When did America stop being great?

Matt Moss

Staff Writer

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has flaunted the slogan “Make America Great Again” in his dash for the White House, prompting the

Photo by John Minchillo | AP Photo Christopher James wears a "Make America Great Again" cap as he waits on line with others before the arrival of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump ahead of a campaign stop, Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, N.H.

Photo by John Minchillo | AP Photo
Christopher James wears a “Make America Great Again” cap as he waits on line with others before the arrival of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump ahead of a campaign stop, Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, N.H.

question, ‘When did America stop being great?’

Trump is dominating the conservative playing field, being the preferred presidential candidate for roughly 40 percent of Republican voters, according to a Jan. 21 to 24 poll conducted by CNN. The poll places Trump an astounding 22 points ahead of Ted Cruz, who holds second place among Republican voters. Even with a margin of error of five percent, Trump stands firmly as the conservative favorite.

Trump has taken an ultra-conservative approach to the issues currently facing the country. He has proposed building a massive wall along the United States and Mexico border to dissuade illegal immigration and—following a recent spate of domestic attacks by Islamist extremists and the unprecedented successes of Islamic State’s military campaign in Iraq and Syria — banning Muslims and Syrian Muslim refugees from entering the country, conducting surveillance on mosques, and creating a national registry of Muslim Americans.

The presidential campaign on the conservative side has been based almost solely on fear — the fear of Islam, the fear of a slumping economy, the fear of an overreaching federal government, the fear of a weakened U.S. military, et cetera.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle are pros at telling you what to be afraid of and convincing you that their election to whatever post they are vying for is the only way to eliminate the threat of whatever they have told you to fear. They sell you that America is weaker because they are not in office, or will be weaker if they are not reelected to office.

Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” is a clear example of this: elect President Trump and he’ll fix everything.

How is America’s greatness defined? If one watches the Republican debates, it seems that military strength is the primary criterion.

For years, the conservative consensus has been the best way to deal with a resurgent and potentially nuclear-armed Iran is force. Now, with Iran grudgingly accepting to cease its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions — without any military action by the U.S. — America has proven its words are just as powerful as its fists.

How is this peaceful arrangement a sign of America’s weakness, like the Republican candidates seem to tout?

Last year brought about a pursuit by the White House to reconcile with our old Cold War adversary Cuba, leading to a détente with restored diplomatic dialogue between Washington and Havana. It is clear that over half a century of isolation has failed to scuttle communism in Cuba, so perhaps renewed intercourse between the Caribbean nation and Uncle Sam could convince the Castro regime that representative democracy is the way to build a strong and prosperous nation.

Again, a peaceful arrangement that conservatives have said shows a lack of resolve on America’s part. Resolving to cordially work out its differences with its historical opponents apparently shows America’s lack of resolve.

Even if the United States Armed Forces are America’s only claim to greatness, in what reality is its military weak?

According to independent online military analytical database Global Firepower, the U.S. sits at the top of 126 countries, followed by the People’s Republic of China in a distant second. While the U.S. military may not be the world’s largest — a distinction held by China’s—it is considered by experts to be the only force truly capable of global power projection, meaning that it can deploy and sustain itself in multiple regions at the same time, and at any time.

There is plenty of talk of the military being underfunded, but compare the numbers; the U.S. devoted $577 billion to defense in 2015, while the next four top spenders, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Britain — the last two being American allies — barely add up to a little over half of the U.S. defense budget. In fact, the U.S. spends more on its military than the next 11 nations combined, according to Global Firepower, with seven being staunch American allies and two more maintaining more or less cordial relations.

As far as the economy goes, even with a massive foreign debt, America has maintained the highest credit rating possible with major ratings agencies Fitch and Moody’s, and the second highest rating with S&P. Its still enjoys being among the top ten richest nations by gross domestic product, according to the International Monetary Fund in 2014.

The political game has blinded Americans to the bigger picture. Our representatives squabble over semantics and petty details and further grow the already-gaping divide in American politics, and subsequently its denizens.

As a society, America has accepted people of all races, religions, sexualities, and philosophies. Its citizens have fostered a nation where everyone has the right to voice their opinion and practice their beliefs, even if some opinions or beliefs may go against the norm.

Tolerance is also a sign of strength.

When you cast your vote this November, ask yourself, ‘When did America stop being great?’