It’s what politicians offer you when they’re running for office, or if they don’t have the votes. When they do have the votes, they stop talking about hope and they act.
Martin Luther King offered hope when he had little more than that to go on in the early days of the civil rights movement. He had to convert hope to enough votes in Congress to get the Civil Rights Act passed. Bill Clinton in 1992 was “the man from Hope” (Arkansas that is), and Barak Obama hoped for change in 2008. Neither of them fulfilled our hopes. Indeed, some of the causes of the Great Recession can be traced back to the Clinton years (though let’s give George Bush his due), and Obama was the victim of a scorched Earth opposition by the Republicans in Congress.
Now that we have a weak economy and high, persistent jobless numbers, hope seems to be back in the air. What it means is that nobody has the answer about how to jump start the economy and put people back to work. The Republicans want to slash government spending next year, which could cost another 1 million jobs on top of the 15 million now officially unemployed and another 11.5 million who have stopped looking for work or who are only able to work part time. This is a policy that could be called “hopeless.” As for the Democrats, they don’t have the votes.
What comes to mind is the poet Dante Alighieri’s famous quote about Hell. The correct version is: “All abandon hope, ye who enter here.” Of course, we’re not entering Hell –yet. But it would be a good idea to make a course change. Where is the leader who will make the “Fair Society” his/her battle cry, and who can rally enough foot soldiers and enough votes to make it happen. That’s my hope.