As Trump tramples the American Dream in favor of his despotic nightmare, no one party or candidate has emerged as its savior. The Democrats best effort at fashioning a new narrative has given us the limp ‘n lame “A Better Deal” while the progressive icon, Senator Elizabeth Warren, decries a “rigged system,” both weirdly attempting to sound more Trumpy than the other (see my recent post “Democrats, It’s Time to Wise Up,” August 15, 2017). Whoever develops a narrative wrapped around the tenets of the American Dream—under attack since the rise of the Tea Party and under siege during the Trump presidency—will likely do very well in 2018 and beyond. However, to date, Trump’s opposition has become so disoriented with the horrors of his presidency it is either strangely emulating him as in the case of the Democratic Party leadership, or so narrowly focused on particular issues and interests as to be blinded to the strategic imperative of crafting a more powerful narrative to capture the support and enthusiasm of enough Americans to seize power and affect change.
The American Dream is a very simple proposition, first put forward in 1931 during the Great Depression by historian James Truslow Adams in his essay, “Epic in America.” Adams wrote,
[The American Dream is] that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. [It is] a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.
Perhaps the American Dream is being ignored as a rallying cry because it is too obvious. Perhaps Trump’s opponents are taking it for granted. But, it is exactly what Trump is attempting to destroy in his pursuit of fascist power, and it is precisely what needs to be employed to unify Americans against the hackneyed recklessness of Trump’s Republican Party. “Make America Great Again”—Trump’s fraudulent appeal to the American voter—can and should be defeated by the simple elegance of “Caretakers of the American Dream.”
While Trump advocates exclusion, uniformity, regression, supremacy, stasis, exploitation, indifference, dominance, authoritarianism, segregation, fear, division, and hate; the opposition is eerily silent about inclusion, diversity, progress, equality, development, empathy, democracy, integration, courage, unity, and love—the characteristics that underpin the American Dream. The opposition is so appalled it appears confused, or at least distracted, which is, of course, exactly what Trump wants. And, each and every progressive issue and interest fits nicely under the umbrella of the American Dream as it embraces fundamental American ambitions, including “the pursuit of happiness.” Fairness, equity, and justice are at the Dream’s heart as civil and human rights, healthcare, immigration, and respect for science and the environment fit comfortably in its shadow.
The British scholar, Lawrence Freedman, argues in his epic study, Strategy: a History (2013) that strategy is “the art of creating power.” Trump and his Republican Party have waived the flag in support of white economic nationalism to create theirs. It is time someone or some party started waiving the flag to save the American Dream, where our power as a nation truly resides.