Barack Obama’s campaign theme has been “Change.” This sing-song of change has already mesmerized large portions of the electorate. If you read people write about Obama or if you listen to people interviewed you begin to notice there is real belief on their part in the idea of change for the sake of change. They don’t ask what Obama’s change is from and to. They don’t ask just exactly what change Obama has in mind. They don’t care if the change that is being proposed is realistic or possible. They only want change.
Most Americans, not being able to remember the last episode of their favorite television sitcom, don’t remember that this is not the first time that change has been a campaign theme. Jimmy Carter, in 1976 ran a campaign theme of change. America had just been through Watergate and Vietnam and Carter, a political neophyte, ran as an someone outside the beltway who could bring real change to Washington D.C. Again in 1992 Clinton & Gore ran on a change campaign promising to bring generational change to Washington D. C. Even as far back as 1952 in the Eisenhower campaign the idea of “change” was prevalent.
Now some of this is natural and inevitable. One way to move the party out of power into power is by accentuating the differences and calling for change. The problem though, is that in recent campaigns you don’t really get an explanation of the differences on a policy by policy basis but rather instead what one gets is an appeal to change that is based on change for changes sake. Since 1976 the appeal of change has been been on a more visceral, emotive and personal level. Change is now more about somebody’s charisma then it is about the policies by which they would govern.
This kind of change — a change for change sake — is the kind of change that one would expect of a people who are governed by an existentialist World and life view. For the existentialist the central motif is the idea of becoming or of always being in process. An existentialist world and life view thus automatically recoils against continuity and the status quo since existentialism is itself about always changing, always becoming, always remaking ones-self. Is it the case that Obama, with his campaign theme of “change” has tapped into the mother vein of American self-consciousness? Has he become the existenialist candidate for a existentialist people.
This cry for change is also reminiscent because in it we may hear echoes of pagan religion where the pursuit of chaos was seen as the means of social regeneration. This was a theme that R. J. Rushdoony mentioned frequently in his writings. An embrace of change merely for the sake of change as that is pursued by a functionally existentialist people communicates the irrational belief that order and social regeneration can arrive by the means of chaos. What else can a support for change merely for the sake of change be but a pursuit of the chaotic?
Also when we consider that to support change merely for the sake of change, with no ability to rationally articulate whey change is being supported is a prime example of existentialism where an irrational faith in irrational faith is all the reason one needs to have in order to believe in anything. If the American electorate, or any large portion of it, is going to vote for Obama merely on the “gut instinct” that the change he represents would be “good” then we must conclude that that portion of the electorate are functional existentialists.
Now, this is not to argue that change is always bad. A hard bitten allegiance to the status quo and to old paths represents its own set of unique problems. Change has its place, but there is a difference between notions of Biblical change and notions of pagan change. I see very little in the messianic attraction to Obama’s call for “change” that is representative of Biblical notions of “change.” What I see instead is a existentialist people prepared to vote for a existentialist candidate for existentialist reasons.