Abandon Cynicism, Embrace Hope

"I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind . . . Now I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be."
— Wonder Woman (2017)

During these final days of what has been, at the very least, the worst year so far in the 21st century, it is easy to feel cynical about the future of America and the future of humanity. It may seem that cynicism is the only rational choice. But cynicism, even in times much worse than what we are living through today, is a poor choice.

Underlying the polarization in America today is an epidemic of cynicism. Across the fragmented cultural landscape, every faction perceives the other as motivated by self-interest, or stupidity, or hatred. But as actress Gal Gadot vowed in the underrated conclusion to her 2017 movie “Wonder Woman,” “I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them there will always be both.”

Referencing a comic book superhero for wisdom that might counteract cynicism may seem unforgivably shallow, but that’s the point. It is impossible to argue against cynicism with reason when everything someone has worked for is being destroyed. 

People don’t have the patience to listen to sophisticated counterarguments when they sincerely believe their civilization, and their planet, face existential threats. It is better to just put it out there, in plain English, in words that can fit into the bubble on the page of a graphic novel: “Inside every one of them there will always be both.”

Which is to say, no matter how harmful and misguided a movement may be, there are good people within those movements who believe their fight is the noble fight. Reaching out to those people from the other side requires the abandonment of cynicism.

Assume for a moment that sometime in 2021 the pandemic subsides and the Biden-Harris Administration settles in to implement its political agenda. Their mandate, such as it is, relies on the populist support of roughly half the American electorate and the emotional core of that so-called mandate rests on two fundamental premises: achieving racial “equity” and saving the planet from climate change.

To anyone on the other side of this populist schism—the Right, generally speaking—these are overblown distractions masking epic scams. They are excuses for a corporate oligarchy to consolidate their control over the American people. But that assessment, accurate as it may be, will never convince people on the Left. You can’t expose the hidden corporate agenda until you embrace these core principles they’re using as cover, and then explain that the tactics are flawed. Not the principles. The tactics.

Everyone wants to live in a nation where people have equal opportunity. Everyone wants to protect the planet. The path to the hearts of people on the Left is not to strike back at them with all the vitriol they’ve directed at people on the Right. After all, it was the corporate media that conditioned people on the Left to hate people on the Right. It was the establishment oligarchy that nurtured “the darkness that lives within the light.”

Those of us who have watched right-of-center politicians get mistreated by the media for decades found Trump’s pugnacity to be a welcome counterpunch. But ultimately, Trump’s decision to personally insult his critics enhanced their ability to discredit him to anyone not paying close attention to his deeds instead of his words. It’s hard to say whether or not Trump would have won an election that tens of millions of Americans—with ample evidence—believe was stolen from him and would have been stolen no matter how many votes he got. But imagine if Trump had been able to promote his policies with uncompromising firmness, while also conveying respect for his opponents. By taking the high road, Trump would have helped additional millions of Americans to recognize the naked, disgraceful bias of the corporate media.

What Trump set in motion, however, must give hope to millions of Americans. For the first time in decades there is populist awareness of a globalist corporate agenda that intends to further reduce our quality of life, restrict our liberty, increase the cost-of-living, undermine the labor market, liquidate American assets, and export American jobs. The mission of Trump’s successors, and the people working to offer coherence to Trump’s policies, from now on must be to help left-of-center Americans connect the dots.

None of this is meant to minimize the fight that the Right is in, or the menace they face. Rather the point is that to win, we must recognize that there are millions of people on the Left who haven’t yet had their Red Pill moment. The WalkAway movement, the Blexit, and the Lexit, are all just harbingers of what may come if the Right recognizes the validity of many of the values—not the tactics, but the values—that motivate people on the Left. With that recognition comes the power to persuade. For example . . . 

Of course we want equal opportunity. But how does it help inner-city, low-income students to have the teachers’ unions exercising monopoly control over public education? Why not support school choice? And how is it helpful to teach children to feel either disadvantaged or privileged depending on their skin color, instead of just teaching them vital skills that will help them succeed as individuals?

And yes, we want to protect the planet. But how does it protect the planet to force everyone to live in dense cities, when developing only a small fraction of abundant open space would bring the cost of housing way down? On a related note, how does it help the homeless when all the shelter and supportive housing projects are corrupt boondoggles wasting billions? Why not just build dormitories and demand sobriety? Are these leftist-inspired solutions trying to help the homeless, or just make money?

And no, our right-of-center agenda is not a front for the excesses of libertarian globalism, which is the flipside of corporate socialism, serving the same oligarchs but just hiding behind a different ideological mask. We are pragmatists, not ideologues, and our core principle is that the fate of the world is brighter when the American people are happy and prosperous, not divided and diminished.

Most Americans, including those who are only somewhat left-of-center, are repelled by the antics of the hard Left. Many people supporting left-of-center politicians don’t believe any of it—from the widespread urban violence, shamelessly condoned by the media, to the preposterous theories regarding gender and collective white guilt. These people on the Left can and should be reasoned with. They should be respected. They should be encouraged to understand that the right-of-center agenda offers better answers to the challenges of our time.

There are countless additional examples of tactical shifts, in pursuit of the same goals, where the Right has more practical and effective ideas than the Left. This is the truth that can liberate Americans with leftist sentiments. This is the positive, hopeful message that abandons cynicism in favor of creating a genuine mandate. It is the path to victory and peace.

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About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also the director of water and energy policy for the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

Photo: Alexander W. Helin/Getty Images