has ceased for most Americans.
--Racism is endemic to American society.
--Republican rallies are hate-fests.
--John McCain has run a racist campaign against Barack Obama.
--Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, is a religious zealot and an idiot.
--Christian fundamentalists are on the verge of taking over America and turning it into a theocracy.
--The world is getting closer and closer to catastrophic and irreversible damage caused by human beings; and George W. Bush and energy interests are standing in the way of preventing universal destruction.
--America is on the road to fascism.
Now, as it happens, none of those things is true. But the left believes them all. That is why radical "change" becomes mandatory -- or America will collapse (and the world, too, which is why Barack Obama often mentions changing the world, as well as America).
Of course, many Americans who do not consider themselves leftist also will vote for Barack Obama and left-wing Democratic congressional candidates. They do so because they are lifelong Democrats who do not realize how far left their party has strayed and think they still are voting for the party of Truman and JFK; or because they personally benefit from Democratic largesse (e.g., government workers); or because they are active in their unions; or because they have come to believe the media and the Democrats, who have been telling them for almost a decade about how George W. Bush and the Republicans have ruined their country.
But as for the left, it lives in a bubble of its making. That is why most leftists live in places where nearly everyone shares their fantasies -- bubbles such as Manhattan, San Francisco, Boston, the west side of Los Angeles, and the most hermetically sealed of the bubbles: universities. They interact almost only with other people who share their fantasy world of America Made Bad.
From Karl Marx to today's Democratic Party, the left everywhere has manufactured villains to slay -- starting with the bourgeoisie and land owners to today's "special interests" (though not, of course, left-wing special interests, such as labor unions, teachers unions and the trial bar), "the rich," drug companies, oil companies, neocons, evangelical Christians and, of course, the myriad racists, sexists, Islamophobes, homophobes and xenophobes.
That's why the left is so passionate about "change." In fact, if I believed America had become what the left believe it has become, I would be, too. But what they believe about America is not true; America remains the greatest country in the world. It needs to be fixed where broken, but not changed. Those who want to change it will make it worse. Perhaps much worse.