Wherein lies the power of Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again”?
According to the liberals, it’s simply code for make America racist / sexist / xenophobic again. A vicious backlash against the progress they’ve made. This allows liberals to go on a crusade against the straw man figure of the cartoonishly racist conservative, giving renewed meaning to the liberal project.
The leftist however lies the blame elsewhere. Conceding that yes, Trump’s core base of supporters is probably simply racist, what actually made him win the election is his economic populism. His promise to bring back well-paying manufacturing jobs to America. This is then what “Make America Great Again” means to the white working class: a return to an America where anybody could prosper on an honest day’s work. They blame the liberals for abandoning the working class with their too-academic discourse on identity.
What if both interpretations are wrong, or not right enough? What if the true core of it is purely ideological?
“Make America Great Again” implies that we want to be proud of America again, proud to be its citizens. Allow us to be patriotic again, allow us to find our own ethics, hopes and dreams reflected in the State. America had a strong sense of purpose when it was fighting the Nazis and the communists. It fought for the holy cause of Freedom around the world, and people could identify with that. But since the end of the Cold War, America has only been engaged in fighting losing wars against poor countries for oil. There is no more ideological enemy, so America lost its purpose, its meaning. The debate turned inwards, with multiple factions offering different explanations as to why America hasn’t turned into the Free Utopia that was promised, casting doubt on what we were actually fighting for to defend. America lost its ideological consistency.
So maybe after all, “Make America Great Again” actually means make America meaningful again, and with it, the struggle and suffering of its citizens.
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