It all started with Barack Obama's "Change we can believe in." Hillary Clinton then picked up the theme with "Change you can count on." Now even John McCain, who's been in Congress for more than a quarter of a century, is promising, "Change is coming." It's clear Americans are looking for a change this election -- or at least the candidates think that's where the voters are. But we're a cynical bunch here at Passport, so we've decided to provide you with a list of things you can be sure won't be too different in 2009. Sorry, folks.
1. America's relationship with China: Next time a candidate promises to get tough with Beijing, you may want to remind them of the trillion or so dollars that we owe them.
2. The partisan divide: Politicians have been promising to bridge the divisions in Washington ever since Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton. It's a lot harder than it looks.
3. Dependence on foreign oil: Promising energy independence is the easiest way for a candidate to seem both environmentally responsible and security-conscious. In the real world, unfortunately, it's not happening any time soon.
4. The decline in manufacturing jobs: All the pandering in the world can't reverse the march of history.
5. The flow of illegal drugs: This has been a perennial empty promise since Nixon launched the "War on Drugs" in 1971. Obama has hinted that he might be open to liberalizing marijuana laws, but it seems doubtful that he would devote much political capital to it.
6. Military spending: By one analyst's estimate, the U.S. military budget has reached a staggering $713.1 billion. Yet, for all the talk of fiscal responsibility and soft power, no president will risk appearing soft on defense by proposing even minor budget cuts.
7. The influence of lobbyists: Lobbying reform only faces one minor stumbling block: the U.S. Congress. The much-maligned "special interests" are very creative, and they're here to stay.
8. U.S. support for Israel: Despite the dire warnings that may be clogging up your in box, the United States will remain Israel's staunchest ally.
9. Ethanol subsidies: Despite mounting evidence of the damage corn-based ethanol does to the environment as well as economies great and small, this monumentally dumb subsidy is probably safe as long as candidates need to fight for votes in Iowa. Former subsidy opponents McCain and Clinton have both learned to stop worrying and love biofuels during this election.
10. The primary system: Sure, the early primaries give a handful of white, rural voters disproportionate influence over the election and state caucuses make Tammany Hall look like a golden age of democratic participation, but they're an entrenched part of party politics at this point and it's not wise to mess with them. Just ask the Democrats in Michigan or Florida.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.