Many people are extremely lazy when it comes to what they believe. Allow me to start with one example (we will enter a multi-sided discussion shortly, but this one I have heard the most since the new year started): “They believe in open borders.” How many times have you heard people stating this, usually dismissively, to completely discredit anything another person might have to say? And if not using this as an insult, it is discarded as ridiculous, a flat denial that anyone actually believes in such a thing.
The issue here, of course, surrounds Donald Trump’s yearned for ‘wall,’ an improbable concept that is the product of magical thinking. Anyone against the wall as a concept is immediately accused of being in favor of ‘open borders.’ What is an open border anyway? The idea seems to be that anyone, from anywhere, at any time and for any reason, is free to enter the nation. It does not matter if they are criminals, religious fanatics, terrorists, drug lords, corrupt politicians, child pornographers, anyone and everything bad; the very ideas send shudders through a nation’s consciousness. And of course the idea that anyone believes in such a thing is absurd. The relative scale of different concepts of what will make a border secure is tremendously diverse, and no doubt in numerous cases corrupted by special interest contracts dangling in the air. Cement and steel and other building material manufactures are no doubt all making bids for the government’s favor (every politically financed building project is going to go way over cost, and lead to outrageous profits for the winner). On other sides are electronics and security contractors, seeking self-promotion in order to further take over their industries, gaining additional power and influence in world affairs. There are computer companies, technology firms, weapons manufacturers, science conglomerates trying to develop new technology, politicians, partisans, and various loud voices of people who someday want to become President.
But the truth is, ‘open borders’ is a non-issue. There have been no open borders in the United States since long before that term existed, back when England, France, Spain and the Netherlands landed on the shores of ‘the new world,’ and claimed the land from its indigenous people, slaughtering them, and then setting up boundaries between New England, and New France, and the New Netherlands, and every Spanish province named for a saint, converting the native to their new religion in order to build an interior army. Occasionally these boundaries would be crossed, skirmishes and battles often resetting the borders, but ever since the United States reached the Pacific ocean, the borders have been closed. Perhaps immigration standards have changed throughout the years, more or less welcoming, but there has not been a single person of influence within the government since the days before George Washington who insisted that anyone and everyone should be allowed to make the United States their home.
The Democrats are far less snappy than the Republicans at branding their message (and way less skilled than Donald Trump himself). For the 2018 midterm elections they at first crashed and burned by trying a cheap knock off with weakly defined concept. In fact the full slogan was a lumpy mess that sounded terrible coming out of the mouths of politicians, clearly reading a speech someone else prepared for them. It was “A Better Deal: Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Wages.” Perhaps they could have gotten an inspirational speaker to make this work, at least once or twice, the pauses and escalating volume of the message, the boundless enthusiasm. Hope. But in itself this has no true meaning. It is a jumbled, failed improvement on FDR’s “New Deal,” (which was revolutionary at its time.) The saving graces the Republicans under Donald Trump seemed to have was the economy, and job growth numbers, which are also endlessly repeated until their value loses meaning. It does not matter that this appears now to be proving a temporary bump; the pride before the fall. This is what they were up against.
The Democrats sounded snotty–yeah, well . . . we’re gonna get you better jobs, not that shit in a coal mine, or a fireworks factory, or whatever Trump is offering. And we’ll train you, teach you the valuable skills that will make our agenda a success. And by training you, you’ll be able to get better jobs! Yes! That’s our message!
Democrats are generally terrible at repeating their slogans, those temporary catch phrases of criticism that the Republicans seem able to roll out with a smug, nasty ease–open borders, “they are against border security!” Build a wall. Do something. The feeble new Congressmen and women show up on television. They are nervous. They and their staff have been writing bullet point notes. These young politicians all have plans to become a star–the new face of the party. But without such experience in public exposure, or being professionally interviewed–even by the most sympathetic anchor–they turn to the party, kissing their ass (new face! New face of the party! Gimme an important committee assignment!) They are told: “Talk about Trump’s temper tantrums. Say you’re in favor of border security, and that walls don’t work. They’re medieval. Barbaric. Say that it isn’t the 14th centur,y and the barbarians are not at the gate of the most powerful nation the world has ever seen.”
And of course this falls flat, people only partly agreeing, or fervently opposed to what they consider nativity and pettiness, answering the President with a not particularly snide repetition of responses to the big man’s gutter cruelty.
The new one, the slogan I doubt the Democrats will wind up running with come 2020 (they are hoping for a great innovator to come along and give them the words to undermine the Republicans), is merely “For the People,” which feels tired. Old. Used up, and from a far more innocent era. In itself it is a fine slogan, but when contrasted with something like “Make America Great Again,” it sinks into the melting pot that once was America, and breaks apart into little added flavor.
Make America Great Again is a terrific slogan. It says everything the disaffected and angry hopelessly dream about in their fantasies of a place that never truly was. And what’s more, the actual accomplishments of this administration drastically contradict the promise, continually destroying long-standing principals that made the United States great in the first place.
After World War II, when the US marched to the front line of world power, our great influence, both economically and militarily, gained many allies around the world. They wanted to share the wealth, and bask in the shade of our protection. What made America great in those days was both our strength and our generosity. The fact that we had military bases and installations spread throughout the globe, despite the resentment many nations felt, is what made us so strong. We could keep an eye on things, and try to make sure every person (except whomever we defined as the bad guys) was safe.
Of course there were plenty of dirty deeds, those of unpatriotic fanatics, or the simply greedy, who plotted against nations in the hopes of installing their own puppet rulers who would give the US anything they wanted so long as they continued fighting their war(s).
But the other side of this, and it is the main contribution of America to the world, was our generosity in times of need. While Donald Trump and his followers complain about all the money the wealthiest nation in the history of the world spends without economic return, the fact remains that those contributions of cash and food and medicine and education have created good will and, well, made America Great. We would fund the United Nations military divisions, and help lead armies to restore peace to the world. To end genocide, to fight disease, and to make sure starving children could have a future.
The current idea of what will make America great is to cut all of this off and, I don’t know, bathe in a golden bathtub filled with cash? Mine mine mine! this new American slogan seems to be. You can’t have it! It’s miiiinnnnnnnnnneeee!
When people accuse the President of being childish they are dead on. But we are all childish: infantile. There is a paranoid self-absorption that gives rise to so many of the conspiracy theories that are crippling our world. Each of these, finally, seems like a justification for being selfish. “There is some shadow group trying to take over the world: a one world government. A cabal stripping us of liberty, of our right to lead a joyous life, and do whatever the fuck we want to.
These are all excuses, and they hide behind these rallying cries, those meaningless mouthfuls meant to inspire the people into a new world, a new vision, into a different ideology that will make the world a drastically different place. And this is not going to make America great again. It is going to change America forever, change it so profoundly that it will destroy the very reason that our founding fathers fought for independence. We will change the history books and transform world into warring pre-revolutionary empires, clinging to power as everything sinks into chaotic fear and a never-ending rage.