The last few days have been extremely emotional around here, specially with reaction to the reporting on the arguments before the Supreme Court about the Affordable Care Act. We have seen everything from outright panic to pleas for calm. From dire predictions of the entire law being tossed out to confident statements of all of it being upheld.
And it isn’t just that particular instance which seems from time to time to bring forth cries of doom and gloom to rampant jubilation. Every time new poll numbers come out there is a myriad of reactions. When numbers come out that show the President losing some of his advantages over Romney or (Heaven forbid) Santorum, there is the tendency to either, once again, panic or go into denial by blaming the methodology (not always incorrectly) to pleas to ignore the polling all together.
When positive news of the economy is cited, there are pleased smiles evident throughout the postings, but when some bad news occurs, the doom and gloom crowd comes out in force. There is a natural, based on history, concern about the negative approach the Republicans will take in the upcoming campaigns, as evidenced by the “America’s worst enemy” ad that Chips posted yesterday.
All of the negative reactions come under the heading, as Al Giordano called it in 2008, of “Chicken Littling.” There is a natural human tendency to focus on the worse things that can happen instead of working toward the best possible outcomes. And this is where it is important to remember the words of FDR:
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
One thing that FDR realized, and was warning against, is the debilitating impact of fear. It saps us of energy and optimism. At its worse, it brings forth despair and hopelessness. And where despair and hopelessness reign, apathy follows. There is a tendency to give up, to think that nothing we will do will matter, so why try at all. And that is exactly what the Republicans are hoping to happen.
Ever since Reagan, the Republican Party has used fear to push forth its agenda. Fear of blacks, fear of immigrants (legal and otherwise), fear of the “Evil Empire”, fear of Muslims, and fear of traitorous liberals. They have used this not only to create a motivation for their base, but to dispirit the left. And we have seen time and again how it works.
The miracle of the 2008 campaign is that then candidate Obama knew this and also realized that just focusing on issues would not be enough to counter this fear driven methodology. He knew that there had to be just as strong an emotional message sent out there to lessen the impact of fear. Hope was that message and the vibrant “Yes We Can” that underscored and strengthened that message of hope. He created the belief in the American people that we can conquer fear driven ideology, but only if we band together and not let our fears cause us to falter.
And that brings us to now. We have to believe, once again, that no matter what happens, we can move forward. That a setback here or there, be it in Republican obstructionism, or the ruling of the Supreme Court, or any negative poll or economic news, is merely that, a setback, not a defeat. Because if we view those things as defeats, fear seeps in. Fear that ultimately we will never succeed, fear that those who care only for the privileged few will always win. And with that fear comes the hopelessness and despair.
The message of hope given us in 2008 must never be abandoned because of a setback. Remember, hope and hopelessness cannot exist side by side. And fear feeds on the absence of hope. What we need to always consider when we face a setback is not the awful consequences of that setback but what we need to do to overcome that setback and have the confidence that we can and will overcome it.
I don’t know how the Supreme Court will vote on the ACA. Nor am I saying that an adverse ruling should just be shrugged off. But rather, if there is an adverse ruling we have a choice. Accept it as a crushing defeat or view it as a reason for us to continue to move forward to bring the change to this country that we all think is needed.
I know our President will look at it that way. And I know our President will always look at negative things as an opportunity to improve and work harder. If we have his back, how can we do anything less?