A Curmudgeon’s Guide to 2024 — Optimist Edition


A recent post dwelt on the dangers of extremists, not only in Israel and Palestine, but also here at home in these United States. Those dangers are real, as are plenty of others. Nevertheless, are there also reasons for being (cautiously) optimistic as we enter upon 2024? Perhaps sensing a bleak mood among their readers, some of the columnists/commentators I follow began the year by trying, or so it appeared, to talk us back from the edge.

One was our local political columnist at the Seattle TimesDanny Westneat. Danny is not afraid to tell it like it is on the vexing issues we are facing in Seattle. But, taking a broader view, nation and state-wide, he cites five reasons for hope in this Presidential Election year (unless Trump is your cup of tea). I’ll sum those up checklist style. You can read his longer musings, fleshing out his five points, here.

  1. Trump looks stronger than he actually is. He’s still got his base, but that’s never been a majority and isn’t likely to become one. (“I’d put it this way: Trump was new and novel in 2016. No longer.”)
  2. Election denialism is a proven loser.
  3. Rescinding rights (e.g. a woman’s right to choose) is another political loser.
  4. The Washington State GOP is showing signs of creeping away from Trump and his local syncophants.
  5. “Chicken or Fish.” You may be able to suss this one out on your own, but if not check the article link.

Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman answers the title question of his column, “Is American On The Mend?” with a resounding “yes!” Krugman puts his analysis in the context of the pandemic, arguing that America has done pretty darn well in coming back after all. He points to the economy, employment, and declining crime rates. Here’s Krugman:

“It was easy to imagine that the pandemic experience would leave long-term scars — that long Covid and early retirements would leave us with a permanently reduced labor force, that getting inflation down would require years of high unemployment, that the crime surge heralded a sustained breakdown in public order. But none of that happened.”

Krugman acknowledges that this positive assessment hasn’t (yet) filtered down to many of the people stung by rising costs. But he thinks that eventually the good news will break through — as Joe Biden devoutly hopes!

A third hopeful sign: While the Russian War in Ukraine is being described as a “stalemate,” and the GOP and its Putin faction are cutting aid to Ukraine, Ukraine has an advantage that they are increasingly leveraging. That is, countries that invade and occupy other countries tend to 1) lose in the long term as they tire and find occupation too costly, and 2) are vulnerable to guerrilla tactics, which Ukraine is utilizing more and more.

As we forget just how devastating and challenging Covid really was, we also forget how nearly everyone believed that Russia would crush Ukraine in an overnight cakewalk. However you assess things now, that dire prediction failed and does not seem to be on any conceivable horizon.

I also, to squeeze in more on the world-scene, remain hopeful that Netanyahu’s grip in Israel has been broken and will end when the immediate crisis/hostilities subside. This week the Israeli Supreme Court dealt a blow to his “judicial reform.” Israel needs new leadership and new thinking, but then who doesn’t?

While it might be nice to cite some closer-to-home and more personal reasons for cautious optimism, I’ll hold off on that for now. But I’ll close by noting a warning that an older friend gave me 30 years ago, when he was the age I am now. “At my age,” he confessed, “it becomes all-too-easy to join the ‘ain’t it awful club.’ That is, ‘No one is getting it right. Everything is in decline.’”

At this age/stage, it’s tempting. But it’s also a temptation to be resisted. And I do try, although one of you likes to describes my blogs, cleverly, as “wonderfully curmudgeonly.” And given an aging population, perhaps the percentage of grumps is elevated!

For sure, there’s plenty to worry about and to grieve. And we should never lose sight of any of it or of those who are suffering. But when was this not the case? You’ve got to carry on and to do so with gratitude for all the many — some we know, countless we do not — who are “fighting the good fight,” and bringing decency and hope to our bruised and broken world. Happy 2024!

Anthony B. Robinson
Anthony B. Robinsonhttps://www.anthonybrobinson.com/
Tony is a writer, teacher, speaker and ordained minister (United Church of Christ). He served as Senior Minister of Seattle’s Plymouth Congregational Church for fourteen years. His newest book is Useful Wisdom: Letters to Young (and not so young) Ministers. He divides his time between Seattle and a cabin in Wallowa County of northeastern Oregon. If you’d like to know more or receive his regular blogs in your email, go to his site listed above to sign-up.


  1. I am a certified “old curmudgeon”. But I, too, have hope for the future. Keep hope alive!
    But it isn’t the MAGA crowd that could win it for Trump.
    People will vote – not for Trump – but against “process,” which has been strangling action in so many ways.
    On large infrastructure projects, we “strangle ourselves.” We have been talking about building the I-5 bridge for more than 10 years and it still is mired in “public meetings” where people listen to and talk about the same issues ad infinitum. In the Puget Sound, the new Airport: The legislature even repealed the Commission law setting up a Committee to find a new Airport.
    Locally, people in need of housing or food are too often shuttled from one agency to another: Need food, see X; need shelter, see Y. see health, go to Z. And what appals me is the “non-profits” fight among themslves for more money and more power. Worse, its the people – on the ground – your neighbor – mired in the damnable process.
    If Trumps wins, please God not, it won’t be MAGA missionaires , it will be the anger of voters who are stuck in the damnable government “process”


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