Political clichés and belief

March 11, 2017

“Make America great again!”

A good piece of rhetoric, don’t you think? But meaning what, exactly…?

Obviously, the statement presupposes a diminution of America – specifically in its quality of ‘greatness’. But what is the precise nature of this quality? Do we, for example, believe America has been made smaller, reduced in dimension by circumstances, international or otherwise?

A simple glance at an atlas shows this not to be the case. The USA still comprises fifty states. Russia has not taken back control of Alaska…yet. In addition, the US still holds sovereignty over fourteen other territories, including Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. So no changes there, that I can see.

So where does this diminution lay?

The US has military personnel deployed in over 150 countries around the world, more than any other country in our humble biosphere – which includes both Russia and China. So no reduction there, either.

Perhaps, then, we should look to something more difficult to quantify or define: the perception of the US nation by at least some of its citizens.

Ronald Reagen, who was so good in the movie “Tennessee’s Partner” (he played Cowpoke alongside John Payne’s Tennessee), and as the bad guy Browning in ‘The Killers”, was the first US President to use the slogan ‘Make America great again’. He used it in his 1980 Presidential campaign. He, it appears, had in mind the worsening US economy (inflation skyhigh and growth low).

Bill Clinton used the same term in his 1992 Presidential campaign, so it obviously has a certain attraction to politicians and the electorate.

Perhaps then the term is about nostalgia? A craving for the past? In fact Donald Trump not only used the phrase in his chaotic Presidential campaign, he also took out copyright on it! Made it his trademark, no less! Millions of well fed Americans rallied to the cry, convinced, obviously, that the US had ‘lost’ something.

But, of course, it is this vagueness that makes the phrase so successful. It can mean so many different things to so many different people.

In an interview with the New York Times, Donald Trump stated the phrase “Make America Great Again” was a

“ look back…(to) a period of time when we were developing at the turn of the century which was a pretty wild time for this country and pretty wild in terms of building that machine, that machine was really based on entrepreneurship.”

Trump also pointed to the “late 1940s and 1950s,” as a time when, he said, “we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, we were pretty much doing what we had to do…”

So, the phrase harks back to the 50s: a time of high employment and low inflation in the States. The American dream was then still a possibility…

But wait. Hold up there. Trump and his people aren’t after a return to the 1950s. The economic policies of the time meant that top wage earners paid 70% tax. The labour unions were strong and it was this strength that in part fuelled an almost unprecedented period of growth and prosperity in the middleclasses. And the level of employment was so high, simply because the majority of women didn’t work.

I can’t see Donald Trump & Co wishing to pay vastly increased levels of tax, can you? Nor can I see him setting up a Marxist Socialist planned society for the benefit of all!

So what then does it mean? Make America Great Again? Simple answer: NOTHING! Or put another way, it means whatever you want it to mean! It is just empty rhetoric.

In fact President Trump has already ‘trademarked’ his slogan for the next Presidential campaign. It is ‘Keep America Great!’ And the winner of the next Presidential campaign will be, I’m certain, the candidate with the best slogan. Genuine policies seem hardly to matter to anyone anymore…It’s all about pretend!

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