Yoav Baram – Make America great again?
What hasn’t been said already on the 2016 presidential elections and their candidates, or as I like to call it “The reversed Sophie’s choice awards 2016”, where one is forced to choose between two almost equally loathed candidates to be stuck with in the foreseeable future, should any future exist that is.
From Hillary’s E-mail fiasco and the Democrat’s e-mail scandal as a whole, to Donald Trump – where all logic and thought are disposed of to give way to primal emotions and ignorance. It’s true that Hillary Clinton is far from being a saint, dubbed as the most corrupt Politician in Washington back in 2015 by The Foundation for Accountability1. Hillary and her husband Bill, amassed hundreds of millions of dollars by supporting and being funded by some very dubious organizations and companies.
But there’s no doubt that the real ‘star’ of these elections is Trump. His narcissistic and racist characteristics are easily combined into creating a spectacular display of humanities worst features. It’s a bit like the genetic makeup of an old Bulldog, you know they have some serious issues and you just can’t help but feel sorry for them.
One of the reasons many of Trumps most eager followers support him is his perception as a “straight talker”. Trump is seen as someone who says what’s on his mind regardless of the content and regardless of the consequences.
Trumps supporters seem to care very little that the vast majority of literally anything that comes out of his mouth is pure and utter bullshit. A recent fact check by a website who went over 182 statements of Trump before and during his campaign found that only 45 out of 182 facts were true or mostly true, with the rest (137 facts or 75%) found to be either ridiculously false or plain outright lies2.
Of course there are many other reasons why Trump supporters are going to vote for him, these extend from “sticking it to the old establishment” through “Hillary’s is the most corrupted politician ever” all the way to “Like the joker from The Dark Knight, I just want to see the world burn”.3
His campaign even came up with a very simple and catchy slogan: “Make America great again”. But what exactly does Trump mean by ‘Make America great again?’ Or to put it more accurately – when was America ‘greater’? In which part of its history did America fare better than its current status today? We can attempt to answer this by looking America’s past.
With the great depression during the 1930’s which was not a great period in American history, unemployment was sky rocketing (as high as a whopping 25%), tens of millions lived on the streets.
On the other end of the spectrum – it is quite widely accepted today that America was doing ‘great’ during and post World War 2 where its economy boomed and much of its reputation as a world superpower was forged.
It is important to note that these two events in America’s history were worldwide events, both the great depression and world war 2 affected billions of people around the world, and consequently also molded America into the country it is today. But they didn’t really have anything to do with presidential policy per se. It is the attack on Pearl Harbor that made the US enter WW2 and it was the crash of the stock market that ushered in the great depression.
The second approach in answering such a question is who’s the questions subject? In a poll published in The New York Times back in April4, it turns out that Trump supporters couldn’t agree on a definitive answer. That in itself is not that surprising. People have many opinions and views of their own, and these could differ substantially, as shown by The Atlantic who analyzed the New York Times data5 . What is surprising is where the majority of the answers fall. Most Republicans answering the poll felt that America was at its greatest in the 50’s under Truman and Eisenhower and in the 80’s under Ronald Reagan.
Let’s Begin with the 1950’s. The Dow finally got back to its pre-depression level and unemployment was relatively low. But there were also some disturbing situations: The Korean war which was a prelude to Vietnam.
In 1950’s America, racial segregation was still at its height. In some southern states blacks were still confined to the back of the bus and segregated public facilities. Blacks were also deprived of any political power until the Voting Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965.
In addition to segregation and racism which flourished during the 50’s, American’s had two other concerns: Communism and the nuclear threat.
One can argue that the 80’s were an era of much less turmoil and fear compared to the 50’s. The only war in the 80’s was Reagan’s so-called war on drugs. Billions of dollars were spent on a lost cause and on many occasions achieved the opposite effect – as did Prohibition in the 20’s. But Reagan believed that drug money was funding Communism.
It is my belief that Reagan wasn’t exactly the best US president. His support of South Africa’s Apartheid regime (he actually vetoed the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986), his complete overlooking and ignoring of AIDS for years, his support for the ‘Star wars’ defense plan which cost hundreds of billions of dollars while never even being tested. His economic policies put millions of Americans out of work. When he took office in 1981 unemployment was at 7.5% and dropping, in a few years time it reached 10.8%. His administration trained, armed and supported the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan who ultimately fought against the Russians. This in turn contributed to the rise of Al Qaeda and other rebel groups.
So what did American’s of the 80’s believe about themselves.
Unemployment was rising and inflation reached 4.4%. But all in all the average American was doing quite well economically in terms of GDP6 which was on a constant rise throughout the 80’s. So in the 80’s Americans believed they were doing well economically.
That being said we can now return to Trump’s ridiculous and hollow slogan. His supporters can’t even agree among themselves on when America was great. In fact many of Trump’s supporters picked decades where America was either involved in a major war or under some form of recession as a time of greatness.
Much of Trumps popularity derives from his followers longing for a revolutionary change with the breaking down of a system which they feel has betrayed them. They ‘feel’ as if immigrants and free trade poses a threat to their job security even though unemployment just recently returned to its pre 2008 recession rate7. Crime has actually fallen since the 1990’s8. Trump supporters feel as if America is morally and spiritually bankrupt and that the government doesn’t care about their needs nor represent their interests.
In this respect Trump is the perfect candidate as he puts aside political correctness. His supporters want to believe in him so bad that they don’t even care that what he says turns out to be straight out lies, half-truths and racial slurs. This all coming from a person who acts like a 12 year old bully and doesn’t even conceal the fact that the only thing he ever truly cares about is himself.
With this election unfolding in the U.S. it often seems as if America is more divided than ever on which path it should choose. This is quite similar to Bibi Netanyahu’s present government in Israel. Trump is a master of inducing fear and separation while attempting to use the media in order to achieve his own private agenda of further glorifying his name and solidifying his power.