…between Liberals and Conservatives today there is broad agreement: that America is fundamentally good. Imperfect, obviously. Currently imperiled, for certain. But full, coast-to-coast, with optimistic, generous, and industrious people. Our Constitution represents an astonishing achievement, the key to helping us out of whatever mess we’re in. We are all still Americans, after all.
Believer doesn’t mean milquetoast, although Believers are too often overmatched by the venom of the Cynics. As James Baldwin once observed, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”
But Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, and Lyndon Johnson were all Believers—they played to win and won. Amy Klobuchar and Tom Cotton, Elena Kagan and Sam Alito proceed this way too: the politicians among them may attack the other side relentlessly (this is part of the job, after all). But listen to their arguments: they believe in the First Amendment, Due Process, and Equal Protection. They understand that American ideals require defense; they represent not only the best hope for America—but the best hope for humanity. They think the American people are something special. They hold the righteousness of the Declaration’s promise deep in their bones.
It’s no secret to anyone that America has seen better days or that the national mood is low. The question is whether to kick her while she’s down, to give up on her entirely—and then, to replace her with what, exactly?
As for the Cynics, The Believers must fend them off with everything we’ve got. “Do not succumb to the disease of cynicism for it will justify all of your worst instincts,” Dr. King once warned. Believe him.