Conservatives believe in the success of the individual within the society as a whole. Liberals believe in the success of the community as a result of the society. This may be why conservatives, despite the encroachment of the statist agenda, still believe in the American dream being attainable, while liberals do not.
If ever a song embodied the spirit of the conservative heart it might be the "Cockeyed Optimist," from Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical South Pacific. Ensign Nellie Forbush, as a Navy nurse, sang a song that holds true to what conservatives believe in today. She was the original "Cockeyed Optimist."
I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
That we're done and we might as well be dead,
But I'm only a cockeyed optimist
And I can't get it into my head.
I hear the human race
Is fallin' on its face
And hasn't very far to go,
But ev'ry whippoorwill
Is sellin' me a bill,
And tellin' me it just ain't so.
In the August 2013 poll released by YouGov, 41% of the polling sample stated that the American dream was still attainable, 38% responded that it wasn't and 21% stated that they weren't sure.
Those who self-identify as Republicans could best be described as "Nellie Forbushes." Fifty-five percent hold that the American dream is alive, while only 27% don't believe that it still exists.
Those who self-identify as Democrats hold a nearly opposite image of attaining the American dream. Only 27% believe it still lives, while 53% have lost hope.
The most beloved presidents over the past two generations – Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all preached hope and the attainability of the American dream.
Where the divide between the respondents may lie in the fact that Republicans were witness to President Reagan actually putting the power back in the hands of the American people. He instilled a confidence that led people to accomplish the goals that he spoke to.
Presidents Clinton and Obama – both revered by Democrats – have spoken eloquently about hope and self-determination, but rarely have their solutions amounted to anything but government response and further expansion of the statist agenda. There is no sense of individual accomplishment, or the encouragement to strike out and take the individual risks that set the successful apart from the disheartened.
The more that the state controls the economy and social safety net the less the citizen is in control of his/her own destiny. The statist – or progressive's goal – is to exert ever more control over the populace. This increase in control brings with it an increase in dependence. The less one feels they have control over their future the less likely they are to believe that they can make a difference.
Those who seek a more libertarian-style economic model – that minimizes the role of the federal government – are generally more hopeful in the future of America.
Liberals tend to dismiss the greatness of Ronald Reagan as a leader. They dismiss those who would like to return to the true optimism and hope that he offered with his sense of entrepreneurial spirit, American community and patriotic fervor.
We, as a nation, came out of the malaise brought on by the wretched economy of the 1970s in part because we started to believe in ourselves again. We were optimistic that the American dream was still alive.
Conservatives still do believe in America and the individual spirit that is inherent in its birth.
They may be cockeyed optimists, but they've seen it turn around before. They know the dream can live on again.