Change

CHANGE….How do you create change? By proposing a compelling policy agenda, as John Edwards is doing? By using stirring rhetoric to move public opinion, as Barack Obama is trying to do? Or do you bring home the bacon the old fashioned way, as Ezra Klein suggests that Hillary Clinton would do:

The most compelling explanation of how to create change came from Hillary Clinton in the last debate, who said, “What’s important, and what I learned in the previous effort, is you’ve got to have the political will, a broad coalition of business and labor and doctors and hospitals standing firm when the inevitable attacks come from the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies who don’t want to change the system because they’re making so much money from it.”

That’s actually a vision of how to achieve health reform. The problem with Hillary is, in fact, the opposite of that with Edwards, which is that I believe she’s got a coherent vision of how to use the office of the executive, but I’m deeply unconvinced she’s willing to deploy that savvy in service of serious change.

I have a pretty old school view of politics as a contest of raw power between competing interest groups: if you have the power, you get what you want. If you don’t, you don’t, regardless of how righteous your cause is. This is something that I suspect Obama understands pretty well in theory, but that Hillary Clinton understands — really understands — in actual practice. If the country is primed for change, I’m pretty sure that Hillary is the candidate who could most successfully convert popular opinion into actual legislation.

Unfortunately, she’s not the candidate most likely to prime the country for change in the first place. Obama is. If we could somehow create one of those freak transporter accidents from Star Trek and meld the two of them into a single person, we’d probably have the perfect candidate. Lacking that, I’ll just continue to watch and wait and see how they do.