The Voter’s Definition of “Change”

“Change.” Voters say they want it. All the candidates seem willing to provide it. Even the “experienced” candidates who won the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, have embraced it. It has become the mantra for this election.

On Saturday, in the Democrat debate sponsored by ABC News and Facebook, the word was used more than 70 times. It was used more sparingly in the Republican debate, a scant 26 times. However, on Sunday, the Republicans made up the difference in a forum on the Fox New Channel. The word came up another 54 times.

‘Change” is a word that obviously means different things to different people. Therefore, what the voters really want is not that easily defined. “Change” can be a verb, but it is also a noun. The voters are articulating the verb and the candidates are in hot pursuit. However, I believe that it is the noun we truly desire and the candidates are off on the proverbial wild goose chase.

In 1992, Bill Clinton got it right when focused, like a laser beam, on the economy. Voters weren’t really that concerned about the state of the nation’s economy – although we were just coming out of a recession. They were concerned about the state of their own personal economy – and so it is today.

What really motivates us to go to the polls is the “change” we believe a candidate is likely to leave in our pockets at the end of his or her term.

“Enough” can be defined as a little more than you have. Bill Clinton understood this all too well.

“It’s the economy, stupid!” was a sign that was prominently displayed in his campaign headquarters. The 2008 candidates – be they Democrats or Republicans would be wise to heed this lesson.

One of the changes voters on the far left want their candidates to bring about is to withdraw our troops from Iraq. They believe that the money saved will be spent on them. Therefore, at the end of the day, there would be more change in their pockets.

Another change they desire is socialized medicine. Call it what you will. They want the president to be doctor-in-chief. They want a health care chicken in every pot – one that is fat, tasty and virtually free. They haven’t stopped to consider that Medicare – the government program that provides health care for the nation’s senior citizens is going broke and, if it isn’t reformed, taxes will have to be raised drastically. They wrongly believe that if health care becomes a government benefit there will be more change in their pockets.

Lastly, those on the left believe that “I am poor (fill in your own definition of poverty) because you are rich.” To the left, the economy is a zero sum game. Therefore, they want to see more taxes on the rich because they believe that will mean still more change in their pockets

Conservatives from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan understood that “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Conservatives want to keep taxes low for everyone. They have no desire to punish the rich, because they understand that when the rich are allowed to keep more of their money, they put it back into the economy, which creates jobs. Also, most conservatives believe it is within their power to attain wealth if the government will just get out of the way.

Conservatives also understand that our health care system may not be perfect, but it is the best in the world. What is needed to bring down costs, is more competition, not less.

Finally, the cost of freedom is expensive in blood and treasure. If we surrender to the terrorists in Iraq and abandon our peace-loving friends there, the terrorists will follow us home. We must have a military second to none and it is not necessary to bankrupt the country in order to do so.

Yes, the word “change” was used more than 140 times in the debates last weekend and it was always the verb, never the noun.

It’s possible, this election will turn on emotion and the candidate who makes us feel warm and fuzzy will get the majority of votes. But if one of the candidates will switch from the verb to the noun, he or she has a good shot at becoming the next president of the United States.

At the end of the day, the change we believe will be left in our pockets is the only change that really matters. Voters are reluctant to admit it. It sounds too self-serving, but that is the change we really care about.

15 thoughts on “The Voter’s Definition of “Change”

  1. Jane,

    If George W. Bush had simply been a much better president, many voters would not be wanting change. Right now, Bush is in the Middle East and is as clueless as ever going against Israel, and with the worst U.S. secretary of state ever in Condi Rice over there as well. I will never again knowingly support a non-introspective political candidate such as Bush. Bush should not even be allowed to speak at the 08 Republican Convention since if the Republicans win in 08 it will be in spite of Bush.



  2. We’ve heard this all before over and over again by the supposed conservative pundits that seem to self anoint themselves to speak for us all.

    Listen, ever since the August Ames Straw Poll I have taken advantage, when possible, to see both the Republican and Democratic candidates. Here’s the definition of change by Democrats: The Repudiation Of Everything That Is George W. Bush. Here’s the definition of change by Republicans: Umm

    The last debate I saw on ABC was one of the most pathetic events I have ever witnessed. Here’s how it went. “You’re wrong. I was for the war from the beginning.” “Listen, I was for the surge before you.” And on and on…

    Lessons from Iowa and New Hampshire is Republican depression. Democrats came out in numbers almost 2.5 times over Republicans in Iowa and basically the same in New Hampshire. Republicans are so disillusioned by war, by the sundering of our Constitution, by the off shoring, by the free trade fanatics, by the drunken sailor spending spree, by pitiful abysmal leadership, they have stuck their heads in the sand hoping for a miracle that it will all go away. Republicans are so out-of-touch with not only America, but with their past foundations. No wonder depression is rampant.

    Listen, the Obama mania is real. It was only momentarily stalled by on emotional moment, the only thing that could have stalled it, but it will be back. You did not see the hysteria, in person, of those that went to see him. Obama is nothing more than an agitator. He is to the left of Hillary. He is dangerous. And all Republicans talk about is who wants to spend the most time and money in Iraq. Good Grief!

    If the trend continues of Democratic turnout beating Republicans by 2-1 during Super Tuesday, the end for the Republican Party, as we know it, will be at hand. It is that serious and dire.

    Bill Schroder


  3. Dear Jane,

    You are probably right, but if we elect the “right” or “left” person
    “change” is all we will have left in our pockets. I would rather be
    poor with no “change” and have liberty than a little pocket “change”
    and tyranny! The “change” I want is radical! It is the ideas of limited
    government and not unlimited government! Limited Government means not
    getting involved in “foreign entanglements” and freedom of the
    individual from government intrusion into healthcare, the monetary
    system, personal privacy & property, education, and all other areas
    where the Constitution is supposed to bind them down! Also, please
    understand something…I was in the Middle East in the military and we
    are fomenting terrorism! These people are livid that we are in their
    countries and this is one of the reasons they want to carry out attacks
    against us. They carried them out in 1997 while I was in Turkey in the
    forms of sniper’s and suicide bombings. What would you do or how would
    you feel if we had the Russian or Chinese military walking down our
    streets and manipulating our government???
    You would be angry! I can tell you that if we keep our current policies
    up…it will not be long until we are broke and this may happen
    someday! We cannot afford this kind of strain and nation-building! We
    must leave this in the hands of God and seek to secure our own liberty
    and freedom here at home…that we are losing by the way in the name of
    security! I am a born-again Christian, but I at least understand that
    we cannot have a Christian theocracy here on earth. I would not want
    one either as long as humans would govern it! “The Strength of Sin is
    the Law.”
    If you believe in the principles of Limited Government, you would
    understand that only one candidate has these ideas and that is Ron
    Paul! He does not pay lip service to us Christian’s or wear his
    Christianity on his sleeve! He lives it out in his life and service to
    our country! More than I can say for the rest of the candidates after
    examining their shameful records! This includes Huckabee!


    Joe Kierpaul
    Guttenberg, IA


  4. Although refuting every point in your column would be worthwhile (not to mention a lot of fun,) I have more productive things to do this decade, so I am going to pick a bone on one tactic you (and many other pundits, for that matter) have used to ill ends…
    Would you please, please, PLEASE, quit telling liberals what our motives are?! I KNOW what my motives are for ending the war in Iraq, and I can assure you that it has nothing to do with pocket change. I would like to see our soldiers come home to be with their families after years of rotated shifts, to recuperate from endless blood and death and grinding terror. Is that too hard for you to understand? Is your heart so dead that you cannot conceive of someone actually caring about others without having a selfish interest?
    I’m sorry–I’m trying not to get angry. But I have had it with people like you who insist on telling me what I’m thinking. Imagine that I were to say, “conservatives like Jane Chastain want to keep us in Iraq because they want all Arabs dead, including women and children!” Wouldn’t that make you angry? Or would you just sit back and let me put words in your mouth?
    I didn’t think so. So what in God’s name makes you think you can do it to us?


  5. boy, some intellectuals here. re Martin Holt. I think anyone has a right to question your motive when you would gladly ignore people who welcome female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and lashings for women who were raped. I’d rather not see our country set up “democracies” who will engender the same– THAT’S my opposition to Iraq.

    whether you agree with the Islamo-fascists or not, if you’ll do nothing to stand against their influence, then start counting down the years before your daughters are wearing the hajib and islamic family courts are settling their disputes with their husbands (see Canada)…

    Your actions and inactions have consequences for women. girls are killed in “honor slayings” and newspapers already mention how it must have been tough on their father. Hey, it’s tough on everyone’s father, but most of us didn’t get strangled for our teenage stupidity. ….

    Jane is right, people want a handout. everyone, dang near, especially the boomers, but even my educated friends who choose jobs that don’t pay a living wage and then expect me to pay for their healthcare and meds.

    it’s as if there is a battle in this country between the responsible and irresponsible. With so many people on the dole, I know who will win. Maybe that’s Ron Paul’s appeal for the responsible, young, and employed– but i think he’s ten years to early — but maybe already too late.

    –Sam Hill

    PS. sorry Jane, I’m turning libertarian here in Greeely.
    Can I be an interventionist non druggy libertarian? An Army of One!


  6. To Ms. Chastain: which liberal pundits would those be? Examples would be nice. I have yet to see a single liberal say that he would like to see the Iraq War end so that he can get more government money for himself.

    To Sam Hill: WTF? How did we get on genital mutilation? Get something straight, porcupine–genital mutilation, lashings for rape victims, forced marriage, honor killings, and all of the other horrors visited on women in the name of Allah are practiced in countries ruled by certain sects of radical Islam, such as Pakistan (our ally,) Saudi Arabia (our ally,) and Egypt (our ally.) In fact, one of the only Islamic countries in the Middle East that didn’t routinely inflict these atrocities on women was–wait for it–Hussein’s Iraq. In fact, during Saddam Hussein’s reign, women were actually allowed to work alongside men in white-collar jobs. Don’t get me wrong (I can hear the saliva pumping to spit out the inevitable rejoiner,) Saddam Hussein was a butcher and a pig, as many of us were saying while St. Reagan was sending him money and weapons to fight Iran during the ’80’s. However, he was not a Muslim fanatic. Ironically, many of the very atrocities you mentioned are at this very moment appearing in Iraq, as the US military cedes control of most of the country to Sunni tribal leaders–in other words, the fanatical SOB’s we’re supposed to be fighting against!!!

    A final note: If you’re going to rebut my comments, 1) stay on the topic, which is Ms. Chastain’s seeming telepathy, and b) if you’re going to change the subject, do your homework!

    Remember, rotten tomatoes splatter better, kids. Let the bombardment commence!


  7. To Martin,

    I’ll give you two examples but a web search can provide hundreds:

    Check out “What $1.2 Trillion Can Buy” By DAVID LEONHARDT
    Published: January 17, 2007, in The New York Times.

    or this from Phyllis Bennis and Erik Leaver at the Institute for Policy Studies:

    “The $204.4 billion appropriated thus far for the war in Iraq could have purchased any of the following desperately needed services in our country: 46,458,805 uninsured people receiving health care or 3,545,016 elementary school teachers or 27,093,473 Head Start places for children or 1,841,833 affordable housing units or 24,072 new elementary schools or 39,665,748 scholarships for university students or 3,204,265 port container inspectors.”

    Thanks for your enlightening comments to Sam Hill.

    I would add this: See for yourself. Watch the news. Many of the women in the Iraqi legislature are in western dress. Regardless of how you feel about going into that country and removing Saddam Hussein, helping Iraq to set up a republic form of government modeled after our own gives “rights” to minorities. Can’t you see that this helps women?


  8. To Jane: Read what you said: “One of the changes voters on the far left want their candidates to bring about is to withdraw our troops from Iraq. They believe that the money saved will be spent on them. Therefore, at the end of the day, there would be more change in their pockets.” Your comment implies that liberals want the money for themselves. The quote you supplied states that the money would be better spent on programs for everyone, not just liberals. In fact, one of the programs in the quote refers to port inspections, a vital part of the war on terror. Wanting to spend money to make this country stronger is quite different from wanting to hoard money for myself. That’s what I’m trying to get at. You’ve framed the liberal motives as greed. “I want, I want, gimmee, gimmee.” The quote you gave me sounds nothing like the caricature you presented in your column. The country, over 60% at last count, want the war over, and their reasons are many and varied. Some believe that our presence is in itself destabilizing the region, some feel that the military is overtaxed and needs to recuperate, and some just want their loved ones home. To lump all of those legitimate desires into a corner and call it ‘pocket change’ is an insult to thinking people everywhere, as insulting as if I lumped everyone who supported the war into a corner and labeled it ‘homicidal racism.’

    You’re welcome. And thank you, Sam.

    As for Iraqi women in the parliament wearing Western dress, I agree. They are. However, in case you haven’t noticed, the Iraqi parliament is in charge of the Green Zone. That’s it. That’s all. Everywhere else in Iraq, security has been turned over, with the tacit approval of the Bush administration, to Sunni tribal leaders, who are busy installing their own brand of social change.

    As Islamic fundamentalism seeps into society and sectarian warfare escalates, more and more women live in fear of being kidnapped or raped. They receive death threats because of their religious sects and careers. They are harassed for not abiding by the strict dress code of long skirts and head scarves or for driving cars.

    For much of its post-British existence, Iraq has been one of the most progressive Middle Eastern countries in its treatment of women. Girls were encouraged to go to school and take jobs alongside men. The Baath Party, while brutal in its treatment of non-Sunnis, advocated a woman’s equality in society. But now, in outlying regions of Iraq, women are being forced to wear headscarves and forswear makeup and Western dress. Girl’s schools are frequently raided by local militia and forced to submit to wahhabist Islam or risk death or worse. Rape is on the rise, as are honor killings and kidnappings of young women.

    Helping Iraq move towards western democracy is a noble goal. But wishing it were so doesn’t make it so. The war that Bush started without provocation, even if his motives were pure, has set women’s rights in Iraq back decades, if not centuries. Setting up a chunk of parliament in the center of a fortress does nothing to change that, even if every women in the place dressed like Barbara Bush.

    And no, I don’t watch the news. I read the news. If I watched the news, I wouldn’t know anything at all.


  9. Martin it is obvious that you and I are polls apart on the role of government. Yes, we columnists, who have to come in under a word count, generalize. However, a common theme from those who are railing about the cost of the war and want us to pull up and leave the poor people in Iraq, who have to depend on us until the country is stabilized, is: I want more for me (free health care) and my big government programs. A number of people who are railing about this are making a profit from these programs.

    We can discuss, whether or not we should have gone into Iraq, but Colin Powell was right when he said, “You break it; you fix it.” We now have a responsibility to do that.

    Yes, when there is a war or anarchy, women always suffer most. However, I don’t think those who had relatives who were gassed or dropped in the shredder would ever want to go back.

    There is an abundance of stories on the hardships that women have suffered but many are unbalanced and written by people who want to portray Americans as evil opportunists or want us out of there so badly they refuse to acknowledge the good.

    Dr. Rajaa al-Khuzai, President of the Iraqi National Council of Women and of the Iraqi Widows Organization said, “Despite the difficulty of life in Iraq today, Iraq “is better off without Saddam Hussein.”Asked about coalition military forces withdrawing from Iraq, she said, “Of course that must happen sometime, but an immediate withdrawal would be a catastrophe.”

    Sunni tribal leaders are controlling mostly Sunni areas. But can’t you at least agree that a republic, where women are working to help other women break free, is a good thing?


  10. To Jane: Now we’re trying to make a profit by funding social programs? The people who are making a profit on this war are weapons-manufacturers and oil-producers. The people who are making a profit off of government programs are Halliburton, Bechtel, and Blackwater USA, who have raked in billions of tax-payer dollars in no-bid contracts. I would like my tax dollars to go to teachers and doctors and feeding the poor instead of buying Erik Prince another mansion in the country.

    ‘You break it, you fix it?’ But we’re not fixing it. Despite the current media mantra about the surge working, it’s not. Casualty rates have dropped back to what they were in 2005. At that time, the situation was described as a catastrophe. So at best, we’ve returned to a catastrophe. And let’s not forget, the whole point of the surge was to give the Iraqi parliament time to get its feet under it. That it has not done, under even the Bush administration’s lower-than-snake’s-belly expectations. In the meantime, the US armed forces are collapsing under the strain of committing a volunteer army to an open-ended conflict that has lasted longer than World War II. The situation has sunk so low that soldiers are being sent back into the war zone while convalescing from their wounds. No army in US history, even during the Civil War, has even done this.

    The simple fact is, we can’t stay. Period. The surge is unsustainable, the Iraqi government controls nothing outside the Green Zone, and nothing we can do will stop it. Bush and his gang of cronies have already screwed up Iraq beyond belief. The idea that we should sacrifice even more men and women in the hope that he can somehow fix it is insane, akin the a gambler who has just lost his car, house, and college fund staying in the game so he can somehow break even. Except that Bush is gambling with the lives of others, not his own.

    Dr. al-Khuzai lives in Vienna with her daughter. The abundance of stories on the ‘hardships’ of women in Iraq (if you can call being shot for wearing trousers a ‘hardship’) have been written by women in Iraq. Not comfortably in the Green Zone, either, but in Anbar and Basra and Sadr City, where assassination of women who speak out is commonplace. Women who actually enter politics are threatened with death or worse. The majority of women in Iraq are suffering far worse under the new anarchy than under Hussein, no matter what someone living in Vienna says.

    And one last thing: I’m getting tired of the ‘white man’s burden’ argument for staying. ‘America must stay to stop the Iraqis from killing each other.’ This argument suffers from such a glaring error in judgement it borders on myopia. What we have learned from the surge is this: we increased American troop strength in Iraq, and the casualty rate skyrocketed. At the end of the summer, the death toll dropped. Why? Because of our soldiers? After five years, they finally got their butts together? Wrong. The death toll dropped because the US government handed control of security to local leaders–Sunni and Shiite tribal chiefs instead of Iraqi regulars. In short, Iraq has finally stabilized a teensy fraction because we’re finally letting the Iraqis sort it out themselves.

    As I said, a republic where everyone got along would be great. But it’s not happening. It’s not happening with us, and it won’t happen without us. Iraq is messed up, and the most likely result is a blood-soaked Shiite regime ruling as a satrap of Iran, with Sunnis and Kurds under constant threat of subjugation. That’s your president’s fault, lady. He did it. He condemned Iraq to bloodshed and death just so he could be a hero, and I hope he burns in hell for it. Do we have to toss an entire generation of soldiers into the blood-cauldron of Iraq for him?


  11. BTW, a news flash: as of the new year, violence is climbing again. Civilian deaths is at 50 per day from snipings and car bombs alone. Merry Christmas.


  12. I take it by a lack of response that you’ve given up. No problem–I will leave you to your thoughts. Take care, and be assured that you will never hear from me again.

    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
    Matthew 5:9


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