Madeleine LaPierre: Trump can’t make America great again if it was never great in the first place

Monday, June 1, 2020 - 3:21pm

.

When President Donald Trump announced that he was running for president, he did so with the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” He made grandiose promises to his voters, vowing to provide Americans with sweeping tax cuts, build a border wall between the United States and Mexico and bring American jobs back home. While he has partially succeeded in a few of these efforts, his most prominent effect on the very soul of America has been detrimental, as his vision of making America great again has revisited some of the worst instances of oppression in American history, demonstrated by his response to the riots in Minneapolis, Minn. 

The history of America is one marred by oppression and injustice. Starkly antithetical to the ideals inscribed on America’s founding documents, this injustice has been carved into the very heart of our society, wounding American unity further. Trump entered the political scene as an outsider — someone who assured voters he was different from the politicians in Washington, D.C., promising to “drain the swamp.” Unfortunately, rather than draining the swamp, Trump has simply stirred it up, forcing the heinous muck plaguing our society to the once placid surface. Trump’s presence in the White House has led to the number of hate groups rising 4 percent and the number of Neo-Nazi groups in America rising a sickening 22 percent within Trump’s first year in office. Such sentiments even made an appearance during the Michigan protests against the stay-at-home order, where protesters were flaunting nooses and swastikas

Put simply, when Trump says he wants to make America great again, he does so at the peril of minorities. After all, while America may have been a beacon of opportunity for some in former days, that beacon cast a very dark shadow in which cruel injustices such as slavery, systematic racism, xenophobia and misogyny festered. The protests in Minneapolis, across the country and around the world have thrown this disparity into focus, as explicit, systematic racism continues to exist well into the 21st century. In true, presidential fashion, Trump took to Twitter to respond to the protests. He warned the protesting “thugs” that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” However, this quote originated in the 1960s from a police chief who embraced police brutality and used this rationale to specifically target Black Americans. His use of this phrase and refusal to admit to any mistake proves further that Trump is not a leader capable of transcending above his own ignorance or pride for the betterment of this country. Furthermore, Trump’s response to this issue proves very different from his response to protests in Michigan over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s controversial stay-at-home order. When the protestors were angry over the fact that they couldn’t get a haircut, Trump supported them. But when protestors turn to marches to find justice for a man slain by a cruel instance of police brutality, Trump suddenly finds himself against them, threatening to meet these justice-deprived protestors with bullets to stifle their outcry. 

In addition to stoking racial outcry, Trump has also proven time and again that he does not respect women. Any man who feels comfortable bragging about how he can waltz up to any woman he wants and grab them by the genitalia should not be trusted in any position of power, let alone the leader of the free world. Not only does it paint him as uncouth and undeserving of his position, it is also a direct portrayal of the utter lack of respect he regards women with, treating them as objects that exist for him as he pleases. On top of that, Trump currently has at least 25 sexual misconduct allegations against him. Amid the height of the #MeToo movement, former celebrities such as Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Charlie Rose lost their careers over sexual assault allegations. Yet,  there sits Trump in the oval office, with upwards of two dozen women accusing him. Not only that, but in response to a recent sexual assault allegation, Trump’s first defense was “Number 1, she’s not my type.” Rather than denounce sexual assault as the heinous offense that it is, Trump’s defense was that this woman wasn’t good looking enough for him to prey upon. Trump’s blatant lack of respect for women is also demonstrated by his shameful lack of representation in his White House staff, where only 27 percent of new hires are women. In short, Trump’s treatment of women is a direct reflection of the lack of respect he has for them, forcing them into a patriarchal cage and back in time in his efforts to make America great again. 

Trump’s idea of making America great again is one that revisits some of the worst instances of oppression in American history. Part of what has made America great in the first place is progress — from the implementation of democracy to ending slavery to the civil rights movement, our greatness lies in our ability to move forward with courage and tenacity, not in deluding ourselves with false notions of bygone grandeur. Trump is the direct antithesis of this greatness America embodies, holding America in a vice-like grip, restraining the country from advancing. How can we navigate these tempestuous seas of progress when the helm of this nation is mired perpetually in the muck of the past? With a captain fixated upon returning America to a delusion of greatness behind us, the very horizon we should be chasing slips further out of reach, receding away over a roiling sea of injustice and inequality. What we need is a captain who can navigate these turbulent seas rife with political discourse and animosity with a certain level of dignity, creating unity where there is discord and confidence where there is animosity — and that captain is certainly not Trump.

Madeleine LaPierre can be reached at madlapi@umich.edu