A few years ago, I was in China and, through the help of a friend, had the chance to spend a few hours with a senior editor of the People's Daily --the Communist Party's voice, and the most influential journal in China.
The highly intelligent editor -- himself, of course, a senior party man -- was cool and dispassionate until we came to a discussion of the causes of revolutions. On that topic, he displayed an almost scholarly knowledge and focused in -- with great passion and concern -- on the dominant role that rising expectations of the people plays in starting a revolution.
He discussed with particular knowledge a study of the French Revolution -- noting the provinces and towns that were hotbeds of revolutionary fervor were also areas that had seen the most prosperity recently before.
For China, their hopes for expanding prosperity require them to bring the hundreds of millions of peasants in the interior of the country into the prosperity of China's coastal industrial zone. While they were making progress with that, it came "at the price," he said, of raising the expectations of those three quarter of a billion peasants.
If the Chinese government can't keep meeting those expectations (probably requiring at least 7 percent-8 percent growth per year), rebellion or revolution could erupt. He went on to observe that truly hopeless people don't dream and plan for the future -- and don't revolt.
Of course, he was exceedingly proud of what China was achieving, but it was obvious that for a senior agent of an authoritarian regime, the people's hope and optimism was an inherent threat to the state, even as it was necessary for their growing prosperity and strength.
But for America, a democracy (technically, a constitutional republic), an optimistic public with faith in our future is an essential strength -- and something to nurture and celebrate.
When a democratic public loses faith in the future -- as France did in the 1930s, as Britain did in the 1970s, and as too many Americans have today -- it is something to promptly correct, not secretly rejoice in. Optimism is a source of our strength.
Of course, in this week before Christmas, Christians are particularly reminded of the reason for optimism and faith -- Jesus was born 2010 years ago to redeem us.
But whatever our religion, or lack of a religion, Americans have solid political grounds for swelling with optimism as we end 2010.
For me, the miracle of the American spirit began to reveal itself in the late spring of 2009. We were still in the midst of an economic meltdown. Our homes and 401(k)s were (and for many of us still are) shockingly reduced in value.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.