Donald Trump and I were born around the same time. We are both “baby-boomers.” We’ve got a lot to look back and reflect on. So it is, that when he asks us to “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” I find myself wondering, “just what period in our country’s history is he referring to?” As children I am sure we both devotedly watched “The Lone Ranger. ” As the show opened, the mellifluous voice of Fred Foy invited us to “return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.” Perhaps that was his big influence. American greatness was embodied in a TV cowboy hero. But as young as we were at the time, there was no yesteryear for us to remember and relive.
More likely, Trump remembers a time when a President could openly have an extra-marital dalliance with the most recognized movie star of the day under the eyes of a compliant press. Or a time when you could board an airplane with only a ticket for a seat and light up a cigarette. Back then flight attendants were attractive stewardesses… no men, no aging moms, no fat or short people, just pretty women dressed in bright colors of the latest styles of the type you might see on Jackie Kennedy. But pondering more substantive matters, we would have to go back to before he was born if winning a war figured into his scheme for greatness. The last war we won ended in 1945.
All those dates are too hard to align. No, a better way to determine his concept of American greatness is to examine the policy arc of his administration.
In choosing his cabinet he has placed individuals in each position that are sworn to the devolution, the dismemberment of the very entity they control. Making America Great Again means to eliminate consumer protections, roll back environmental protections, endanger protected species, privatize our national parks for exploration, facilitate climate warming, allow more pollution, destroy NATO while forming alliances with our enemies, reduce taxes for the wealthy, run the highest deficit in the history of our nation, create an environment where racism and white nationalism can prosper, savage election polling, frustrate gun-rights legislation, foster friendly friendships with murdering dictators, trust mid-east peace to his real-estate son-in-law, support the suppression of voting rights, women’s rights and gay rights, and confirm a misogynist to the supreme court. His failed solutions to immigration have been to ban brown skinned peoples, first the Muslims and then Latinos seeking asylum. Now that we have successfully filled our privatized jails with Black Americans, Trump’s answer to greatness is to send Latinos to privatized holding pens to await deportation while removing their children thousands of miles away, unaccounted for. Punitive greatness. His greatness does not recognize “advise and consent” just “consent.” Reading is just so blasé in the age of television, so are briefings. He deplores intelligence briefings and includes his own intelligence agencies and advisors in his list of enemies—the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, Homeland Security, the DNI. Airforce One is just his private vacation jet for golf outings, weekends at Mar-a-Lago, or campaigning and fundraising under the guise of official business.
Perhaps he just longs for the days of our first TV President, that broad-smiled cowboy of economic destruction, Ronald Reagan. Back in those days Reagan had his wingman, Oliver North to cover his tracks in Iran-Contra. While North, through the school of the Americas, was training the goon squads of Central American countries in the delicate art of eliminating dissident voices—priests, nuns, journalists, schoolteachers and union leaders—all in the interest of aligning the government of those nations with American corporate interests, he was running cocaine to Los Angeles to fund his illegal operations. Midnight raids with a machete and bodies strewn on the side of rural farm roads were as much an answer to the problems of dissidents then as methods employed today by the strongmen so admires, Putin, Kim Jong Un Duterte and Mohammed Bin Salman. Previous administrations had their corrupt, strongmen allies too… The Shah of Iran, Noriega, Sadam Hussein to name a few. Perhaps this is the greatness he admires.
For anyone over fifty, it is a near certainty that you have more days behind you than ahead. Most of us will not live to be one-hundred. Unlike their children, most of these Americans represent the moderate and conservative points of political view. They are the easy marks for a plea for past greatness. It’s easier to look backwards than forward. Backwards is a certainty and memory colors our self-awareness with a nostalgic yearning to be who we once were… to experience that first love, that first kiss, those early accomplishments, our dearest friends and family, as we grew together and apart. What lies ahead is uncertainty… what will become of me? All that is certain is loss, decline, pain and death. We look for something to ameliorate that certainty, perhaps if we could only be great again.
And so it is that I am wary of any candidate that asks us to look backwards. Our nation is about to cross a very busy intersection and we are its pedestrians. Which way do you look when crossing an intersection? I’m sure it’s not behind you. That is why I reject Biden’s attempt to retread the Obama administration through his campaign, asking us to look backwards to a better time, a time before Trump. If Biden cannot stand on his own and must rely on his association with Obama, then he has admitted to being his surrogate or proxy. He is asking us to look backward to someone other than himself. I like Joe, just not for President. He’s too little, too late. He’s not Obama.