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We Need a Hope Machine. Anyone Know How to Build One?

Robert B. Reich, Tribune Content Agency on

In a comment on a recent post, Paula OH said: “It’s a very tough time. We need a hope machine! Anyone know how to build one?

My answer to Paula is a resounding: “yes!” And in a moment I’ll give Paula and you some hammers, nails, and solar panels to build one.

First, though, I want to validate your discouragement.

We expected COVID-19 to be gone by now. We thought the minimum wage would be raised by now, that bold measures to slow climate change would be enacted by now, that pharmaceuticals would be cheaper and child care widely available by now. We never thought we’d be back in a Cold War with Russia, that racist “replacement” theory would lead to a massacre by a crazed gunman, that Trump would be back stirring up nationalist racism, that a single Democratic senator named Joe Manchin would destroy a progressive agenda most Americans favor, that inflation would rip through the economy, or that Roe v. Wade would be repealed. And now we face the serious possibility that the next Congress will be under the control of crazy right-wingers.

Don’t kick yourself for feeling lousy. You have every right to feel that way.

But let me say something else as clearly as I can. I’ve been at this fight a very long time, and right now I find lots of reasons for hope. Ten, to be exact. (Here’s where the hammers, nails, and solar panels for Paula’s hope machine come in.)

 

1. First, unions are stronger today — and more workers want to join a union — than at any time in the last four decades. Between Oct. 1, 2021 and March 30, 2022, the National Labor Relations Board recorded a 57% increase in workers filing for the petitions to allow union elections. That’s a good thing. Unions give workers a voice. They lead to higher wages and better working conditions.

2. A second reason for hope: Many issues now on table — with serious odds of being enacted within the next five or six years — would have seemed leftwing fantasies a decade ago. We haven’t achieved them yet, but most Americans have come around to supporting them. A majority is in favor of Medicare for All. There’s also a surge of support for Universal Basic Income. Also for free public higher education. And for a wealth tax on billionaires.

3. The more America sees of Trump, the more most people are reminded of how disastrous he was for the nation and why we need stable and thoughtful individuals in positions of power. If Trump gets back on Twitter, his divisive and racist drivel will be harmful, of course. But it will also pull many Democrats, Independents and young people back into the fight against Trumpist racist nationalism. Ditto for all the Trump wannabe’s who have been advancing in Republican primaries.

4. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority is a horror show — but it’s also another reminder to most people of why we need a Democrat in the Oval Office and a Democratic senate. The imminent reversal of Roe is galvanizing a new and even stronger wave of activism.

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