We have all heard Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
What does it mean? Not much, according to a “Straits Times” (Singapore) article by Jeremy Au Yong, entitled, “What Does ‘Make America Great Again’ Mean?” The slogan is vague enough to appeal to people differently, depending on the person and their age. It relates to nostalgia for a better time.
For some, the 1950s was the golden era when America dominated the world and productivity for American workers was high. For others it was the decade of the 1980s, according to a poll called Morning Consult, which gave 20 percent for each decade.
The year 2000 was found to be the popular year, but the decade of the early 2000s only garnered 5 percent of the poll results. Apparently, the correlation depends on when one turned 20 years of age.
Ronald Reagan was the first to use the phrase that Donald Trump has appropriated, although Reagan’s term of office did not create a very high level of nostalgia for Trump. He has been vague about the period he is referring to, but some of his comments seem to refer to the period of the early 20th century as the period of American greatness.
I was trying to remember Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan. I drew a blank. I had to look it up. Hillary Clinton’s slogan is “Stronger Together” and Bernie Sanders’ is more memorable with “A Future To Believe In.”
Perhaps Trump’s slogan has resonated and stuck because many Americans feel America is no longer great. We are the world’s superpower in decline and are being taken advantage of by others in the eyes of many. Those perceptions need to be examined to see if they are true.
We can look at the rise of China to see that they are a larger economy than we are, but based upon GDP per capita, China’s is $7,590, while the U.S. per capita is eight times greater.
We can examine military might compared to China and see that we spend more than the seven next great powers combined. China is at least 20 years behind us militarily.
If we look at the level of technological development, we find, according to Yong’s article, we are far ahead of China. China’s closed society and lack of allowance for creativity will likely keep it from catching up to us for a very long time, if ever.
According to a May Pew survey, 54 percent of Americans believe the U.S. is the leading economic power while 72 percent of Americans feel we are the leading military power. Based on these statistics, most Americans do not believe we are in decline.
Donald Trump talks a great deal about us winning again, and coming out on top when dealing with other nations. But on an individual level such attitudes and actions do not bring peace in our relations with others. How would taking this approach internationally be any different?
Hopefully, if Trump wins the presidency, his tone will change when he has to deal with other nations. Such an approach will not help create alliances or bring us peace, if we are only seeking to gain advantage over others and be on top. A bully does not make many friends.
We are living in a complicated world where victory against terrorism, for example, will neither be quick nor easy. We can defeat ISIS by taking their territory (we have already taken back more than 40 percent of it.), but that does not mean the end to ISIS.
If fact, the more we defeat ISIS on the ground, the more it strikes against soft targets, killing hundreds and even thousands of innocent victims in senseless massacres across the world.
We are winning less in the world, because our enemies have greater means to inflict damage than before, through terrorism, and use of social media and the Internet.
Perhaps, before we blindly follow such a vague, though memorable slogan, we need to stop and think what it really means in the real world. It is not useful to think of it as nostalgia for a world that never existed, except in our dreams.