I've said recently that I wish I could be a little more idealistic, the way I was when I was in college. I think optimistic might be more appropriate, but I see idealism as the ability to not be constrained by what I believe is possible. Our experience certainly colors that ability, but I try really hard to not let it get in the way.
What I find scary is the number of people who pair idealism with fundamentalism. When I say fundamentalism, I'm not referring to it in the religious sense (though there's a lot of that too), but rather the notion that you can take a basic ideal and make it inflexible and believe that it's a universal truth.
When idealism and fundamentalism meet, you get very loud voices that want to simplify everything and offer solutions to very complex problems. In light of the current market crash, we're seeing a lot of that now. You see it for social issues too, like abortion. If we subscribe to this ideal, we get that result.
But it's never that simple. A lot of politicians insist that it is, people latch on to those rigid ideals, and take them at face value. The result is the nasty polarizing we've been dealing with now for years. That's a scary world to live in, because fundamentalism at some point becomes radicalism. People fly planes into buildings and blow up abortion clinics for those rigid beliefs.
A week from now, another election will be in the books (hopefully), and with any luck we'll be able to move on. I can't remember any presidential election, and I've voted in five of them, that was so sound bite driven. And the rise of the Internet shows how blissfully stupid people will be to accept the bites at face value without any context.