James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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The appeal of change from outsiders

Posted by James McPherson on April 23, 2008

It’s interesting that in every election we see candidates trying to convince us that they’re Washington “outsiders,” not caught up in the politics of Washington. They all promise change. And we keep buying it.

Of course George W. Bush arrived as a Washington outsider who promised change. And change we got–a war on two fronts, a collapsing economy, increasing corporate influence over government policy, less reliance on science and more on emotion (good for choosing a spouse, perhaps; not so good for running a government), more government secrecy, decreased credibility and influence in the rest of the world. 

Before Bush, we elected another “outsider” in Bill Clinton. Clinton managed to simultaneously inspire the hatred of conservatives while becoming the most successful conservative president in decades. Before Clinton was one term of another Bush, chosen largely because he was Ronald Reagan’s vice president. But Reagan and his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, also came in as Washington outsiders.

I have a thought. Maybe if we want to see things improve, we should start trying to elect people who actually know something about how politics work. In fact, all three of the remaining candidates know more about federal government policy than either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton did when they took office. Too bad that we’d vote against them if they admitted it.

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2 Responses to “The appeal of change from outsiders”

  1. […] mermaids and Obama became defined by how others want to see them. (We often elect “outsiders” for that reason.) But just for fun, here are some other […]

  2. […] and the nation — has suffered in some respects because of his lack of experience. But as I have noted, we actually seem to prefer inexperience in our presidential nominees. Someone such as John Kerry […]

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