The History of "Change"

There's a fascinating SlateV video illustrating the history of candidates using the mantle of “change”. It's worth considering that Obama really hasn't invented anything fundamentally new, he's really just adapting an old familiar campaign strategy that's been around for decades and used by both parties.

A few highlights:

1952: Dwight Eisenhower, who the video notes is remembered for being perhaps America's most boring status quo presidents, ran on a platform of change. Specifically, he was running a change campaign against the legacy of an unpopular president, supported ending a mismanaged and unpopular war, stopping government corruption, and lifting a faltering economy. Sound familiar?

1976: Still reeling from the Watergate scandal, both candidates sought to run on a theme of “change”. Jimmy Carter ran as the ultimate change candidate–a fresh Washington outsider, brutally honest, with a campaign based more on big ideas than policy details. Gerald Ford on the other hand, was walking a tightrope. He had to convince the country that although he was the heir of an incredibly unpopular president, he was an independent thinker and had changed. At the same time, he struggled to mollify the party base that to a large part still rallied around their fallen standardbearer. Sound familiar in both cases?

1992: Bill Clinton, the original “Hope” candidate ran against a suddenly unpopular administration, a failing economy, and an increasingly out-of-touch president and opposition party–and based his campaign around the idea that, in his own words, “experience is important,  but it's not everything”. Sound familiar?

2000: Even after an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity, change was in the air. George W. Bush based his first campaign on an uplifting message of spiritual and moral change, arguing that he was a fresh face and a Washington outsider, above the scandals and corruption of both parties, and would transcend partisian bickering and unite a fractured country. Sound familiar?


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