We all want to make America great
Marco Rubio promised a “new American century.” Bernie Sanders advocates for “a future to believe in.” Donald Trump says he wants to “make America great again.” Trump’s statement has drawn in the most attention this campaign cycle and has been rebuked by Democrats and Republicans alike, with the popular response from both being that “America is already great.” But is it? So many Americans would argue that the principles that our nation supposedly operates upon are not applied to all Americans.
The United States has always been changing—making progress. Freeing millions in 1865, we ended a war amongst ourselves over slavery. In 1935, the Social Security Act became law, changing the way Americans retire and fund their ever-vibrant lives post-workforce. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on our identities. These are all examples of America changing for the better—correcting problems affecting citizens. We got here by ultimately putting aside political differences and looking out for the greater good.
It is disingenuous to claim that “America is already great.” The fact that any American can flip through the newspaper or watch the news to find stories of plight prove that there is still work to be done. Right now, there are citizens who are disenfranchised, unemployed, facing discrimination, homeless and the list goes on. The United States has engaged in wars that have torn us apart domestically. The nation’s reaction to terrorism has placed us on a course of limitless paranoia. It’s quite easy to blame “the government,” but who exactly is the government? How much influence can the president exert over our complex bureaucracy?
Though Donald Trump himself is pandering to a base, even more so than the “establishment,” pundits who choose to attack his supporters should be wary. Millions of Americans have voted for Trump in the primary elections across the country. Trump has manipulated citizens looking for an outlet for their fear and outrage. They want to see change and Trump is the man with the “big ideas,” from the wall that Mexico will pay for to a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S., that can bring about that change. His ideas and statements bring out the worst in people—we have seen Americans turn on each other over this election already, and we’re not even at the conventions.
This is not to excuse the horrific details of Trump’s platform or the violence exhibited by his supporters and protesters alike. For many, it is not the draw of radical policies. Rather, it is the draw of the person—Donald Trump—someone they perceive as a political “outsider” who allegedly cares about them, that fuels the Trump phenomenon.
In a practical sense, there must also be advocacy for the inverse. Trump supporters must also recognize that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters want the best for the country as well. Liberals and conservatives alike must be able to express their backing of a candidate without fear of their views being trivialized.
When political discourse among citizens veers away from issue-based debates and leans in the direction of ineffective name-calling and insult-hurling, we forget where we stand as a country and where we wish to go. There is bipartisan recognition of many of the issues we face. Even on heated topics like undocumented immigration in the United States, there are engaging and legitimate discussions that can be had.
For the greater good of the country, not one party or one group over another, there needs to be a commitment to conversing with each other and remembering that we all want a better America. At the same time, however, citizens should remember where we come from as a nation. In order to avoid the mistakes that have plagued the United States in the past, perhaps we should talk with one another and understand what our fellow Americans experience on a daily basis. Perspective is everything, and opening dialogues allows for widening views and a more empathetic electorate.
Kris Schneider is a sophomore in the School of Communication.