In an era of radical change such as ours, comfort is often sought in reconstructing conditions that existed before the change began.  That seems to be the central organizing principle, to the degree there is one, for the current U.S. Administration.  “Make America Great Again.”

I am unable to identify any instance in human history where an effort such as this has been successful, for the very obvious reason that economic, political, and security conditions that existed two or three decades ago, or more, simply cannot be recreated.  Building walls, dismantling international markets, authorizing pollution, privatizing education, and much else will not restore “greatness”.  While we return to the 1960s, the rest of the world moves on following rules we are choosing to ignore.

Furthermore, the basic premise of the stop history movement is wrong.  Despite his efforts to create conditions of disaster, President Trump inherited a country that had the largest, most productive economy on earth, that had the most powerful military in history, that led coalitions to maintain stability, address climate change, and create trade regimes built on policies we promoted, and that built coalitions against terrorism.

Even discounting for traditional partisan rhetoric, the Trump effort to describe a nation in ruin doesn’t withstand a moment’s inspection.  But, apparently the theory is that if you wish to return the country to a past that never existed, you must first grossly mischaracterize where it finds itself today.  Our current afternoon in America is at least as successful as the previous “morning in America”, but that success must be dismantled in order to justify uprooting health, environment, and education advances and a large network of hard-earned international agreements and alliances.

There is no “greatness” in thumbing our nose at our allies and dealing with other nations rudely.  There is no “greatness” in cancelling health insurance for millions.  There is no “greatness” in leaving polluted air and water for our children.  There is no “greatness” in increasing an already wide income gap.  There is no “greatness” in the denial of the Statue of Liberty’s welcome.

There is no system of logic or reason that supports an idea that retrenchment to a previous age where our strength depended largely on the weakness of others will make us “great” again.  If, as some have speculated, some in the White House envision an Armageddon between the Christian West and a Muslim caliphate that doesn’t exist and that apocalyptic bloodbath is the path to greatness, then God help us.

Most Americans, a very solid majority, do not see the road to the restoration of “greatness” paved with the stones of nationalism, religious orthodoxy, a rigid cultural conservatism, ethnic purity, intolerance, and authoritarianism.  Nor do they see a return to a Darwinian culture of devil take the hindmost as the path to a secure, just, and principled American Republic.

America is not just a state.  It is a society.  In terms of our shared public and natural resources, our common wealth, we are all in this together and we possess a moral imperative to improve that society for future generations.

That imperative is the guiding light toward a truly great America.

7 Responses to “Stop, History: We’re Going Back”

  1. Edward Jack Myers Says:

    Senator, I stand wholeheartedly with you. There can be nothing to gain by setting our watches back to 1965 or earlier as the Trump people would have us do. What is even sadder than he and his ilk pushing for this devolution is that the very people who chose him will generally be the ones hurt most by his actions. The whole “not in my backyard” adage applies. If it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t matter. What his voters are only now realizing far too late is it all will affect them, and that they relied on a compassionate leadership and progressive outlook to even get them to where they are now, perhaps not the ideal but far better than the empty dark ages promised if these agendas are even partially fulfilled. It truly is times like this I wish you or someone with similar views to yours could be our nation’s leader. We need change, yes, but it will be naught but scant spare change left in a bankrupt nation, spent financially, morally, and in terms of its own morale.

  2. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Senator Hart,

    I agree wholeheartedly with your contention about the current Republican Administration wants to destroy a myriad of accomplishment that we as a nation and a people have accomplished, in order to return to some idealized time in the past. I believe that there is a major over-riding reason for much of this.

    I have recently seen several excellent archaeological/historical programs on Africa and Egypt. One in particular was about a dynasty that was created when the black King of Nubia overthrew the existing Pharaoh of Egypt and assumed the throne of Egypt. The thing that really stuck in my mind was that when the Egyptians regained the throne, they systematically went about destroying and removing any reference to or trace of this Black Dynasty, as if trying to deny that it ever existed or accomplished anything of import. It seems to me that this is what the current Republican Administration and Congress are trying to do with all of the accomplishments of the Obama Administration.

    The Republican Party has built up this body of hatred within their “base” for anything related to or connected with Obama and Trump came along and added his own stamp on this hatred and his own unique following to their “base” so that they now have nothing else in mind but to destroy Obama. They are trying to wipe him and all of his accomplishments off of the face of the history of our nation and the world because he is Black and accomplished so much without them. It is not only racism, it is also pure unmitigated hatred.

    This must be stopped.

  3. Paul Borg Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,

    Unless and until each of us feels secure in their personal material well being, we will find it difficult to address the more subtle aspects of maintaining and improving the quality of our society and its supporting infrastructure. Some sort of capitalist/socialist hybrid may work. I personally don’t mind some in our society having more than others provided that the income disparity levels don’t impinge on the least capable of us having what is considered a socially acceptable level of material well being. We negotiated the ‘New Deal’ under FDR and perhaps an updated version, tweaked to 21st century realities, may be a starting point for a new economic model that would be accepted as just and equitable. This is no easy task as so many people have chained themselves to ideological economic doctrines that make a practical compromise nearly impossible.

    Economics is not like physics, math and chemistry in my view. The earth has provided us with everything we needed to flourish and we return nothing to the planet in compensation. At least some have the sensitivity to show some respect for natural processes including their intricacies and are able experience a sense of gratitude for Her continued bounty. If the earth is sentient as some seem to claim, maybe that’s all She wants. We might seek to emulate this example in our economic interactions with each other domestically and internationally. The last time I looked, we were endowed with the Liberty to do so.

  4. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Utterly superb !The same nonsense ,in my country, in the rush to Brexit , albeit with a bit of British reserve , not that this is lacking, everyone looks reserved compared to Trump !

    The irony is this year is the centenary of the birth of President Kennedy , from him on and even before in Roosevelt, the future has built on the past and has been and is based on an understanding of the present .

    Our host shares much of the wisdom of the late great lamented president . As well as the sensible mainstream progressive liberal democrat ideals.

  5. Tim Conner Says:

    Bravo for articulating a hopeful message in a very dark political landscape This too we will endure.

  6. Eric C. Jacobson Says:

    Great food-for-thought as always Senator.

    One of my guilty pleasures lately is watching old episodes of well-done if short-lived 1960s tv series, The Time Tunnel on Hulu. The “high concept” is that the U.S. Military ran an underground Manhattan project type facility somewhere in the dessert of the Southwest that enabled time-travel. In the pilot a skeptical U.S. Senator visits on a oversight mission and forces the “scientists” running it to prematurely test the “device” with human subjects. The show’s stars land in 1912 on the Titanic. Drama (and many subsequent “American scientists lost in time” episodes) ensue. So much for fantasy.

    During the 1960s the American Military Industrial Complex (MIC) developed a (very real) “futuristic” technology, the Internet, to permit communications in the event of nuclear war. After it matured the U.S. government then partially “socialized” it, which in turn created a commercial cyber- “gold rush” of first movers particularly in the fields of enabling computer software (including protective firewall- and anti-virus programs), email, e-commerce and social media.

    Experience in the 2-3 decades since has shown that the expansion of the Internet (from its original national security mission) created a system that cannot be fully protected with firewalls and the like, and allows for foreigners (as well as homegrown miscreants) to commit all manner of criminal mischief from identity theft and larceny on grand scales to cyber-bullying to electioneering schemes via social media, some of which originate from “parts (of the world) unknown”. There is no reason t believe any of these trends are going to get better before they get worse. The answers lie in prudent reconsideration of the premises of globalization, which may be a “megatrend” but is one no American ever VOTED to turn loose.

    If a real “time tunnel” existed we would be well advised to return to the 1980s and roll out the Internet somewhat differently. Ditto for economic globalization as we know it, which (in my view albeit beyond the scope of this comment) was a mistake from the word Go. We don’t have time-travel of course. But to the extent that the 2016 election was a referendum about anything it was about the president’s re-ignition of the national conversation Ross Perot started in 1992 and which is epitomized by Perot’s amazingly prophetic statement about the inexorable wage-equalizing effects of creating a 1-world-economy in his 1992 presidential debate with Bill Clinton and George HW Bush. See here beginning at 2 minute mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rkgx1C_S6ls .

    America and the world is only a tiny fraction along the way to the dystopia Mr. Perot alluded-to whereby world-wide wage levels and living standards gradually equalize at a small fraction of the affluence Americans currently enjoy.

    What the 2016 presidential election vividly showed is that all the propaganda in the world from the MIC and powers-that-be cannot overcome the realities of downward mobility, lessened quality of life, decaying infrastructure and accompanying demoralization that comes from the traitorous actions of the 1% in attempting to “have it all” (via the 1-world-economy) at the expense of the American multitudes.

    It does not help that virtually all the advocates of globalization and glass-half-full views of America’s Not-Great super-stratified society, are personally “well-fixed” including those in professions such as law and medicine that enjoy the benefits of protectionism against competition from bright English-speaking foreigners whose admissions to practice in America would decimate the “going rates” for services in their fields (err “markets”). For example, American corporate lawyers would go from $700 an hour to $70 an hour (or even lower!) within a few years if high IQ citizens of India were allowed to practice law in the U.S. And family doctors would have to content themselves to make “only” double or triple the national average income ($35,000 a year) and to return to their profession’s ideals such as by making house calls again as many still did my youth in the 1950s and 1960s. Of course, that’s never going to happen. Globalization is only meant to decimate the earning power of blue-collar workers, who the powers-that-be allow to be thrown to the wolves of Wall Street and the 1%.

    Bruce Springsteen had a great line: “All men want to be rich. Rich men want to be king. And a king ain’t satisfied ’til he owns everything.” As Robert David Steele (Google him) and other U.S. dissenters have pointed out, the elected politicians of our two old parties are bought and bossed virtually to a person by about “40 billionaires” (our new American Gilded Age “kings and queens”).

    It also does not help that the (near-oxymoronic) “intelligence community”, which presumably has the most knowledge of the permeable nature of our (significantly) Internet-reliant electioneering systems is in over-drive mode to de-legitimize the presidency of the man whose Americans First platform was most geared to arresting the trends that have made our nation so vulnerable to foreign influence. It makes one long for the days of the Church Committee (and to a far lesser degree even Iran-contra) when our elected politicians (including the honorable host of this space) worked to expose the collective chicanery of the spooks. In today’s Bizarro world, it’s literally the other way around: Unelected so-called deep-state players who obviously have their own agenda and loyalties to the 1%, MIC and powers-that-be, appear to be driving the bus of the current “investigations” into the 2016 election, and manipulating the politicians that are its public face.

    None of this means that the president is anything close to a “genuine article” when it comes to the prudent populism, protectionism and isolationism he preaches. Rather he appears to have used the public’s increasingly benighted condition and furious frustration with elites to attract votes in a monumental vanity exercise.

    Was it all a gigantic hoax and bait-and-switch set-up? Alas, it looks more-and-more that way. Once in office Trump drove his train right (and rightwards) into the ditch where it is spinning its wheels. He’s had weeks now to course-correct from the folly of embracing Paul Ryan’s rancid atavistic conservative Republican policy bilge on health insurance and the budget. But nothing.

    Eg. Trump (who once “welcomed” Sanders’ Democrats “with open arms” to join forces with him) urgently needs a whole new team of politically independent staff members. Eg. I know of no “Trump populist policy shop” work that is being done in the White House or in a Trump oriented external think tank. Rather, the president appears to be making it all up as he goes along with a handful of a small staff of politically inexperienced (and consequently wholly incompetent) conservative zealots and alt-right eccentrics. Little wonder their major output is symbolic PR (one version of fake) news and the result (to date) has been regressive- or fake governance. The few “good news” items (re jobs) are all anecdotal.

    Trump alas (as of today) is squarely in the category of a ‘false prophet”. Ironically in the above regards he’s become the epitome of the “all talk and no action” politicians he ran against and defeated. At this rate the results of the 2018 and 2020 elections are going to make the president wish he could enter a “time tunnel”, land in 2015 and decide not to ride down that escalator in Trump Tower.

  7. Chris R. Says:

    Senator, I agree: There is no “greatness” in increasing an already wide income gap. That wage gap resulted from decades of an economic policy exporting jobs while importing workers, otherwise known as the “race to the bottom” for wages, job stability, and working conditions. While the macro-economic picture may look great to those living on gated estates far from the masses, the masses are dissatisfied with their micro-economic picture, e.g., the loss of good employer provided health care. One Trump supporter I know was extremely dissatisfied while working two jobs he was unable to find affordable health insurance. Trump’s waiver of a penalty for the working poor made this person extremely happy.

    We don’t need to go back to the 1960’s to remember when, as Americans, we had more individual privacy, and civil liberties with regard to an invasive police state, and had fewer citizens incarcerated, etc. I can remember when California residents could get free higher education, without strings attached to future relocation. (Is New York’s Gov. Cuomo living in the past too?) I can remember before Bill Clinton, when the Democratic Party didn’t stand for large banks.

    I don’t get a lot of things in modern American culture. I would agree with that old fuddy-duddy Senator who complained that in the past people didn’t feel free to call strangers by their first names. Perhaps some things were better in the past, and some things are worth seeking to bring back?

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