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Is Change Just Another Word?

Remember when the Clintons were the embodiment of political "change?" Way back in 1992, they promised us they wouldn't stop "thinking about tomorrow" and that bridge to the 21st Century.

Remember when the thought of electing a woman to the White House was something that would have been thought of as real "change?" Remember 1994, when Republicans promised "change" in Congress? That resulted primarily in their getting kicked out of power in 2006 by Democrats promising yet more "change." And remember the GOP presidential candidate in 2000 who promised a change from the Clintons who, it appeared, didn't bring that much change in the first place?

Now it's Barack Obama who's promising change. Campaigning for the Illinois Senator in Iowa yesterday, cultural icon Oprah Winfrey pushed that message hard. "When you listen to Barack Obama, when you really hear him, you witness a very rare thing, you witness a politician who has an ear for eloquence and a tongue dipped in the unvarnished truth," she told a rally of thousands.

What, precisely, are we hearing that is so rare from Obama? Is it the pledge to break from the political pettiness and polarization of the past? Sounds familiar to Bush's promise in 2000 to change the tone of politics in Washington. Is it the reformist attitude promising to sweep away the lobbyists and special interests from the halls of power? Is it the "outsider" image of a man not soaked with the stench of inside politics? Wouldn't it be far rarer for a presidential candidate to do just the opposite? Outsiders are the norm in campaign politics. Or is it just a change of scenery?

With apologies to Janice Joplin, it makes one wonder whether "change" isn't just another word for tomorrow's status quo.