Make America Great, Again! …Again! Wait, what? Again???? I have been thinking…when? What time period, exactly, is Donald Trump referring to when he says he wants to make America great, again? He is obviously referring to some period of time in the past that he believes was the high water mark for America. My question is, when was that? And, logically to follow, what does his ideal America look like?
In researching this post, I ran across this National Review article by Charles C. W. Cooke, dated February 28, 2016, Trump Isn’t upset by the Obama Era, He’s always Been a Wannabe Mussolini, which I will make several references to. First:
To hear Trump tell it in 2016, he has been pushed over the edge by Barack Obama’s weakness on the world stage. America, he has suggested during this campaign, was once “great,” but, after George W. Bush and Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama got their hands on it, it was turned into a weak, directionless, laughing stock — a shadow of a country, with a hollowed-out economy and an underperforming military and culture that is shackled by a perpetually offended elite.
Trump, to his credit, has been sounding a similar message for some time now. In a previous writing, The Donald from 1988: Birth of a Far Left-Wing Ideology, I re-posted an appearance by Trump on one of Oprah Winfrey’s shows that aired in 1988. Trump, as well, took out a full-page ad in 1987, written about here , making the same claims and demands. Reviewing my prior post, viewing the short clip and reading the article referenced, including a full re-print of his ad, will provide the necessary background required on this matter. You can make up your own mind, but I strongly believe that Donald was, in the 1980’s, and is now, far more interested in The Donald, than he ever was, has been, or ever will be, with ordinary Americans trying to make their way in the world. And, more importantly, I am more convinced than ever, that the policies he plans on implementing as President, will not only NOT make America great again, but will lead to disastrous results.
The appearance on Oprah is telling in a couple respects. One, it provides a clear picture of his world view and potential prescriptions for change or improvement. That is a strong, top-down, authoritative government response is the go-to solution for any problem the country faces. As referenced below, and as an example, Trump showered praise on the Communist leadership of China during the Tiananmen Square protests. Clearly, he is a man who believes in authority and force over free will and choice. Second, when asked who he supported for President that election cycle, 1988, he offered no commitment. Instead, in a somewhat dismissive manner, Trump opted to “praise” Jesse Jackson, Michael Dukakis and George H. W. Bush. I think the reality was, and still is, that none of these candidates offered what he thought was required. If you could get inside his head he would have told you, in his estimation, they were all too weak. Don’t get me wrong, these guys are not my optimal choices either, but I believe consumer friendly, open competition, free enterprise and breaking down barriers would be far more constructive than erecting walls, high tariffs and making war with our trading partners through forceful centralized authoritarian leadership.
I believe the Cooke article, as they say, nails it. First, in reference to a published interview in Playboy magazine:
An interview that Trump gave to Playboy in 1990 has just come to my attention. If I’m the last to know about it, forgive me. Trump was asked about Gorbachev — who was nearing the end of his time in power. Trump said, “Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.” His interviewer asked, “You mean firm hand as in China?” Trump answered, “When the students poured into Tienanmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak … as being spit on by the rest of the world –”
The Soviet Union is crumbling, Chinese communists are on the ropes, the West is riding high, and the United States is being seen as “spit on”? That is simply not historically accurate and would be a grave departure from nearly any perspective at that time, not least of which would be from inside the Soviet Union or China.
Because we have gone through a long period of war and a terrible recession, this sort of talk appeals to many. And understandably. And yet it turns out that Trump isn’t talking this way because he has diagnosed a recent problem with American life; he is talking this way because this is how he talks. That Playboy interview, you will note, was published in 1990. Back when the country was riding high after the Reagan years. Back when the American military was capable of kicking Iraq out of Kuwait with no problems at all. Back when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse. This isn’t about Obama. This isn’t about the Republican Congress. This isn’t about the recession. It’s about Trump’s being little more than a third-rate, wannabe strongman — a man with one hammer and one nail. Trump doesn’t praise Vladimir Putin because he thinks America is going through a weak period! He praises Vladimir Putin because that’s what he thinks leadership is. The Chinese Communist Party? Weak. The USSR? Weak. George H. W. Bush? Weak. Trump? Il Duce!
So, while I started with the intent of pinpointing the mystical period to which Mr. Trump wants to return, I am left with the opinion that this period never did exist. We have never reached our full potential. He is attempting to tap in to baby boomers and, in particular, displaced formerly privileged union labor members. While he might consider the heyday of unions to be a time of strength, the American public has already largely rejected their strategy of bribing politicians and kicking the shit out of non-union “scabs”. America was not great then. New World settlers wiped native American Indians from their land, and almost from the face of the earth. That was not “great leadership”. Overturning freedoms and natural rights embedded in the US Constitution in favor of US mercantilism under the American System did not make America great. Chattel slavery was not great and ending it by way of the War to End Southern Independence (commonly known as the Civil War) was every bit the encroachment on human freedoms in the nineteenth century that communist aggression was in the twentieth century. Completing a downward spiral, the rise of entitlement slavery and fascism over these last one hundred years has completely dismantled any last illusion of liberty. I can only guess at what Donald Trump is thinking but, as I see it, returning to any of these time periods will, most assuredly, not make America great…again.