Already Great: Why Donald Trump is Attempting to Sell a Version of America That Never Actually Existed
The Fourth of July is unlike any other holiday.
It is a holiday that is uniquely American. While various nations choose to honor their independence in varying ways, there is something special about how Americans seem to gather together in the sweltering summer sun and embrace our Founding Fathers' treasonous decision to embrace home rule rather than simply be another colony of the British Empire. It is a day where our nation's patriotism shines through via undulating American flags, star-spangled clothing and paraphernalia, and yes, even Americana-themed alcoholic beverage containers. It's a time where parades line our local streets, sporting events unfurl massive American flags, and fireworks light up our night skies, much to the delight of a generation of our nation's children. The day brings together friends and families through various backyard barbeques, block parties, and community events and serves as a time of much joy and merriment. In short, the Fourth of July serves as a quintessential reminder of what makes America so great.
Which is odd because we keep hearing that America isn't great at all.
At least, that's the message that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump seems intent on making us believe. With his patented "Make America Great Again" phrasing, Trump has struck a chord with a Republican base that believes that no matter how great things might seem on a day like the Fourth of July, there was always a time when America was greater and that time is what we, as a nation, need to return to. Oddly enough, Trump never specifies when America was actually great, just that at some point over the past 240 years, America was greater than it was in the year 2016. By using the terminology in this way, Trump can appeal to the low-information voting bloc of the Republican base that is simultaneously struggling to make ends meet while at the same time also voting against their best interests. It is this type of voter who has bought the myth that there once existed this magical, mythical America where everything was great for every person.
The problem is this version of America simply never existed. As President Obama has constantly stated during his presidency, it can and should be our goal to inch ever closer to our more perfect union. We are not there by any means, but as President Obama has constantly said, America gets it right eventually. It took us 140 years, but we finally granted women the right to vote. It took us 180 years, but we finally realized that separate but equal was inherently unequal. It took us nearly 240 years, but we finally realized that LGBT Americans were worthy of the same inherent rights that came with marriage as the rest of us. Of course, our nation is not without its faults. Slavery was a shameful chapter in our nation's history and the subsequent war fought in its defense still reverberates throughout our country today. We committed genocide against our indigenous people in an effort to expand our nation from sea to sea because we believed it was our God-given destiny to do so. We placed our own citizens in internment camps during World War II because we let our fears cloud our rational judgment. Yet as we eventually got through all these dark chapters, America was able to emerge stronger and more resolute in its continued march toward perfection.
And yet, Donald Trump refuses to admit that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. Because for him to do that would mean that we as a nation are exactly where we need to be: on the path for continued prosperity. If that was the case, then there would be no reason to continue the progress that our nation has made under President Obama and progress that will continue under President Hillary Clinton. That would mean that Donald Trump would have to acknowledge that President Obama's international diplomacy approach has worked. That would mean that Donald Trump would have to acknowledge President Obama's deft handling of our economic recovery. That would mean that Donald Trump would have to acknowledge President Obama's remarkable resiliency in passing the Affordable Care Act which has given 20 million Americans improved health insurance. That would mean that Donald Trump would have to acknowledge President Obama's unprecedented private sector job growth. And that would mean that Donald Trump would have to acknowledge that America is in a much better place economically, socially, and militarily than when Barack Obama first took office in January of 2009.
So Donald Trump came up with the phantom idea that America is no longer great. This notion is not backed by any empirical data; it exists solely in the minds of low-information Republican voters looking for someone to blame for their hardships. Because for this voting bloc in particular, times have been tough for a long time now. Thanks to Reaganomics, wages have been stagnant for nearly thirty years. Due to increased globalization, corporations have opted to shift jobs overseas and avoid paying taxes rather than keep jobs here at home. Student debt has crushed a generation of students so there now exists a large segment of the population with a college degree being forced to work minimum wage jobs. Green jobs and the new green economy has pushed coal country to the brink of extermination. And those with nothing more than a high school degree have become lost in our modern economy, falsely blaming immigrant workers for their lack of job prospects rather than a generation of trickle-down economic policies that were never designed to reach their pockets in the first place.
There's a reason that Donald Trump doesn't specify when America was great. Because for those outside the Republican base, there exists a very real America where life was simply not great for various segments of our population. Prior to 2015, life was not particularly great for a generation of LGBT Americans, who were denied rights and protections simply because of whom they loved. Prior to the 1970s, life was not particularly great for a generation of African-Americans, who were forced to attend inherently unequal public facilities, public schools, and institutions of higher learning. Prior to the 1960s, life was not particularly great for a generation of women, who were expected to sacrifice their own careers to be the subservient housewife to conform to the accepted gender norms of the time. These groups in particular have experienced firsthand our country's long march toward justice. Many fought and died to provide opportunities to future generations that they themselves were unable to receive. With so much progress made and still more to come, these groups will simply refuse to return to a time when they were treated as permanent second-class citizens.
And that is what the notion of making America great again is truly about: White supremacy. Donald Trump's campaign has been built on racism, sexism, and xenophobia. For him, America would be great when certain segments of our populations would know their role and place in society. We've seen him refuse to repudiate David Duke because he knows he needs Duke's supporters in the general election. We've seen how he thinks women should be seen and not heard. We've seen him promote an anti-immigration stance that would bar an entire world religion from entering our country. Donald Trump would thoroughly embrace an America dominated by a single religion, where there existed a strong sense of nationalism, and an ingrained distrust of foreigners. This is a version of America that never actually existed but is one that Donald Trump would love to come to fruition. Should that happen, America wouldn't excel, but instead would become a fascist state led by a mentally-unstable ruler.
And as history has shown us, there is nothing great about that at all.
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