A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Political parties need people’s hopes as much as votes

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., July 25, 26 or 27

Everyday Americans don’t expect to agree with every position from every candidate. But we’d like to feel we’re heard and that our hopes and inspirations will be acknowledged, not just our awareness that politics sometimes require pragmatic maneuvering.

Life offers joys and woes alike, solutions and new problems, and hope helps us take action on daunting challenges. Looking back from the days between the Republican and Democratic conventions, the long primary season has seemed to offer little hope and even fewer substantial ideas to reform what’s needed.

Social improvements happen when hopes flourish – and when ordinary folks demand dreams be realized. The National Labor Relations Act didn’t create the union movement; the Voting Rights Act didn’t spark the Civil Rights movement; the Paris Peace Talks didn’t spur the anti-Vietnam War movement.

It was the opposite.

Movements matter.

“Radical ideas are outside the mainstream — until they’re not,” wrote American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner. “Then, oddly, they become as American as apple pie.”

But movements can be messy.

Hillary Clinton warns Donald Trump’s troops, “Don’t look for easy answers,” an odd echo of her comments during the primaries, when she criticized Bernie Sanders for unrealistic ideas, claiming she shared the concerns but not his approach. Trump promises actions, however vague or unconstitutional they might be.

Clinton and Democrats’ middle-of-the-road/conservative Democratic Leadership Council wing condemned Sanders and supporter as outliers, even “extremists.”

In reality, the elites in both the Democratic and Republican parties are now funded by big donors and corporate cash, so even Democrats no longer rely on small contributions (like Sanders generated in his long campaign, which raised $222 million, more than 60 percent of which was in small donations averaging $27.)

So who’s extreme?

Clearly, the system – and society – is flawed, and regular people want change, whether Trump or Sanders supporters – or those backing Clinton, the Libertarians’ Gary Johnson or the Greens’ Jill Stein. Anger and Establishment Attitudes are overwhelming hopes and dreams.

Even if Sanders’ proposals wouldn’t pass the current, do-nothing Congress, he at least pushed the conversation and laid out goals, maybe even paths, in a literally selfless way. (Clinton promises, “I’ll be fighting for you” and Trump talks incessantly about “I, I, I,” while Sanders’ slogan was “Not me, YOU.”) Trump and Clinton reveal top-down authoritarianism, liberal or conservative, not bottom-up democracy.

And just as Trump can claim to be more “moderate” on some social issues and Clinton more “centrist” on foreign-policy dangers, what’s that mean? Arguably, centrism splits the middle, with little regard for principles, goodness or hope; moderation is a conciliatory strategy seeking common ground for the common good.)

But Trump fuels fear; Clinton manages processes; Sanders ignites hope.

Further, Trump and the torch-and-pitchfork crowd in Cleveland could make Democrats’ leaders even lazier, depending on the “what other choice do you have” appeal, which voters increasingly resent.

Facing and fighting the struggles won’t be easy, as Stewart Acuff wrote in these lines from his 2016 poem “Justice in History”: “Did Jesus not ask that the cup be passed in Gethsemane?/ We know the result of actions is a fight/ for that which defines what we are about./ Fear is not weakness but our humanity./ Overcoming that fear is the power of the inspired soul/ and our place amongst the greats of our history.”

Inspiration is needed.

Hope helps.

[PICTURED: Graphic from]

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