The phrase “Make America Great Again” has been used by President Donald Trump since he hit the campaign trail in 2016. However, this phrase is not new to American politics. A similar slogan was also used during Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign, and Bill Clinton’s in 1991.
During Trump’s campaign, he used the slogan as a means of hope and promise for his supporters. Those of us who do not support him see this slogan as a phrase that erases marginalized groups, and upholds a white-washed version of what America could be. When Trump says that he wants to “make America great again,” what exactly does he mean by including the word “again?”
By including this word, he’s insinuating that America needs to return to the old ways of social progression. Those ways have a history of marginalized groups being discriminated against. Trump has spoken of the many ways that he wants to “make America great again,” and all of them consistently put forth the narrative that marginalized people should continue to not be prioritized.
Meghan McCain, the daughter of Senator John McCain, recently expressed tearfully during her father’s eulogy that, “The America of John McCain has no need to make America great again.” This directly contrasts with Trumps ideology, considering he thinks that America needs to be reconstructed because it has “strayed away” from outdated ideals. We need to keep in mind that Senator John McCain’s beliefs and ideologies also did not include marginalized people. This description of a great America is one that has only benefited those in power.
I believe that Trump wants America to return to the normative behavior that was once deemed as respectable by other countries. Yet, to return to this behavior would mean acting as a bully towards other countries, whether they align with our beliefs or not. What good is there in making other countries fear us? Why should America continue to seek respectability from other countries when it does not give it back in return?
The concept of MAGA ignores the issues that marginalized people are faced with daily. It insinuates that for America to be “great again” it has to return to the racist, sexist and discriminatory ways that got us here in the first place. This is not the path that America needs to take in the future. It is a path that we should not have chosen in the first place.
When Trump says America was great, is he talking about the America with segregated restaurants, hotels and buses? Maybe he’s referring to a time where people with disabilities were purposely excluded from spaces physically and socially. History remembers an America where human beings were not allowed to vote or marry or own land. This kind of discrimination persists in the lives of minorities even today, in regards to racism, sexism and other unjust practices.
Was America ever great? In my opinion, it was to the Native Americans that lived on this land before white European settlers colonized it. When America was truly great was when Native folks were here. Natives inhabited what is now America for hundreds of thousands of years, developing customs and languages . Due to white European settlers colonizing their land, Native folks have had to fight for the rights of their people, and to hold on to their centuries-old traditions. Their way of life was, and still continues to be, threatened to a point where they were forced to give up the land that always belonged to them.
Minorities- the people that suffered while the country shouted “All men are created equal”- are what make America great.
Do I think that it’s possible to make America Great? Yes, but it cannot be done through the lens and authority of elite white supremacists who only seek to marginalize the people who made this country what it is today. In no way, shape, or form would my idea of “making America great again” look like Donald Trump’s.