The same game

By Nick Milano

Three months ago I bought Senator Obama’s shtick. I thought he might actually bring about change in Washington D.C. when I saw him speak in a New Hampshire auditorium. As convincingly and beautifully John Edwards spoke the day before in a high school gym, Obama easily took the cake in pure ability to captivate and move an audience.

Less than three months later, the campaign in Ohio reared its ugly head. Both Obama and Senator Clinton mentioned NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) at every turn, trying to outdo each other’s opposition to the free trade agreement. But since the votes have been counted in Ohio, however, the two candidates have rarely mentioned NAFTA in Pennsylvania, though they are constantly discussing economic problems. This was the kind of politicking that Obama has been campaigning against.

To make matters worse, it was reported that his campaign told Canadian officials that his stance against NAFTA was about political positioning, not actual policy plans. As the supposed candidate of change, Obama’s true colors shined through with the disgusting backroom politics that are all too common.

It has taken over a year of campaigning, but it is finally readily apparent that the three remaining presidential candidates (besides Ron Paul because he is genuine) are just empty suits making superficial promises.

Obama is certainly not the only one at fault. There are innumerable problems with Senator Clinton claiming she has the experience to bring about change in Washington – for instance, she once said that lobbyists represent real Americans.

While it may be true that special interests represent some niche segment of Americans, their ability to purchase influence on Capitol Hill is not shared by the common American. When this ludicrous statement is combined with the fact that she ranks second for accepting contributions from health care companies, her dedication to health care reform must be questioned.

At the very least, one must question who might benefit more from her presidency. Middle class Americans struggling to get by or entrenched special interests?

I once told myself I could accept the idea of Senator McCain leading the country because he stood out among a party of tainted criminals. But his claims of independence from special interests cannot be taken seriously when he has lobbyists running his campaign.

There is plenty of evidence from the presidential campaign, but also some from Massachusetts politics to prove this.

Quick Quiz: Who said, “Change is not always comfortable or convenient or welcome. But it is what we hoped for, what we have worked for, what you voted for, and what you shall have?”

Need a hint? Those are the words of a famous African-American politician from the South Side of Chicago. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he emerged as a politician to be reckoned with due to remarkable speaking abilities and his uplifting message of hope and change. He was swept into office breaking years of Republican executive leadership.

Answer: Deval Patrick. Patrick entered a state house where his Democratic Party owns a supermajority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Despite this, one will be hard pressed to see any changes that Patrick has made to the political culture that flourishes on Beacon Hill.

Patrick did not introduce any sweeping ethics or lobby reform or even press for changes to make legislative activity more open to the public. His casino plan, though sharply criticized by me, was defeated with minimal debate by both the public and the House. All powerful Speaker of the House Salvatore DiMasi had his way with the legislature that he holds more tightly than a mother her newly born child.

Deval Patrick had the advantage of a resounding win over his closest opponent. He entered office with a very favorable public opinion and no partisan opposition in the legislature; yet, he has not enacted any real change in how business is done. Obama likes to use words like “hope” and “change,” but like other politicians who have gone before him, the odds are very favorable that he will end up playing the same old games. The current campaign already suggests this.

There is no reason to expect a change from either Clinton or McCain. Clinton seems to have no issue with taking money from health insurance companies and advertising her “reforms” at the same time. McCain’s supposed hard line against lobbyists and special interest is laughable when his campaign manager is a registered lobbyist.

Real, concrete change, not the abstract promises made in speeches, requires the electorate to step up and say enough. It requires a media to appropriately investigate the candidates’ positions. It needs a person to rise above the petty political calculations and put serving the people, not himself, first. Maybe someday.

Nick Milano writes on Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected]