The Hope Baton
One thing that bumper sticker makers on both sides seem to agree on is that HOPE indelibly belongs to Barack Obama. From inspiration to parody, that word is a political synonym for the President. But the odd thing is that he’s far from the first person to be famously tied to that word. It seems to be the Democrats’ favorite brand, passed down through recent decades.
Before Obama, there was the boy from Hope, Arkansas. Starting at least from his convention biography film called “The Man from Hope,” that word was as deeply associated with Clinton as it is to Obama today. Before that, it was Rev. Jesse Jackson’s word, echoing from his 1988 convention speech, calling on the party and the nation to “Keep Hope Alive.” For several years after that speech, that was chanted to greet Jackson at events. And it was at a Democratic convention just a few years earlier that it was tied, to a lesser extent, to Senator Ted Kennedy. He told the Party that “hope still lives” (as if the renomination of Carter might have caused some to believe it had died).
Like Dwight Howard succeeding Shaq as the NBA’s dominant big man and grabbing the nickname Superman to go along with it, each new generation of Democratic leader seems to adopt Hope. That may be because it fits the Party’s basic ideology of providing an upward economic path. Modern political parties have to embrace a range of constituencies, so sometimes it takes big concepts to get them to sing in unison.
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