Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Slippery Slope of Political "Change"

A word that emerged on the scene in 2008 was Rorschach, as in Rorschach test. I had no idea what it meant before the 2008 election season, and now I read analogies using the Rorschach test every week.

The Rorschach test implies that a given political candidate turns into what the voter wants. It's often related to President Obama. Voters saw in Obama what they wanted, given his fresh face at a time of national political despair (read "George W. Bush").

Put another way, if voters want change badly enough, they will embrace a change candidate for their own reasons.

It follows that in this current political climate, candidates are desperate to be seen as agents of change.

Enter Michael Flaherty, and his announcement today (or was it late last night?) that he's a candidate for Mayor of Boston (2009 is a Mayoral election year in Boston). The text on his campaign website does not mention "change" at all, however he couldn't help himself on the YouTube video that officially declared his intentions. He asks listeners to consider joining his "campaign for change."

It's a grassroots effort. It's time to turn the page. Start a new chapter. Bring in new leadership.

All these phrases are indicative of calling for change. Flaherty, currently a Boston City Councilor, is hoping that by being the change candidate, he can lump Mayor Menino (assuming he decides to run for re-election) into the same category as George Bush, Dianne Wilkerson, and others-- cases where the voters believed it was time for change.

Flaherty assumes that change in leadership is needed. Unfortunately for him, Mayor Menino is not George Bush, and he is not Dianne Wilkerson. He is not to blame for the current economic crisis faced by the city, the nation and the world.

In fact, one would argue that given what we will face in the coming months, experience is what is needed so that this city is properly represented. Mayor Menino's most recent announcements make it clear he is acting in the best interests of Boston.

The 2009 Boston Mayoral race has begun, and we have two announced candidates-- Flaherty and South End resident Kevin McCrea. Both will inevitably talk of change. Merely calling yours a campaign for change does not make it a Rorschach test for voters. In the case of Obama, voters were thirsty for a change, and someone who could provide new ideas. In Boston this year, we need experience, wisdom and leadership. Change can result in the opposite.

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