As President Trump’s first year in office winds down, the world is gaining a much clearer understanding of what the president means when he proclaims that he intends to “Make America Great Again.” And if recent polls of the president’s popularity are correct, it appears that most Americans (and millions of people throughout the world) do not share the president’s vision of a “great” America.
Based on Trump’s policies and pronouncements (including tweets), his definition of a “great” nation appears to be one with the most powerful military, the strongest economy, the tallest buildings, grandest airports, and the largest number of “wins” in negotiations and confrontations with other nations. Absent from this vision are many of the qualities and values that have embodied the “good” America that people throughout the world have admired and revered for more than 200 years.
A majority of Americans may actually agree with the president that we need a strong military, a strong economy, and a modern infrastructure. These are important — maybe even essential — elements for a “great” nation in the 21st century. But can a nation be truly “great” if it is not also “good”? And can a nation be “good” if its leaders and their policies encourage its citizens to become increasingly divided, partisan, angry, selfish, hypocritical and questioning of basic democratic institutions, and even of reality?
In President Trump’s first-year efforts to Make America Great Again, he has said and done things that have challenged many of the basic values and institutions that made America one of the most admired nations in the world. His constant tweets and speeches about “fake news” have significantly damaged the public’s trust in the media and respect for the First Amendment, while other tweets have given comfort to racists and bigots, encouraged hostility against Muslims, belittled our judicial system, and even encouraged Americans to overlook substantial accusations of moral turpitude (such as sexual assaults on children), all in the name of “Making America Great Again.” Additionally, his seeming admiration for the leaders of dictatorial regimes such as Russia, the Philippines, and China, raises serious questions about his commitment to democracy as an essential element of a great nation.
While the president brags about the GOP tax-cut legislation and the record-breaking stock market levels, he seems not to care that actions he alone has taken may lead to the deportation of 800,000 young immigrants known as the “Dreamers” and leave millions of Americans with no health insurance coverage. Apparently, these are necessary collateral damage of his campaign to make America great.
President Trump’s concept of a great country seems remarkably similar to his concept of a great real estate property – the biggest, tallest, glitziest and, of course, the one on which he can make the best “deal.” But just as Trump’s business leadership led to several financial bankruptcies, Americans need to be on guard that the president doesn’t lead our nation down the path to moral and ethical bankruptcy.
Whatever progress President Trump claims he has made this year to “Make America Great Again,” it is clear that even people in other nations are skeptical. Each year an organization called the Reputation Institute, tracks the international reputations of the nations of the world among the residents of G8 nations. This year, the U.S. dropped 10 spots to 38th place, with the managing partner of the Institute claiming, “The downturn can be attributed to the ascent of U.S. president Donald Trump.” And since his election, Trump has succeeded in alienating many of our nation’s strongest allies by dropping out of international agreements such as the Paris Climate Accord and by making careless statements and tweets that could actually endanger world peace. So outrageous have been his tweets about Great Britain that the president recently had to postpone a visit to our strongest ally in the world.
At virtually every opportunity, President Trump claims that he is Making America Great Again. This writer, along with growing numbers of Americans and people throughout the world would much prefer that we “Make America Good Again.”
Lee Raudonis is a former communications director and executive director of the Georgia Republican Party. He also worked for several Republican elected officials in Georgia and the U.S. Congress.