Revolutions (and all kinds of transformative change) rely on rising expectations. “Realism” and the kind of depressive thinking which lowers expectations and dashes cold water on any embers of imagination and resistance still smoldering in the mind are self-fulfilling. Most recently, the vicious cycle associated with the self-fulfilling nature of pessimism dampened the prospects for political and economic change during the period from roughly 1968 to 2015 (although you could make the case that it goes even further back, to the point after the high tide of New Deal reforms had been reached and the waters were beginning to recede), and it’s a vicious cycle that has the potential to rear its ugly head again during the Trump administration.
In 2008, there was a brief moment of hope that things could be different. Obama commandeered and flagrantly misused this desire and belief in something new, enlisting it in his neoliberal, corporatist drive to save Wall Street from the enraged hoi polloi. But Obama was right to champion hope, even if his politics continued to feed the hopelessness that Trump and his minions gleefully feed on.
The truth, as the redoubtable Erich Fromm recognized, is that hope is essential to life. Hope is what makes us fully human, human in our aspirations for a better world and dignity for all. Hope nourishes the soul and fires the imagination. Hope – tempered and self-consciously defiant – is the only remedy to the politics of hopelessness and despair. As such, any socialist must temper their justified and necessary cynicism towards the world’s corruption with hope and faith in their fellow human beings and the possibility – even if it appears improbable, more remote than the furthest star – of redeeming our world.