Hope or fear: GOP needs to get back to basics

Last summer a group called Kids Philosophy Slam asked student philosophers to debate the question “Which is more powerful, fear or hope.” The winning student argued that fear pushes people to overcome and is “much more powerful than the loftiness of hope.” Lo, to be so young and cynical — she’s probably out knocking on doors right now for Hillary Clinton. But Republicans can learn a thing or two from this budding scholar.

Fear might build walls, but there is no wall big enough that hope can’t overcome. Hope propels us to a better tomorrow, and really, isn’t that what America is all about? Of ages and empires, fear has never triumphed over hope. Not in the long run, anyway. And for more than two centuries, America has endured as a giant beacon of hope to citizens of the world.

The most popular presidents of the twentieth century draped themselves in the rhetoric of hope. Ronald Reagan hoped to bring America closer to becoming the Shining City on the Hill. Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged a Depression-gripped America to look to the future, as “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Bill Clinton was, in fact, the man from Hope. Yes, Americans respond in a big way to hope.

In this day of change, economic uncertainty and war, Americans are searching more than ever for signs of hope for the future. Republicans, Democrats, Independents; it makes no difference. We’ll come together as a people and rally around true leaders because there’s little time for partisan distractions when we’re headed somewhere, united as a nation.

Republicans lost the confidence of the American people because we lost sight of the things that everyday citizens care about. People care about their families, their jobs, and their future. Most of all, people care about tomorrow being just a little bit better than today, and somewhere along the way, Democrats convinced voters that they cared more. Given the last few years, it would be hard for voters to conclude otherwise.

But we can earn back their trust if we get back to the basics of freedom and free markets. We can regain their confidence if we rein in spending and keep taxes low. And we can inspire them again if we give Americans hope and direction for the future.

Ronald Reagan is a hero to me and to so many others because he told us where he wanted to take this country, and then he took us. That’s why Reagan was so successful. The Contract with America was similarly successful because it told Americans what they could expect from their government.

When Republicans present America with leaders of character and principle, with a clear vision for the future, Americans choose our candidates. Only when we get back to the basics will we right the Republican ship and restore our majority. Hope is the most powerful motivator of all and Republicans are the most hopeful people I know.

I think Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best in a brilliant and beautiful speech that would be the last of his life:

“¦We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land! So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

Dr. King chose hope, also. We should too.

Billy Dalto served as State Representative for Oregon’s 21st House District from 2003-2007. In fourth grade, he won the Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest for District 3 (New York City) . He lives in south Salem.