Alright he has answered the question. So has his press secretary Sean Spicer. It is the slogan on the baseball cap: To “make America great again.”
But for the life of me I can’t understand how he is going to achieve that aim, especially as America already is the world’s only super power, produces the lion’s share of the world’s wealth and has one of the world’s highest standards of living. How great can a country be?
Setting all that aside, how does the slogan translate into policy? What is required in the Trump playbook to re-achieve American greatness?
After a roller coaster three weeks we are getting an idea. Trump’s great America is a non-renewable energy-powered industrial monolith churning out yesteryear’s manufactured products behind a metaphorical and physical wall of bricks, steel and tariffs.
Trump’s great America is paranoid and xenophobic. It bans highly skilled, entrepreneurial and hard-working Muslim immigrants for fear that the dominant Judaeo-Christian culture cannot compete against Islamic fifth columnists who worm their way into the “dishonest” media and government. Or worse still sneak into the country and attempt to violently overthrow the system.
Trump’s great America’s rules for the majority (of the electoral college that is) at the expense of the minority. It disheartens, demoralises and undermines the judiciary whose vital role is to ensure that constitutional protection is provided to everyone rather than to just those who voted for the winning candidate.
Trump’s great America does NOT lift its lamp beside the golden door to receive “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Trump’s America is one where its leader does not have to bother with accepted norms of civilised behaviour, the annoyance of paying taxes and can use his office to urge citizens to buy his children’s products.
In short, President Donald J. Trump is an historic break with America’s past and its proud claim to the moral high ground.
But such an obvious descent has consequences, some of them the reverse of the intended effect. Conservatives support his travel ban because they want to sleep safely in their beds. The fact is that there are very few Americans killed by Islamic terrorists—less than one third of one percent of all the homicides in the United States.
There are several reasons for this. One is that most Muslim immigrants are hard-working entrepreneurial types who have been thoroughly vetted for several years by highly qualified government investigators. For some time it has been extremely difficult for Arab Muslims to enter the US. The ones who make it do not want to queer the pitch.
Next, as an astonishing 1,000-plus American diplomats, have made clear in their dissent letter , the travel ban will only increase the likelihood of violence because it will act as a recruiting sergeant among American Muslims who find themselves marginalised and attacked by the leader of the country in which they have chosen to live. It will also damage political and security cooperation with moderate Muslim countries.
Furthermore, one of the main reasons that there have been relatively few Jihadist attacks on US soil is the intelligence agencies success in spotting and stopping terrorists on Arab soil. This requires an extensive network of local agents who are promised a safe American haven for themselves and their families. Well, that’s gone out the window and America’s spies are going nuts.
But Trump is the President. Flesh is appearing on the bones of the slogan. He wants to make America great again and paranoid, tariff-protected, wall-protected, protected from the “dishonest” media”, protected from “so-called” judges, smoke-belching, and a white Judeaeo-Christian subsidiary of Trump Inc. I think we will need a bigger baseball cap.
Tom Arms is editor of the foreign policy newsletter and podcast lookaheadnews.com.