A leftover from last night via the Free Beacon. This is Democrats’ 2020 message in microcosm, no? Three years ago their riposte to Trump was “America Is Already Great,” a decent enough slogan for liberals invested in Obama’s presidency but an uneasy fit for progressives. A movement dedicated to social justice can’t acknowledge American greatness; to do so would risk encouraging complacency. Progress can only be achieved by relitigating America’s sins unto eternity.
With the party having moved left and past Obama, Holder’s free to make that point more explicitly. He’s enough of a neoliberal himself to pull his punches even in the clip below, noting as an afterthought that America’s done great things, but the bottom line is its essential suckiness. When was it great for blacks? For women? For gays? To which alleged “golden age” for these people do MAGA-ites wish to return? For each of those groups, right now — or three years ago, when Obama was still in office — is the closest to “great” America’s ever been.
The Democratic preoccupation with identity in this year’s primary is a function of that belief. Beto O’Rourke has to apologize for his “white privilege” every six hours to signal his awareness that America may not suck for him but it sucks for most of the Democratic base, or so progressive dogma claims. And he’s in the awkward position of asking those voters to nominate him for president even though one obvious way to get America closer to “greatness” defined progressively is more electoral opportunity for previously marginalized groups — blacks, women, gays. If you want America to be great, why would you nominate Beto instead of Stacey Abrams?
“When was America ever great?” isn’t a giant departure from Trump’s own message in 2016, which involved calling America a “hell hole” less than a month before he entered the race. The left has nothing on reactionaries when it comes to contempt for the current state of their country. Ideologues on both political poles seem to agree that America circa 2016 sucked royally; the question is simply whether it was trending downward at that point, as Trump insisted before he won, or upward, as progressives would claim. Now, of course, the trendlines have allegedly reversed. Increasingly I think both camps that are invested in this question are really just wrestling over which group will have primary power over the government in the short term, the current white majority or the rising future nonwhite majority. “When was America great?” is just a proxy for that.