The age of optimism

In Buzz by Adam GoodmanLeave a Comment

Feeling good is in.

After nearly a decade where American leadership was challenged, jobs were outsourced and manifest destiny seemed destined for extinction, a mesmerizing sense of the possible has returned.

Barriers to confidence are falling, stock markets are rising and the essential spirit of can-do Americanism is back in vogue.

The rallying cry: Invest in America, invest in your community and invest in yourself, because we are ready to renew the nation and remake the world.

Welcome to the Age of Optimism.

The historical and psychological dimensions of this lift are difficult to underestimate.

Remember the end of the Jimmy Carter show, when the nation was buffeted by hyperinflation, hyper unemployment, a paralyzing energy crisis and 52 Americans held hostage by Iran for 444 days? Those were 444 interminable reminders of a nation suffering from a maddening malaise of mediocrity.

When Ronald Reagan took the Hill, by referring to a “shining city on a hill” where American exceptionalism was rife and revered, Americans responded. The blanket of anxiety had been lifted and the world order restored.

IBM released the first PC, the first woman was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Raiders became the first wild card team to win a Super Bowl, Lady Di married Prince Charles and hip-hop was born.

Yet America’s elites howled, academics wretched, and the media predicted the Reagan Revolution would end in a dustbowl of dashed dreams.

Sound familiar?

The 2016 presidential pageant was waged along similar fault lines, driven by pundits who droned, and pollsters who condoned, a “this-can’t-be-happening-in-America” assessment of Donald Trump and his band of “deplorables.” That groupthink is now confronting a public that’s listening less to them and more to their hearts.

So many wonder how this could happen so quickly. How have the president-elect’s numbers soared, together with the nation’s mood, weeks before he launches his brand of promised change and reform as America’s 45th president?

Simply put, it reflects an explosion of pent-up optimism, and an implosion of doubt, that strikes to the core of the American experience. Trying to win versus not to lose. Leading not retreating. Achieving not grieving. Creating not debating.

In the days and weeks ahead, the “Now President” will unleash an unbridled demand for better news and better outcomes while fighting conventional convictions that have grounded Washington in petty politics and mired the media in personal distress.

It will not be an easy road, nor one without disappointments and failures that will activate the boo-birds to come out in full-throated protest. Some may be justified, as the wheels of change churn through the habit of inertia to discern the good from the bad, the necessary from the needless.

Yet that won’t likely discourage nor impede Trump, because his appeals to American’s thirst for optimism will be punctuated with purpose and tweeted with regularity.

Invest more than a trillion in infrastructure and millions of jobs? America’s coming back.

Rein in environmental regulation overreach that strangles American business and growth? America’s coming back.

Make direct phone calls to CEOs to redirect their corporate strategies with a carrot-and-stick appeal to mutual interest? America’s coming back.

Politically, optimism sells.

Psychologically, it compels. That’s because optimism is not only contagious but predictive of emotional and physical health.

More than 20 years ago, a pair of psychology professors, Aspinwall and Taylor, authored a seminal study of 672 incoming college freshmen. Their goal was to identify and explain why some adapted to the experience better than others.

Their conclusion: Students who were disposed to be optimistic, the glass-half-full crowd, were less stressed, lonely and depressed. That enabled them to absorb and address whatever life brought their way. It was based in self-esteem and a sense of control, that tomorrow would be better than today.

After years of feeling we were headed in the wrong direction down a one-way street, Americans are hopeful that by risking some today they can experience that better tomorrow.

It is a leap of faith that always tests the relationship between government and the governed, between those who lead and people looking for leadership.

Today there are more questions than answers as to what lies ahead.

Could fresh blood among the new president’s Cabinet assure equally refreshing reform, or will their collective resumes fuel the fires of ideological and partisan warfare?

Will America recapture the belief that there’s nothing we can’t dream, nothing we can’t do when given the chance, or will world events prove so overwhelming that resolve gives way to resignation?

Whatever’s ahead, a shared sense of carpe diem optimism has resurfaced in our country, something we haven’t felt in a very long time.

And the feeling’s good.

Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in Tampa who has created, directed and produced media for more than 300 GOP candidates in 46 states over the past 35 years. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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