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The Politics of Optimism

David Murray
David Murray
2014 31 Oct

Over at RealClearPolitics.com Frank Donatelli analyzes why the Republicans are doing so well in swing states and how the GOP can build on this to win the White House in 2016. One of his points is the power of optimism:

Stay positive. The country faces problems at all levels, but candidates who project an optimistic attitude usually prevail. Democrats are hunkered down, ignoring Obama and seeking to deflect attention from him. In the swing states, they are spending massive amounts of money running negative ads against their opponents. The GOP must answer the charges, but not be dissuaded from their determination to offer hopeful solutions in contrast to those who now run Washington.

In The Optimistic Republican Story Everybody is Missing, Larry Kudlow anticipates the first 100 days of the expected new Republican Congress and suggests two Big Think thoughts.

First is optimism: We know what the problems are, we know what the solutions should be, and we can make these changes quickly. Second is a re-energized evangelism by the Republican party for pro-growth, market-oriented, consumer-driven, pro-family policies.

Later in the same article Kudlow again calls for an optimistic attitude and agenda:

But the key here is that the GOP regains its footing as the party of optimism and growth. A new Republican Congress should message that they’re tired of obsessing about Obama’s mistakes. Everybody knows about those. The trick now is to focus on solutions. On change. On saying, “We can do this. We can fix this.”

Fatalistic Pessimism

President Obama used optimism to great effect in his 2008 Presidential campaign. “Hope and Change” anyone? It didn’t take long, though, for him to slump into a deep fatalistic pessimism about himself, Congress, the country, and even the American people. His hope seems to have turned into despair, and most of the change has turned out for the worse.

His grim, negative, angry, and depressing demeanor has spread throughout the Democratic party, leaving a big open goal for Republicans, if they have the wit and savvy to take advantage of it. The American people are in desperate need of an injection of confident, upbeat, can-do, let’s roll leadership and policies.

Optimistic Evangelism

But optimism isn’t only a winning political strategy; it’s also compelling and persuasive evangelism. In such a negative and discouraging culture, surely the Christian church should be standing out as a beacon of real hope and lasting change. But is it?

Too often we are simply reflecting the culture rather than renewing it. Our spirits (and sermons) soar and sink with political success or failure. Our prayers seem to be driven by opinion polls more than the Holy Spirit. We hunker down in defensive mode, expecting little from God and getting even less.

I’m not for everyone buying Joel Osteen masks and teeth tomorrow, but surely the Gospel gives us far greater grounds for optimism than any political party or movement. The question is, are we projecting that? Are we communicating our solid and joyful hope in our lives, our families, our churches, and our communities.

God-Centered Optimism

Our hope is not in people, in ourselves, in the church, or in the world. Our hope is in God. He is able to change the worst person, the worst situation, and the worst nation. And even when he doesn’t change what’s going on around us, He can change us so that we are not dragged down like everyone else, but rather stand out as counter-cultural evangelists. As Martyn Lloyd Jones said:

The first thing the Bible tells us is that happiness is possible. And I emphasise that because this is the most staggering, the most surprising thing of all in a world like this; but it is the great message of the Bible. It comes to us as we are, and it says, ‘Happiness, blessedness is possible (True Happiness: An Exposition of Psalm 1).