No Monopoly on Hope
After Barack Obama’s victory last week, I wrote that “it is time to hope again.” Which prompted the reasonable question from some readers (including Brian Burke of Arlington, whose letter was published in The Post on Friday): What if John McCain had won? Would hope have had to wait?
I certainly don’t believe that Democrats have a monopoly on hope. As it happens, I think hope is essential to all of us. Last Christmas, I argued that hope “is an overused word and an underrated virtue” and that hope is “the precondition for reform, renewal and redemption.” Not to get too theological here, but I also think hope is the virtue on which faith and love depend, and I know Republicans care as much about faith and love as Democrats, independents and, as John McCain likes to add, libertarians and vegetarians.
But I do believe that some political candidates are better at appealing to our sense of hope than others.
Franklin Roosevelt was one of the most hopeful candidates in our history, and his declaration that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is quintessential expression of this. For a long time, Democrats had a better hold on hope than Republicans did, but Ronald Reagan came along and – if you’ll forgive me for putting it this way – stole hope from the party of Roosevelt to which he once belonged.
Reagan’s 1980 acceptance speech is one of the great pieces of hopeful oratory. Here’s one of its most memorable passages:
Everywhere we have met thousands of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans from all economic conditions and walks of life bound together in that community of shared values of family, work, neighborhood, peace and freedom,” Reagan said. “They are concerned, yes, but they are not frightened. They are disturbed, but not dismayed. They are the kind of men and women Tom Paine had in mind when he wrote -- during the darkest days of the American Revolution -- ‘We have it in our power to begin the world over again’.
I love hope, and even I'm not sure that we are capable of beginning the world over again. Still, it’s an attractive idea.
In this election, a key to Barack Obama’s victory was his emphasis on hope. (He would joke that his critics accused him of being a “hope monger.”) And John McCain’s campaign let that happen with its resolute emphasis on all the things we had to fear about Obama. I argued last month that the terms of this election were very much about hope versus fear and that the contest thus resembled the campaign of 1932 in which Roosevelt defeated Hoover. That doesn’t mean that I think McCain himself is devoid of hope. On the contrary, his remarkably thoughtful concession speech showed just the opposite. But his campaign failed to reflect the sunny spirit he showed that night, and he would have been better off if it had done so.
Posted by: lartfromabove | November 10, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Hypatia3 | November 10, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Ombudsman1 | November 10, 2008 10:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ekim53 | November 11, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jhpbriton | November 12, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: blbixler | November 12, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jbrinkmeyer | November 12, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: desertdog1 | November 12, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: LeeTaylorEMT | November 13, 2008 2:17 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jan1977 | November 13, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: interactidiomas | November 13, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nagatuki | November 13, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: gardedgarton | November 13, 2008 6:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BettyM47 | November 13, 2008 8:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fletc3her | November 15, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.