Make America great again.
I had a problem with this political slogan from the beginning.
The assumption, of course, is that America was at one time great. In the minds of its citizens perhaps, but, in reality, when America dominated the world it was a bully with extraordinary economic power thanks mainly to the industrial makeover after WW II.
The problem, even if you concede that industrial and economic might is indeed a great thing, is that in order to make America great again, the orange man has turned to an isolation approach based on an ‘us and them’ kindergarten psychology where the ‘them’ are bad and ‘we’ are good. It is innately racist.
Chasing the slogan has worked, at least for his support base. He spent government money, no matter that there was none to spend and a $26 trillion debt on the books, and for a time pumped a certain amount of confidence in the economy. Things were indeed moving towards his definition of great.
Only now a threat has arrived that he can’t control, a pandemic, where being economically great simply doesn’t work to protect anyone against its consequences — just ask Boris how he felt in the ICU.
It might be smart to reconsider the concept of being great under such circumstances. The global world of lockdown has given us any number of creative definitions from the humorous to the smart.
The US is in an election year and obviously Trump is moving to make sure he is reelected. I say obviously because we didn’t think he would make it to the office or survive five minutes, so we perhaps shouldn’t assume he would automatically want another four years of being the biggest cheese… only joking. Of course, he wants it.
Re-election in a pandemic would be a challenge for anyone. The US economy has tanked, unemployment is through the roof, and many people have no idea when or if there will be a return to normal.
In the meantime, under the encouragement of the president, people are taking their guns and demanding that state governors lift the lockdown measures. At over a million cases and counting that seems reckless at best.
Professor Robert Reich, a former US Secretary of Labour and Professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley has recently come up with what he believes is Donald Trump’s four-step plan for reelection
Step 1 is to remove income support so people have no choice but to return to work
Step 2 hide the facts
Step 3 pretend it’s about freedom
Step 4 shield business’ against lawsuits for spreading the infection
This, of course, is a Democrat talking about a Republican president but the points he makes in those four steps are troubling.
Removing income support at a time when people are worried about their employment status is cruel in the extreme.
We know that the Trump administration hides the facts as a matter of course and when facts appear that they don’t like, they play them as fake news.
The problem with COVID is that the facts deal with death.
When Trump first put his hand up to become president, pretty much everyone laughed. I for one failed to realise how far the denial of facts and the lambasting of the media as fake could take you all the way to the White House. No surprise then that this tactic of hiding the facts will apply in the case of the virus.
Pretending it’s about freedom so that gun-toting individuals can rock up at government offices to demand their rights and for that behaviour to be seen as ok is crazy. As Robert Reich points out, making this about freedom is absurd. Freedom is meaningless for people who have no choice but to accept a job that risks that health.
And the fourth step to get business back on track and the economy in the direction that will get me reelected, is to protect them from lawsuits that might occur if they remain open and their staff contract the virus
I don’t know if it’s possible to imagine how any of this is great.
There have been millions of words written about the craziness of this situation that the US finds itself in with leadership that really has no concern for the people or just a small proportion of those people who are there to support the ego of an individual.
I suspect that we’re actually witnessing the ongoing decline of a once-powerful nation. The British Empire has gone and the American one looks like it will follow suit. This will take time because you can’t just turn off the influence of 350 million people and the world’s largest economy but the passions and the motivations that got them into that position of greatness have been corrupted beyond recognition.
America will not be great again at least not on this path.
Now there is another disruption. The next chapter in a terrible saga of racism that has blighted the so-called greatness for the countries entire history. There is hope this time around, there always is when the righteousness in people is roused by tragedy.
Perhaps this offers an alternative path.