EJ Dionne: Hope Over Cynicism

EJ Dionne had a nice piece in yesterday’s paper encouraging hope over cynicism.  Here are a few key sections (emphasis added):

The speech that made [Obama] a national figure, his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, is best known for his declaration that “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America, there’s the United States of America.” In light of what’s happened since, you want to weep at those words.

But near the end of his peroration on national unity, Obama hit upon the idea that has always been his touchstone. “Do we participate in a politics of cynicism,” he asked, “or do we participate in a politics of hope?”

AP-OBAMA-GOVERNOR-WISCONSIN-BURKE-68340181A decade later, at a rally last week in Wisconsin, where he was campaigning for Mary Burke, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Obama offered the same message more pointedly: “The folks on the other side, they’re counting on you being cynical. They’re figuring you won’t think you can make a difference.” The alternative? “Don’t be cynical. Be hopeful. .?.?. Cynicism is a choice. And hope is a better choice.”

At the end of a midterm election campaign during which “dark money” has financed one attack after another, nothing is so striking as the triumph of cynicism in the form of a weary detachment from public life. This disaffection is not just a letdown after the possibilities raised by Obama from the beginning of his national career. It is also a flight from the promise of democracy.

The GOP and the dark-money forces have been stoking this cynicism purposely from the beginning.  For voters to give in to it and sit home now hands them a monstrous victory.  EJ writes about that, too, in the same piece:

In “The Cynic,” a new biography of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, New Republic writer Alec MacGillis cites former GOP senator Bob Bennett recalling McConnell’s comments to his party colleagues at a winter retreat in 2009, at the dawn of Obama’s presidency:

“Mitch said, ‘We have a new president with an approval rating in the 70 percent area. We do not take him on frontally. We find issues where we can win, and we begin to take him down, one issue at a time. We create an inventory of losses, so it’s Obama lost on this, Obama lost on that. And we wait for the time when the image has been damaged to the point where we can take him on.’?”

MacGillis aptly summarized the approach: “In other words, wait out Americans’ hopefulness in a dire moment for the country until it curdles to disillusionment.” This is the central cause of the dysfunction that leaves voters so disheartened. It should be rebuked rather than vindicated at the polls.

Don’t be disillusioned.  Don’t hand them a victory (and don’t think they don’t have very explicit plans for how to be destructive in the case of that outcome).  Come out and vote for candidates who have put regular people first over and over again.

As I’ve heard Congressman Foster say more than once, “Bad things happen when good people stay home and don’t vote.”  Please do your part to be sure those “bad things” don’t happen.