"We are the change that we seek"
"We are the ones we've been waiting for"
Is this message really so difficult to understand? Apparently so...if you are a conservative intellectual. First Charles Krauthammer referred to this as "rhetorical nonsense". Now "Mister" William Kristol (click the link for a funny anecdote by Dani Rodrik) is equally befuddled and thinks its really the message of someone trying to pretend he is our savior:
Obama likes to say, “we are the change that we seek” and “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Obama’s rhetorical skill makes his candidacy appear almost collective rather than individual. That’s a democratic courtesy on his part, and one flattering to his followers. But the effectual truth of what Obama is saying is that he is the one we’ve been waiting for.
Have these people never heard of Mahatma Gandhi and his famous quote that "We need to be the change we wish to see in the world". I suppose its fitting that Kristol and Krauthammer are confused --they strike me as the kind who would have defended the British Empire and perceived Gandhi as an egomaniac.
Getting back to the quote, one simple interpretation is that its basically about "bottom-up" politics. People take responsibility by taking an active role in politics to effectuate change. It makes total sense for Obama, a former community organizer, to push this idea. At an even simpler level its reminiscent of Howard Dean's call: "you have the power". As a political tactic its also refreshing to hear about our role in effectuating change in contrast to Hillary telling us how great she is.
Its hilarious however, watching these right wing blowhards stumbling around in the dark as they try to deal with concepts that are just fundamentally alien to them.