Sometimes, politics becomes so broken that the hunger for change becomes overwhelming. That's what is happening this year. And it's not just about one or two candidates now. Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee changed the political narrative with dramatic wins in Iowa, making the call for a change in politics into the 2008 paradigm. John Edwards has been a fundamental "change candidate" since the beginning of his campaign. And since Iowa, even political veterans like Hillary Clinton and John McCain, who both won last night in New Hampshire, did so by also claiming the mantle of change - with her saying that she has the experience to actually make change and not just "hope" for it, and with him saying that he has always been a thorn in the side of official Washington. Mitt Romney, who lost again in New Hampshire, started calling himself a change candidate, and Rudy Giuliani has been quick to make a claim to being a Washington outsider.
But while the candidates will now battle to convince voters that each has the vision and the capacity to really bring change; it is absolutely clear that change has already won this election. The voters have spoken and they want a new direction. Seventy percent of the country has consistently said they believe America is moving in the wrong direction, ninety-two percent of Democrats feel that way, and fifty-three percent of Republicans agree.
But as people of faith, we know that the change must go deeper than politics. In fact, unless change goes deeper, politics won't really change. And no matter which candidate finally wins this presidential election, he or she will not be able to really change the big things in the U.S. and the world that must be changed, unless and until there is a real movement pushing for those changes from outside of politics. Because when politics fails to resolve or even address the most significant moral issues, what often occurs is that social movements rise up to change politics; and the best social movements always have spiritual foundations.
Even a candidate who runs on change, really wants it, and goes to Washington to make it, will confront a vast array of powerful forces which will do everything possible to prevent real change. And, to be really honest, there are too many bad habits, negative choices, and cynical resignations in us as people that also serve as an obstacle to change. That's why I believe that it will take a new spiritual revival to finally make serious social change really possible. Changing hearts and minds and forging a constituency who will demand nothing less than a new direction. Remember, President Lyndon Johnson didn't become a civil rights leader until Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks made him one. And that's what we need again now.
In his speech last night in New Hampshire, Barack Obama said, "Change is what's happening in America." The crowd chanted back, "We want change!" over and over. At the Clinton headquarters, enthusiastic supporters waved signs which read "Ready for Change." John Edwards, who finished third last night, called on U.S. citizens to take back their country from those who have stolen democracy. And the Republican winner, John McCain, spoke of restoring the U.S.'s honor again.
Bless all their hearts. But political leaders in Washington have changed the U.S. less often than social movements have. The U.S. is signaling it is hungry for change again, and we will need to build the kind of spiritual and social movement that can deliver on that hope. Last night, Barack Obama said, "it's also about what you, the people who love this country, can do to change it." And he's right; it is really all about us.