Why we need to retire the rhetoric of change

Leading up to the October 13th Democratic debate, the New Yorker published an article regarding a secret memo drafted by President Barack Obama’s campaign team in 2007.  Among the discussion items in the memo, aptly captioned “How to Beat Hillary Clinton,” was a comment noting “[s]he prides herself on working the system, not changing it…”

The Obama team rode that memo to victory, being the candidate for change in what was the textbook example of a “change” election.  Change is so popular, it’s becoming the only constant campaign theme that works.

Even Republicans are using it effectively to win elections, and then promptly failing to deliver. To be fair, Republicans aren’t very good at the revolutionary change business, given the goals of traditional conservatism – respecting tradition and opposing radical change.  But that doesn’t stop some of the loudest in our party from demanding radical change and it doesn’t stop some ambitious panderers from promising it.  It is what swept Republicans into majorities in 2010 and 2014, and the anger resulting from our inability to provide it cost Eric Cantor his job in 2014, Boehner his in 2015, and Kevin McCarthy his shot at the brass ring.

It’s time to retire the rhetoric of change.

Why? Because radical change is difficult in a governing system specifically designed to prevent radical change.

This is basic high school civics.  We all know about separation of powers, checks and balances, how the Senate was supposed to be the “saucer” that cooled hot legislation from the People’s House.  Yet every two or four years, we’re tempted by the siren call of radical change coming from outsiders who don’t know what they don’t know.  It’s happening again.

The three frontrunners for the Republican nomination have never served in elected office.  The Freedom Caucus in the House is demanding radical change to how the House works.  They’re also demanding radical change to how the Senate works.  Over in the Senate, Ted Cruz is demanding radical change to how the Judiciary works.

None of that is going to happen, just like we all knew that the promises of “hope and change” made in 2008 wouldn’t materialize, either.  Gitmo is still open, we’ve still got troops in Afghanistan – nothing really changed.

That’s not entirely a bad thing, either. We need a stable government, not a mutable one that changes every election.  Madison made that clear in Federalist 62, when he wrote “[n]o government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.”

Demanding radical change is not a Republican or a conservative value.  It’s what you get from mob rule and a tyranny of the majority.  We should not be in the business of demanding radical change, any more than we should be looking to Denmark or Norway for examples of how best to run a country.  When we threw off British domination, we demanded a system of government that demonstrates fidelity to the object of government, which, as Madison said, is the happiness of the people.

Fortunately, we have that system.  The framers gave us the best system of government we could have devised, one that is wholly American, and one that made possible the greatest expansion of economic prosperity and freedom the world has ever seen.  America’s system of government isn’t broken.  It just isn’t working right now, because we keep demanding of it things it was never designed to do.  And in response, we keep electing people who keep promising to radically change it rather than making it work again.

Nobody beats the system, but they can break it.  At best, folks like Justin Amash and the Freedom Caucus are disruptors – not the good kind, like Uber, but the bad kind, like a screaming toddler in a library.  They can’t work the system, so they break it and then point to the results of their behavior as proof that they were right about the system being broken in the first place.  It would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high.

There are only a handful of Republican presidential candidates who have proven that they understand the system, can make it work to get conservative policies implemented, and have the gravitas within the system to effectively change it if it makes sense to do so.  Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Lindsay Graham and perhaps Bobby Jindal (although he’s been captured by the radical change rhetoricians) could do it.  Nobody else up there can.

Enough with the change rhetoric.  We don’t need change anymore, we need stability.  We need steady leadership that understands our American system and can make that system work for everybody.  Ignore the siren song of change for change’s sake and let’s get back to business.



  • mezurak

    That’s right, we don’t need no change. The government is respectable so we just need to shut up and vote for Bush. What a crock of cr@p. Let’s do it one better. When Trump bails out like a good little conservative, on primary day we walk to the polls and sign up to vote Dem. Then we Ditch JEB! and vote for Webb. You wanted bipartisan politics, you got it! Heck why not if JEB is already a wrap for the nomination. We can call it Dropping a Grenade For the GOP. Wouldn’t those Clintonistas be surprised.

    • You don’t like the Constitution?

      • mezurak

        Sure I do, but your guy is going to need all the help he can get. Voting to get Webb on the ticket instead of Clinton should give him just enough extra votes to eke out a win. If not too many former Trump voters side with Webb that is. A 6 percent republican going up against a Dem polling 1 percent is doable, but it’s a squeaker.

        • If you like the Constitution, why mock it? Yes, the government our Constitution set up is respectable, and we should elect people who want to make it work, not jettison it, as Trump, Cruz and others seemingly want to do.

          I write an entire article about dropping the change rhetoric, and all you can do is fixate because I mentioned Bush.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            This is what happens Brian, when you don’t write anything for a couple weeks.

            Trump=The Hope of Change.

            Bush=Bush=Establishment, 2008, $4.00 gasoline, Middle-East wars that never end. Corporate strangulation. The move to towards communism.

            Frankly, the Bush name is now profanity that belongs in writings on walls in the men’s room. If even that.

            Sure, you would like nothing better than more of what is going on now in Washington.

            What successful lobbyist wouldn’t?

          • This is America. We judge people here by what they do, not their father did, not their brother did. Bush is not his brother or his father.

            It’s constantly surprising to me how willing some people are to just toss fundamentally American concepts out the window for expediency’s sake.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Tell me the difference between what a Bush 43′ and Bush 45′ White House would look like? It’s the same money, and already some of the same people. Same money equals the same policies.

            What did you lose in 2008 because of Bush 43′? Obliviously, nothing.

            Besides, the media will make the call based on ratings. Why do you think the media wants Joe in the race? Biden is a ratings bonanza. The media would destroy this country in a heartbeat for a few ratings bucks.

          • No, it doesn’t. Only in your world does money = policy. Jeb is not his brother. I lost my job when Bush left office, so I did lose something. 🙂

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            “Jeb is not his brother” ?

            “Only in your world does money = policy”?

            Why do you think that Trump is so popular? What did Bernie Sanders say in the debate? Both of those quotes are untrue. Who’s brother is Jeb then?

          • You’re missing my point. Jeb is not George Bush. He is his own man, has different opinions and policy than his brother had. Smearing the guy because of his last name is just wrong. We don’t do that in America.

            I think Trump is popular because there are a lot of folks out there who are angry about things they don’t understand.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Well, what difference does it really make? Why? Because all but 2 Republican candidates are getting smeared, because their first and last names are “establishment”.

            Just like me, people are beginning to prefer a Democrat rather than establishment candidate.

          • You’re cutting your nose off to spite your face. I know you like Bernie Sanders rhetoric, but look at his record.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            If the election were tomorrow, I would vote for Trump.

          • Then all of your rhetoric about the middle class was just empty BS.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            What? How on earth did you come to that conclusion?

          • Because you seem to think the best choice for President is a billionaire who has never been middle class, has no idea what’s it’s like to be middle class, couldn’t tell you what a gallon of gas or a quart of milk costs because he’s never bought either of those things for himself in decades, and will do nothing to benefit them if he’s elected. That you think he will either means you’re gullible or you’ve been lying about caring about the middle class this whole time. There’s no third option.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Who is the candidate for the middle-class?

          • Listen to them. Kasich most obviously, but also Christie, Santorum, Carson, Gilmore, Pataki and Rubio all had middle class upbringings. Any of them would understand the concerns of the middle class better than Trump.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            If the election were tomorrow, none of them would be on the ballot. Only Trump and Hillary would.

          • Fortunately, the election isn’t tomorrow.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Yes, I guess Joe is waiting to see if Hillary is going to be indicted before he throws his hat in.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Just watched Trump on Fox Sunday morning. He is saying all the right things to get the middle-class vote. If the Republican’s want the White House, then Trump has the key.

            Hillary “today” is no longer electable. I guess this somehow could change. The most electable Democrat today is Bernie Sanders. I believe both Jeb and Hillary are radioactive.

            Trump is the only Republican saying what America needs to hear

          • Only if the middle-class throws out any semblance of its usual ability to discern fact from BS.

            He’s pandering. That’s all he ever does.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Come on now, you can do better than that? If you know that Trump is just pandering and is just another Billionaire who will advance Shawn’s elitist doctrine, then why are you sooooo very afraid of him? Why do you and Shaun “tremble” and “shake” every time you hear the Trump name?

            Trump is by far the most intelligent person running for President. Isn’t that what you you really fear?

          • I’m not afraid of Trump at all. Did you not read my article about this?

            Trump is just another politician, pandering, saying the things people want to hear, lying to them about what he can accomplish (although with him, I think he just doesn’t have any idea about what he’s saying, so it’s hard to call it a lie) and just doing what he always does to get ratings. He’s a smart guy, sure. They’re all smart up there. You don’t get to that level without having above average abilities. But he’s not presidential material.

          • Marta

            Absolutely! Trump all the way to the White House!

          • LarrytheG

            Here’s the reality. The Dem base and GOP base won’t decide the election. The “middle” independents will.

            the question is will the middle lean Trump or lean Hillary?

            Can Trump win the middle by blathering right-leaning messages or will he gradually move to more “populist” messages?

            My bet is that the establishment GOP hates him and will
            only support him if there is no other way to win….

            I suspect this is going to end up like the last election where
            the Moderate GOP ran and the base stayed home…

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Will Hillary be indicted? Let’s face it, that is the only way Biden gets in, if it looks like Hillary has legal problems.

            To me in the middle, Hillary and Jeb have become Radioactive.

            I will “one up” the establishment, I will vote Democrat to keep the establishment out of the WH.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Remember I told you a few months ago that whoever is President has to be held accountable for what happened on his watch? You disagreed.

            And now, just as I have said for years, the leading Republican candidate for president, Trump, says that Bush 43′ was president when the World Trade Center came down. Finally, finally, Republican’s are saying it.

            This Trump guy is starting to really get my attention,

          • That’s an unfair criticism. Yes, the buck stops with the President, but let’s be fair. The structural issues that led to 9/11 didn’t start on January 20, 2001. Bush was in office less than a year. Just because Trump is willing to trash President Bush to hit at Jeb – which makes no sense because, as I’ve said, Jeb is not George – doesn’t mean it’s right.

            And none of this has anything to do with my article.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Well, is it fair the way Republican’s are treating Trump?

          • I see him being treated pretty well. How is he not being treated well?

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Do you think that BD treats Trump as well as they treat a former Virginia Governor who is now a convicted felon?

          • Trump doesn’t deserve to be treated as well as Bob McDonnell.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            You sure you do not want to retract that? Mis-spoke?

            A convicted felon, who cost Virginia the Governor’s mansion, and signed the largest tax increase in Virginia history? Versus Trump?

            Boy, you really got it in for the little guy don’t you? And even more so Trump? Is there anything that you will not do to protect the establishment?

            Sounds like you want your government job back ????? Would Jeb give you your old job back?

          • No. Bob McDonnell is a good man, who was convicted of a crime that nobody knew was a crime before he was convicted of it. I am hoping the Supreme Court steps in and reigns in the Justice Department’s overreach in that case. In any event, Bob is my friend and he has earned the respect we give him. Unlike some people, I don’t turn on my friends.

            As for the transportation bill, he did what needed to be done.

            I’m too senior for my old job, now. I wouldn’t want it back.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            No, you are not getting off that easy, Brian.

            What evidence do you have that Trump is not a good man? Hasn’t Trump earned respect for what he has done?

            Didn’t Bob McDonnell lie and say that he would not raise taxes for transportation during his campaign?

          • How he treats women, the things he has said, the way he behaves, how many divorces he has had, etc.

            I don’t recall him saying that. Whether he did or didn’t doesn’t matter. I expect leaders to do their jobs and do what is best for their constituents regardless. Bob always did that.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Well, using your same criteria, isn’t Obama a great person, and a great President?

          • He’s a good man, but I don’t care for his policies.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll
          • He did everything possible to pay for transportation before the last bill. He did what he is supposed to do – do every other option before raising taxes.

          • LarrytheG

            I thought he ran against Deeds saying that Deeds would raise gasoline taxes and McDonnell would not……..

            revisionist history here?

          • McDonnell’s plan fundamentally changed how we pay gas taxes. I could lawyer out this answer on whether he raised taxes on individuals but I don’t feel like it. The reality is simple – he did everything he could to find money for transportation, whether it was the bill they did during his second year or the last one.

            Deeds would have raised the gas tax first, instead of reforming the system. That’s the difference. Now we don’t need to worry about gas tax increases. There won’t be any more at the state level.

          • Warmac9999

            I agree with you about McDonnell being a good man. However, at the same time, we have seen the Democrat Party criminalize opponents going all the way back to Agnew. This is a bad trend in politics even though I believe that Hillary is more than deserving of an indictment, trial and prison for her abuses of her office and national security.

            By the way, I worked for DoD and saw Bill Clinton give China some of most carefully protected military secrets – nothing new for the Democrat Party.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Using your same logic, then why is the “Right Wing” media not doing the same for Hillary? Every day, they blame Hillary for what Bill did during his Presidency.

            Is Hillary her own woman? Answer that?

          • I don’t see anybody blaming Hillary for things her husband did. I see them blaming her for the things she did, either in the Senate, or as Secretary of State.

          • mark Jawsz

            Yeah, RR3, Brian is right. 95% of the shells our side is lobbing towards the Hillary Camp have to do with Benghazi, the Email Server Affair, and her policies as Secretary of State. Just where do you live? Or perhaps you are hearing voices.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            Yea, I am hearing voices. The ones that come via AM radio.

            Why do you think they keep bringing up Bill?

            Finally somebody wants to bring up Bush 43′ and 911. Maybe this will lead to accountability and some type of closure.

            You know mark, 2996 more people died on 911. When will we have some hearings?

            Now that McCarthy has said Bengazi is just political, perhaps now is the time?

          • AnninVA26

            You are very condescending. I do believe that you aren’t really in touch with what is going on in a lot of Americans’ lives. Stop pretending you do. You’re living in a bubble that I don’t want to understand. Trump is the response to people running with promises and goals that they don’t follow through on once elected. We’re sick of it. We DO UNDERSTAND, so stop pretending like you have all the answers and we do not. I thought Bearing Drift was a true conservative website. Obviously, it’s more of a Cantor/Boehner/Bush/establishment/ “you just need to learn how to govern” website. I’m done with checking it out periodically.

          • I’m in touch with what’s going on in my life, in my family’s lives. And the world they live in is completely different from the one you do. Of course you don’t want to understand it – those of us in the real world have to survive dealing with inconvenient facts that don’t always fit in well with the ideological rubric some Republicans been taught to accept. It’s easier to just pretend that they don’t exist and attack the folks willing to tell you the truth because you prefer being lied to by folks like Trump, Cruz and the rest.

            You keep saying we, but you only represent yourself, just like me. If you can’t handle reading opinions that differ from your own, that’s unfortunate, but not surprising.

          • Reinhardt Reganbacker lll

            If money does not buy policy, what about the $500 million that Republican’s put in HR 702?

            Do I need to post the link again?

          • You’re not making any sense.

          • Downstater

            Yeah, he’s (Jeb!) worse.

          • By worse do you mean more conservative? Because that’s definitely true then.

          • Warmac9999

            You discount the Bush upbringing as if it doesn’t matter – yet I am betting that you look at the Obama upbringing and shudder. Jeb and George are both products of a very wealthy family and similar friends. Obama is the product of an anti-American communist family and friends.

          • Upbringing is not the same as blaming the kid for things the parent/sibling did. That’s what’s happening to Jeb right now. And no, I don’t particularly shudder at the President’s upbringing.

          • How did Bush make gas $4/gal. It’s market based

  • mark Jawsz

    This is probably the one Brian Schoeneman article in 2015 I totally agree with. There is an old saying among the government bureaucrats I serve in the intelligence community: “Vision without budget is hallucination.” Well, when it comes to my fellow Brat Pack conservatives, “Campaign promises without 60 votes in the Senate is also hallucination.” And one reason we do not have 60 votes in the Senate is because of some of the nincompoop candidates the Tea Party wing put up from 2010 to 2014. For example, we could have captured the Delaware seat with a moderate Republican who would have voted my way 60 to 70% of the time. Instead, we got a hard core progressive who votes my way 6% of the time. This is why I eschew the term RINO.

    • LarrytheG

      you’re speaking total blasphemy , you know… right?

      • mark Jawsz

        I know, or I strongly suspect, LarrytheG, that you are being facetious. I am simply good at math and adept at surveying the array of cultural and political forces aligned against us conservatives. We conservatives do not own the culture. We do not own the media. Therefore, we cannot afford to put up people such as EW Jackson, Sharon Angle (Nevada), and O’Donnell (Delaware) just because they fly the Gadsden Flag. That ain’t enough.

        • LarrytheG

          you are correct. It’s nothing short of amusing just how good the GOP IS – at growing candidates at local and state levels – then they run off the cliff … when they refuse the recognize the realities of the state and national electorate.

          when you start using litmus tests for 100% adherence to “principles” and compromise is verboten… oh well…

        • Remind me to ask you for a donation next campaign.

          • mark Jawsz

            From me?

          • Yep. You’ve agreed with me twice now. That’s gotta be worth something in a few years.

          • mark Jawsz

            We agree a lot more than we disagree, which is why I don’t call you or anyone who identifies as a Republican a “RINO”. However, on those relatively few points over which we disagree….Momma Mia! It is immigration which lights the fuse between us.

        • Warmac9999

          When things move as rapidly as they did with the Tea Party, mistakes will be made. The people you condemn for not winning were the best available at the time to compete with a strongly resistant GOPe and Democrat Party socialists.

          Against the odds, the Tea Party did make a considerable difference and is still making a considerable difference. The Republican Oath is back, and it is about time.

          • LarrytheG

            well – you want to WIN elections at least as much as you care about things like the “oath”.

            or perhaps these other things ARE more important to some than elections…

          • Warmac9999

            Have you ever read the Republican Oath. What is it you, as a Republican, disagree with? If you don’t run on principle then it is unlikely that you will win, or if you win that you will act on principle.

          • No they weren’t.

          • Warmac9999

            At the time, they were the best that could be offered and be acceptable as candidates to the base. You can squawk all you want about there being better candidates, and I will agree with you that there are almost certainly always better candidates, but circumstance determine best and that is what is happening today with Trump leading the pack. He is the best available at this time but he may very well not make it to the nomination because someone better will supplant him.

          • No, they weren’t. Mike Castle was a better candidate, for example. He would have won the general election and voted right most of the time. But he was defeated, and now a far left Democrat is in that seat and we will be unlikely to displace him. That’s one more Senate vote against everything we want to do. And it was completely unnecessary and self-inflicted.

          • Warmac9999

            Thus the second part of my first sentence applies.

          • That would be important if the base could win elections with only base support. But you can’t. The reason they are called the base is you have to build on top of the base to win. When the base supports candidates who can’t appeal to the rest of the party and the rest of the electorate, they are ensuring we lose and more bad things happen.

          • Warmac9999

            The GOPe has spent considerable capital attacking the base under the assumption that ” they just don’t understand” rather than “we just don’t understand”.

            The freedom caucus should be the foundation for Republican action, yet it has been marginalized as some type of Tea Party anomaly. The GOPe has concluded that acting more like democrats (socialists) and creating an ever bigger central government is essential. They couldn’t be more wrong.

            Finally, you can’t build on top of a base unless you have a stable base to build on – at this point there is no stable base and, as a matter of fact, the base is so disaffected with what the GOPe has built that they are rejecting it outright in search of someone or group they can trust with their support.

          • It’s not attacking, it’s trying to educate. But for some reason, you all don’t want to listen to reason. They’re all either lying, they just don’t get it or whatever.

            I mean, your whole comment about the acting more like Democrats has zero basis in fact, but you repeat it here every day.

          • Warmac9999

            You do not educate anyone when you refuse to listen or adjust. The Tea Party folks offered the energy that was missing from decades of GOPe behaviors that cost us presidential elections and eventually the complete control of Congress. It has been well over three quarters of a century since the GOP had total control of the House and the Senate – and even today with the GOP sweep in 2014, it still lacks the necessary plurality and courage to override the horrors of the obama presidency.

            Further, it is undeniable that the federal government has grown and continues to grow in size and scope regardless of which party is in power. When Bernie Sanders says we are a socialist country, he isn’t kidding he is stating a fact – and all he is suggesting is we go the entire way to full socialism. (By the way, the USA has spent the past 75 year fighting socialism, communism, and fascism and it is horrifying to me that these collectivist tyrants are close to achieving their fondest objective of destroying life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the individual American.)

          • LarrytheG

            Does it matter than a majority of the voting electorate does not agree with your view?

            Do you want to govern or to rule?

          • It was Iraq, not a “missing energy” that cost us control of Congress. We had total control in the late 90s and middle 2000s, so I’m not sure where you’re getting that we haven’t had it for 75 years.

            There are more issues separating the parties than simply the size of the federal government.

          • Warmac9999

            In 1929 through 1931, we had 56 GOP senators. We have not approached that number since. I note that a couple of States were still not part of the USA.

          • Um. We have 54 now. We had 55 from 2003-2006. Prior to the 1970s, you need 67 votes for cloture and we never had close that for most if not all of the 20th century, but we still got things done.

            We did lose the PR war on Iraq, and that had little to do without policy. Again, the idea that our missing energy was what cost us political control isn’t true. We were doing popular things that became unpopular over time.

          • Warmac9999

            Well, if you go back to my original point, you and I agree. As far as the PR war of Iraq, we never actually fought it.

  • Jay Hughes

    this makes perfect sense. now you must be destroyed. I’m terribly sorry.

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