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Obama Selling ‘Hope.’ Should We Buy?

Barack Obama's central theme of wish fulfillment amounts to nothing without an accompanying call for hard work to make the wishes come true.

by
G.M. Roper

Bio

April 5, 2008 - 10:07 pm

hope [hohp] noun, verb, hoped, hop·ing. –noun (source)

1. the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the bestv. intr.

2. To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.

In the week prior to opening his presidential bid, Senator Barack Obama was quoted in the New York Times:

Mr. Obama went so far as to tell Democrats in Washington last week that voters were looking for a message of hope, and disparaged the notion that a presidential campaign should be built on a foundation of position papers or details.

There are those who don’t believe in talking about hope: they say, well, we want specifics, we want details, we want white papers, we want plans,” he said then. “We’ve had a lot of plans, Democrats. What we’ve had is a shortage of hope.”

Yet, what is Senator Obama selling? If hope is wanting something that can be had, events that will turn out for the best or a wish for something with an expectation of fulfillment, how does hope turn to reality?

Blogger extraordinaire Pat Santy writing in Dr. Sanity and regarding the many Democrats that have abandoned Hillary for Obama stated: “…the left, who willy-nilly have jumped the Clinton ship and climbed aboard the Obama ‘vessel of hope’.” [emphasis added] And so have hundreds of thousands of non Hillary enthused Democrats, independents and not a few Republicans… all looking for “hope” and thinking they have found it.

And, maybe they have!

From perhaps a psychoanalytic point of view, hope can be said to deliver someone from feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. Certainly there are hundreds of thousands citizens that feel hopeless and/or helpless given the pounding the MSM has made on the economy raising specters of recession, even to the point that congressmen and a certain president, who ought to know better, believe that pumping billions of dollars into the economy, borrowed from the future, and the reckless spending of congress (both Republican and Democrat led congresses) that created much of the problem in the first place.

Eric Erikson, a psychoanalyst famed for his disagreements with Freud and his psycho-social developmental model, defines hope as: “…the belief that even when things are not going well, they will work out in the end.”

Things will work out in the end! Well, one may legitimately ask how will they work out. Is hope shorn of work towards a goal, or is hope something that is only based on wish fulfillment? Can hope, in and of itself, create a new reality and change the current one?

I would guess not. In fact, I would state that given nothing but hope, than nothing will change. Obama is in fact counting on those that do not understand what he is saying will be in his corner come election time. There are those who might go further and state that his entire campaign is based on the “hope” that he can convince enough people that words, uttered in the most sincere and uplifting manner will overcome a dearth of experience.

So, what is a voter supposed to, who is the average voter supposed to back? I suggest that it is the candidate that tells you things you don’t want to hear, the one that tells you that you are going to have to roll up your sleeves and make some effort to change things. We haven’t elected a U.S. senator for president with no experience at the national (presidential or vice-presidential) level since John Kennedy, and now, regardless of who wins the Democratic race, the next president will be a U.S. senator baring some unforeseen candidate entering the race and capturing the imagination of the public.

Kennedy sold hope, but he also stated that work was necessary for the fulfillment of the promise of America. In his Inaugural Address he proclaimed: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” He also stated:

” Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Kennedy had it right, we must be prepared to “bear any burden, meet any hardship” and roll up our sleeves if we are to overcome the problems that currently beset our nation. And this cannot be done on the basis of hope alone.

G.M. Roper blogs at GM’s Corner.

G.M. Roper is a psychotherapist in Texas.
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