Hope and Progress: Why the Democrats Keep Losing

A.P. Turek ’20

Opinion Editor

“Someday, long after this convention, long after the signs come down and the crowds stop cheering, may it be said of our campaign that we kept the faith. May it be said of our Party in 1980 that we found our faith again… For me a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” With these choice words, Senator Ted Kennedy, who had seen his brothers slaughtered in horrific assassinations, and who had just lost the Democratic nomination to Jimmy Carter, ended his bid for the Presidency. These sentences, however much we may dismiss them as mere platitudes, speak to me, speak through me. I’ll be honest with my personal prejudices, and I hope you’ll be forgiving—I’m a deeply dissatisfied liberal who votes Democratic with a sentiment between resentment and covert shame. I, like many of my cohort, am filled with ideals that seem higher than those held by the many representatives who label themselves ‘Democrats,’ a feeling that often engenders severe disappointment, even in our party’s successes, rather than joy.

My basic dissatisfaction stems from Ted Kennedy’s words. For me, the Democratic Party stands for a process—again, forgive the sappiness—it means ‘hope.’ Rather than some concrete set of policies like socialized healthcare, or hard quantitative goals like ending poverty, the Democratic Party stands for the feeling, and process, of hope. It’s the party that stands for those left behind, the forgotten and underserved, common Americans of every creed who earnestly look towards the corrupt, bloated, festering white dome in the swamp that is Washington for hope. For that is what keeps the Democrats alive. It’s not results—that’s a Republican specialty.

Regularly, our conservatives deliver on the basic premise of the Republican party—stability. Keep the ship that protects us sailing, and all problems work themselves out. It’s a promising prospect, one that plays on regular experience for insights. We all know successful people, and voting for stability is voting to one day, possibly, be like them. Democrats peddle in a far more obscure commodity, an undefinable substance that is as quickly lost as found. For ‘hope’ draws not on our experience, but on something deeper, closer to the human conscious. Stability wears proudly its acumen. Hope’s more speculative. It’s faith in what can be, what we can be, a human desire for progress. But its more than simply the possibility of societal improvement. It’s faith in the Party, in the institution of democracy itself, to deliver on these earnest desires of betterment. I don’t vote Democratic because I know what I’m doing, because I know what’s best for me.

It’s a far deeper desire, almost irrational, to put faith in my fellow citizens and representatives to deliver on that singular premise so eloquently presented by Senator Kennedy—“the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.” I’m unhappy with my party because it fails to believe in itself, to find faith in the democratic process to deliver on the biggest pitch of all—hope. Democrats don’t hope anymore. They’re caught up criticizing their compatriots, inventing ambitious schemes and click-bait personal stories, and belittling the party that once produces the movers and shakers of American history. There’s a good reason people vote Republican: the smaller lie is easier to believe, especially if both parties are spouting platitudes. What is really necessary isn’t some technocrat who can spout figures and plans better than any other candidate. What the Democratic Party needs is the best ideologue we’ve had yet, someone to rekindle that sacred flame of our nation’s oldest party, to speak not to the condition of the American people, but to their deepest desires. What we need is more ‘hope,’ because it’s that currency that keeps the Party afloat. “The hope still lives and the dream shall never die” because we as Democrats must never give up the promise of progress. As a party, the Democrats must keep alive that faith in the party, in the promise, lest we die in darkness.

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