The Iowa primary may very well be filled with surprises for the nation. Most Americans are tired of “business as usual” politics. We are weary of insincerity, hypocrisy, corruption and polarized positions. We want a politician we can trust!
This is ironic because most of us realize that campaign promises can rarely be trusted. Therefore, a trustworthy politician is an oxymoron. Cynics would say that we want our political yarns spun well and that we enjoy the theatre of politics. They feel that as long as it’s entertaining, voters will put up with the process. Extremists actually question the current relevance of our political process. These folks won’t let their hearts get caught up in politics because they do not believe that one vote can make a difference anyway. Yet the 2000 and 2004 elections should have proven to everyone that a major election can be determined by just a handful of votes.
So what does the average citizen want from this election? The answer is simple – substantive change and a better America. They want someone who will help solve problems and actually address the issues that concern them. In light of these yearnings, one would think that the candidates would be offering radical, out-of-the-box approaches. The contrary seems to be true - there are no earth shattering solutions being offered up in these primaries so far. Seasoned political pundits might even say that the speeches being made are very predictable. Most candidates are making time worn, proven statements using the language of ideologues instead of true problem solvers. This is “niche marketing” at its best.
The rise in the polls of both Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee in their respective parties suggests that Iowans are at least toying with the idea of change. These candidates, once thought of as long-shots, now have a real chance to win Iowa, if the voters continue their move away from the front runners. The question of the hour is: “Can Obama and Huckabee or others close the sale or are the Iowans just window shopping?” The image that comes to my mind is of someone who likes the way something looks in the window but cannot afford the payments.
The challenge for all the candidates on both sides of the aisle is how to help the voters define positive change and persuasively convince the voters to choose them. Generally speaking, most candidates seem to have concluded that it is easier to tweak one’s message than to offer real change.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.