Love is the new hope in the 2016 election
By Rev. Paul Raushenbush
Love has gained an unexpected yet potent political currency in the 2016 election.
Eight years ago, the American electorate was weary and cynical and couldn’t see how politics could move us forward. We needed hope, and so that word rose to the iconic rallying cry for the Obama election and the promise of his presidency. In 2016, a new theme has gained a similarly potent political currency — the power of love.
Love is the new Hope.
I remember being startled when I first heard Secretary Clinton using love in her speeches during the primaries in the spring. She would be talking about policies and then there it would be — love — described as fundamental to the America we all might aspire to.
This love theme has continued to be a through line, or heartbeat, last week in Philadelphia.
Family members of those killed in Orlando and Charleston talked about love being the answer to hate; Broadway stars sang “What the world needs now, is love sweet love… not just for some but for everyone;” the Rev. Dr. William Barber II of Moral Mondays, and an Auburn Senior Fellow, told us how we need to shock our hearts so that they might love again; vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine quoting Jesus in saying how we should love our neighbors as ourselves; Chelsea introduced her mother as having “a heart full of love”; in the introductory video, the narrator explains what was most remarkable about her “was her heart”; and in her acceptance speech to the convention, Hillary Clinton got the biggest applause when she proclaimed how “Love trumps hate.”
Maybe it is not so surprising that love has made such a comeback in our politics. We are more polarized as a nation than I can ever remember. We are plagued by the twin evils of hate and fear, combined with violent rhetoric that threatens to fracture our society. We distrust and demonize one another and point fingers instead of extending a hand. Young Black lives are criminalized, penalized and targeted, immigrants are scapegoated and attacked, suicide rates are spiking among working class Whites, LGBT lives are trivialized, debated and legislated against, people of other faiths are targeted and demeaned, and income inequality is worse than it has been in 100 years.
We find ourselves constantly pitted “us vs them” and forget that there is just “we the people” while hatred and fear are stoked, and divide and conquer are merely tools in a political handbook.
In 2016, with fear and hate consuming our nation, we need love to be a powerful force. And that’s exactly what it can be. Love is not a Hallmark card. Love is an action, it is the way we move in the world, it is the way we show what we really value. Love always moves out and towards, and never shuts out or down. As Cornel West has said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Love is not an endgame, it is the means by which we will get to a future that is more just, more compassionate and blessed than we live in today. Love has the power to change the world.
Rev. MLK, Jr. said: “There is a reason that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals.”
One example of this turn towards love happened just the other night when Senator Cory Booker was asked about how Donald Trump had insulted his speech on Twitter. Booker replied: “I love Donald Trump — I’m going to say that,” Booker said. “I don’t want to answer hate with hate — I’m going to answer it with love. I love you, Donald — I pray for you,” he said.
We need this force in our world. If love is to be the theme of this election then let’s think deeply about what that means and how it can guide us to November 8 — and even more importantly, beyond.
Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is the Senior Vice President of Public Engagement at Auburn Seminary. Which Voices leave you wanting to hear more? Email us ideas for interviews at firstname.lastname@example.org.