The Audacity of Hope is a political book that doesn’t point fingers, seek to destroy or make divisive “we v. them” statements. Instead, it turns the reader’s attention to the similarities and common values that Amercians share regardless of their political persuasions. The further you break down an issue, the closer you get to the core values that unite us, and Senator Barack Obama explains the necessity of understanding opposing views in order to find common-ground solutions. But his is more than just a spirit of compromise; it is audacious hope, which he learned to apply to his own faith and character from a sermon he heard in his own church. “It’s easy to be cynical,” Obama said during a recent book-tour appearance, “but what requires risk is hope.”
This book is almost too well written to have been penned by a Senator, but the intensity and wise words are pure Obama, as is the message of cooperation. This is not to say he has stepped away from his democratic ideals, but he calls to task the strategies and policies of those who deserve it be they Republican or Democrat.
One difference he touches on is that between the traditional conservatism that espouses temperance and restraint and the so-called “compassionate conservatism” that has been driving the policy debate of the past six years. Obama characterizes the George W. Bush brand of conservatism at the core of today’s GOP as “absolutism”.
“There is the absolutism of the free market, an ideology of no taxes, no regulation, no safety net—indeed no government beyond what’s required to protect private property and provide for the national defense.
There’s the religious absolutism…and there is the absolute belief in the authority of majority will…a disdain for those institutional checks (the Courts, the Constitution, the press, the Geneva Conventions, the rules of the Senate, or the traditions governing redistricting.” (pp 37-38)
He also describes the Democratic Party as having becoming one of reaction, and believes that Democratic activists who “pursue a more sharply partisan and ideological strategy” in an attempt to keep up with Republicans misapprehend the moment we’re in. In his encounters among ordinary citizens, Obama imagines “…they are waiting for a politics with the maturity to balance idealism and realism.”
In addition to partisanship, Obama offers his thoughts on values, the Constitution, politics in general, opportunity, faith, race, the global picture and family. The point is not to solve every problem with a magic wand although he does offer sensible suggestions which could clearly jumpstart real solutions. The point is that we, as a nation, can solve problems and we can start by listening to, learning from and respecting each other’s views. His deference to our solidarity as these United States of America is infectious and I highly recommend The Audacity of Hope.