After hope and change, what’s next?

September 5, 2012


— In Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy,” the narrator is conveyed to the gates of hell, upon which he finds a sign: “Abandon hope, ye who enter here.”

This city is not hell. But a case can be made, as the Democratic Party convenes here to nominate Barack Obama to a second term, that the same admonition applies. Abandon hope.

And change.

Hope and change, of course, were the promises by which Obama swept into office four years ago, heralding a “post partisan” era in which Republicans and Democrats would work together in solving the nation’s problems. We all know how that turned out. The GOP lurched further to the right, driven by a “tea party” that scorned compromise, the ordinary horse trading that defines politics, as traitorous and weak.

There was an element of fanaticism there that one watched with a kind of awestruck horror, unable to believe that what you were seeing was really real. But it was. They actually did take the economy hostage, actually did vote down their own major bill because the president supported it. They actually did declare war on objective fact, bow to a ludicrously rigid anti-tax pledge, abridge the religious freedoms of Muslims, commit acts of voter suppression, require Latinos to show their papers. The great Clint Eastwood actually did stumble through a dialogue with an empty chair that was supposed to represent the president. And yes, they actually did call that president “uppity,” a “boy,” and a “secret Muslim,” actually did question his birthplace and academic credentials, actually did accuse him of being a radical socialist out to destroy America.

They actually did.

Three years ago, a distraught woman at a health-care protest cried out, “I want my country back!” Better she should demand her party back. The party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan doesn’t seem like a party at all anymore, but a cult.

Yes, that’s just the sort of observation you’d expect from a liberal hack, Democratic Party shill and assorted other epithets by which GOP true believers routinely ward off questions about their true belief. But let them note that similar concerns are being voiced by GOP stalwarts like former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Indeed Barack Obama seems to have been the last person in America to understand how things have changed, to realize that there can be no bipartisan problem solving because the GOP has decided it has no problem bigger than him: black, funny name, center-left leaning him, and all that his elevation to the presidency portends for a changing nation and for a political party that, in that changing nation, remains whiter than polar bears in snow.

So we don’t hear so much about hope and change anymore. The president has lately been more prone to unilateral action and has taken the wood to Mitt Romney in attacks as negative and misleading as those that are leveled against him.

It is always gratifying to see the bullied kid finally stand up for himself.

But what happens then?

That is the question Obama and his party must answer this week. This is not an election about big government versus small or more taxes versus less, but, rather, about reason versus unreason, coherence versus incoherence, tomorrow versus a yesterday that never really was, that exists only in sepia-colored GOP fictions.

To win the election, Obama needs 270 electoral votes. But to deserve to win it, he needs to articulate a tough-minded new vision about how to shepherd America into a challenging future some of us plainly fear. The sweet platitudes of four years ago will not do. Instead, Obama must answer a stark and simple question:

What now? What do you do after hope and change have failed?

— Leonard Pitts Jr., is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CDT each Wedneday on


Armstrong 1 year, 7 months ago

Sam has seemed to do pretty well with the defecit Kathy left us. Before Barry tapped her to be HHS we were several million in the hole. Barry would be a much greater help if he watched from the sidelines, which he will in Nov


Abdu Omar 1 year, 7 months ago

The events that happened during the Bush era have shaped the events today. There is no way any president could have improved our conditions by a greater extent. What Obama or even McCain if he won, would have inherited was way beyond what we really know and the road back to economic equity was long and hard. So, we are faced with a dicotomy of answers. One from each candidate. I am afraid for the New elected America president in either case without a change in congress and a change in loyalty. The Norquist promise is killing our recovery because now there is no compromise, no thought of working together on the problems we Americans want solved. We are at a deadlock and it will continue if there is no change in congress. Obama sees this, I believe, and he knows that his job is futile if there is no bipartisanship. I laude those who throw out party affiliation to help move the American republic forward. So tell me, who do we turn to? Romney, the rich, out of touch with the middle class, secretive of his plan (if he has one) or Obama who is "what you see is what you get"? No, I agree that Obama's promises have not been kept, but not because he didn't try. It was others who didn't want to see him succeed that kept them from fruition. This is the problem. Let him govern and let him succeed because, then, we all succeed.


Mike Ford 1 year, 7 months ago

change was stifled by the fearful make up stuff gop and tea partiers who want 1910 back. Why don't you go back to prohibition, lynching, no women voting, and gop politicians in kansas who went to the brothels that existed in topeka all around the statehouse and be as blind and fervent as carry nation.


Armstrong 1 year, 7 months ago

After "Hope and change" - Romney Ryan


Liberty275 1 year, 7 months ago

"After hope and change, what’s next?"

Buyer's remorse.


notaubermime 1 year, 7 months ago

What do you do when hope for change is gone? You turn to politics. You spend every waking moment talking, cajoling, and schmoozing anyone you have to in order to get the votes you need. Obama has admitted that he hasn't spent anywhere near as much time as Clinton did engaging in those activities. Obama will tell you that the reason he doesn't do as much of this aspect of his job is because he is taking time to spend with his family. That may make him a good dad, but it doesn't make him a good president.

The sad fact of the matter is that the presidency requires one to place the needs of the country before one's own personal needs.


tange 1 year, 7 months ago

What now? If you're a Kansan, you bathe yourself clean, in the south wind, anticipating brisker breezes and the promise of crystal mornings.


Armstrong 1 year, 7 months ago

Just for the record yourworstnightmare is still OCD about Mitt's tax returns


grammaddy 1 year, 7 months ago

Can we keep the fairy tales out of this discussion?


gbulldog 1 year, 7 months ago

As to Luke 12:34: What does the Koran say? Do you think that Obama is happy in his heart about what is happening in his adopted hometown? He appears to be very happy blaming, but not taking reposnsibility!


donttreadonme 1 year, 7 months ago

"SageonPage4 hours, 4 minutes ago Isaiah 59:7 Their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed innocent blood; Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; Wasting and destruction are in their paths."

Good quote. An apt description of today's Republican party.


yourworstnightmare 1 year, 7 months ago

Luke 12:34: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What is Mitt Romney hiding in his tax returns? Why won't he release them? Might we find out where his treasure, and his heart, really are?


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 7 months ago

Windemere is 'right on.'

Profound Flex is a 'shoe-in.'

I have scientifically identified a coordinated effort to 'save' New America from the evil, despicable Tea people that pay taxes.. Tea people with "skin in the game" are a laughing stock that must be stopped.

When will the Tea people learn to be 'like' the 50% with "no skin in the game." They need to 'just get a long' and receive what the can from government peeps.


uggadyboogadyboo 1 year, 7 months ago

Pitts first line " In Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy,” the narrator is conveyed to the gates of hell" Now we all know that Romney/Ryan is going to put that fire out. The swing vote can't stand anymore nobama. Hey libs remember 2010? ..........Schwing


Windemere 1 year, 7 months ago

Predict Obama will win, not slink back to Chicago. Sadly, he will bribe people with more goodies, dodge the question of how to keep our bloated entitlements from crashing and burning. While far from ideal and totally honest, at least Romney/Ryan speak some uncomfortable truths. That we're headed for a financial crisis a la Greece and with no serious reform of big entitlements, everyone will suffer (especially the poor & aged).

As for Mr. Pitts column, seems he likes to believe that the Tea Partiers dislike Ombama because of his skin color. For a very small number, this may be true. Vast majority see him as a tax and spend, big-govt liberal and that's why they don't like him.


Flap Doodle 1 year, 7 months ago

Things will start looking up in January when the Mope is sent back to his mob-financed Chicago mansion to stay.


gbulldog 1 year, 7 months ago

Pray that the 1973 Movie "Soylent Green" does not become reality. Movie takes place in 2022. Only 10 years away!


heygary 1 year, 7 months ago

"Obama swept into office four years ago, heralding a “post partisan” era in which Republicans and Democrats would work together in solving the nation’s problems"

So much BS!

For the first 2 years of his presidency, there was a Democatic majority in both houses ... Republicans were not even invited to meeting! Obama established several bi-partisan committees, then completely ignored their findings and recommendations.

You upset with the Teaparty Pitts? You dems built it in response to your lack of cooperation.

If Obama and company buy enough votes to get a second term, it will be 30 years before a Democrat is back in the White House and 40 years before a person of color gets that job again!


jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

I generally like this column, but I'm not so fond of Obama's use of misleading advertising.

It's fine to "stand up for oneself" against bullies, but I'd prefer it be done with integrity and facts, rather than by stooping to the level of the lies of one's opponents.


Paul R Getto 1 year, 7 months ago

Good column. Sometimes Obama is as tone deaf as GW Bush used to be.


jaywalker 1 year, 7 months ago

"There was an element of fanaticism there that one watched with a kind of awestruck horror"

Can't disagree w/ the majority of this piece, and the above line is certainly legit. I just wish when opinion-sharers choose to paint w/ wide brushes and use things like the communal "they", the "they" in question isn't actually a singular instance or person, as in the Eastwood, 'uppity', and 'boy' references. A Pulitzer winner should know better.

Here's to wishing we could all wake up from the "tea party" nightmare, take a hot shower, and be forever rid of the fanatical rigidity and intellectual void that's caused those cold, night sweats for the last 5 years.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 7 months ago

It 'was' "Bush's fault" and now it is actual real life "taxpayers" fault. Tea people.

DRD4 Genies are 'their' own worst enemies and do not even know it.

new vision about how to shepherd America into a challenging future some of us plainly fear.

Huh....New America...half with "skin in the game and you are "fear" Pitts?"


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