Amidst all the dreary speculation of our Republic being in imminent danger of collapse, there is still a flicker of optimism coming from some unusual quarters.

One of those places is the University of California, Berkeley—hardly a bastion of conservatism—where Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary for in the Clinton Administration, holds forth as a distinguished professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy.

Reich, a fiery liberal who makes no bones about his contempt for the current Administration’s policies or its leader is not known to be bashful.

His fighting spirit was again on full display in a speech before a sold-out crowd at the California Commonwealth Club just days ago, where the fiery defender of liberal values and author of fifteen books, admonished an attentive non-partisan audience that respect must replace anger in Washington—and soon.

Reich, who is barely five feet tall, opens his talk with a punchline that gets everyone on his side almost immediately: “Trump has worn me down,” he grumbles self-mockingly, eliciting much laughter from an attentive crowd.

The words give little hint that he remains generally positive about America. But you are kept in suspense for a long time before he gets there.

Harking back to his days as a callow intern in the office of U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy in the late ‘60s Reich has memories of what today would be considered shockingly  civil conversations between Republicans and Democrats who disagreed then as now on just about everything.

He almost waxes sentimental about long-serving Democratic House Speaker and avuncular Boston pol, Tip” O’Neill, whose harmonious relationship with President Ronald Reagan is legendary in an era when it was still possible to move legislation through Congress without enduring trench warfare.

However, Reich is optimistic despite all the current disarray that we can and will return, as the nation always has, to where the rule of law prevails.

Though unsparing in his contempt for the current administration and the president, he declared that “Trump is not the cause but the consequence of the breakdown in society…it was the logical outcome of what has unfolded for many years.”

Reich views our present condition with its racist undertones, nationalistic fervor and trampling on basic rights as maladies that have been festering just beneath the surface since the early days of the Republic.

In his latest book entitled, “The Common Good” Reich writes, “Trump epitomizes what has gone wrong….but his election was itself propelled by widespread anxieties, and distrust toward our political and economic system.”

But Reich also gives Trump a bit of backhanded praise writing a bit sardonically, “Some presidents, like Ronald Reagan, got us talking about the size and role of government. Trump has got us talking about democracy versus tyranny.”

Reich makes clear, however, that both Democrats and Republicans must share the blame for the culture of corruption that has evolved—and he takes laser aim at what he sees as the biggest problem of all saying, “Take big money out of politics. That’s the first rule of law. And that applies to both parties!

This gets a thunderous ovation!

The remedy and what has sustained us, Reich says, has always been what his renowned economics teacher at Harvard, John Kenneth Galbraith, spoke of as the “countervailing centers of power,” that the founders had the wisdom to create.

Throughout our history, Reich argues, leaders have fortunately emerged who understood the importance of preventing a concentration of power in a single individual or branch of government and accepted restraints on their own authority even if they protested.

The references to the nation’s current leader are inescapable and he made it clear that the party in power would have to take the first responsibility for reining Trump in.

Warming to his subject, Reich says, “The Democrats cannot do it alone.”

But he also paid tribute to both Republicans and Democrats who wielded their power for “the common good”, which he defines as the shared values we all have.  Among them he cites Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt all “reformers” who changed the nation’s political and moral trajectory dramatically.

Recalling TR, the great GOP Progressive at the turn of the last century who waged war boldly against the trusts, Reich says “we are ripe for another era of reform.”

The first Roosevelt who Reich labels “the accidental president” launched the rise of labor, full women’s suffrage (which California adopted in 1911) and the growth of a middle class during was named the first “Golden Age.”

His cousin, FDR is credited with ushering in a second Golden Age (1946-1976) marked by an across the board rise in real wages after decades of stagnation, expansion of civil rights, and the opening of greater economic opportunities in the workplace which reached a high point in 1970 during the soon to be doomed Nixon Administration.

Reich concluded by invoking some advice he likes to give his Berkeley students, declaring, “The best way of learning is to talk to people who disagree with you.”

So what does he think may be the most promising avenue to restoring civility?

His answer is the youth generation—the so-called millennials aged 18-35 expected to swell to 73 million by 2019, eclipsing the next largest population—the Boomers—and destined to become the biggest voting bloc in the electorate—that is if they vote.

In the 2016 presidential election only 47% of those aged 18-29 did so—13 million favoring Clinton and 9 million for Trump.

If the older adults cannot restore order then the job may have to fall on the nation’s youth, says Reich, which gives him optimism because he sees them as “fully committed, engaged, idealistic and more determined than ever to save our democracy.”

The great battle ahead Reich predicts, will be “authoritarian rule vs. progressive populism” combining both Right and Left to create a new center.

If his judgment about our youth is accurate and they remain motivated they could play a significant role in determining the outcome.

He offered no clues as to who he thinks might try to grab the trophy in 2020 but predicts that both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will be candidates on the Democratic side.