Donald Trump promises to “make America great again.” He doesn’t say just what he means by that or how he’ll do it, but it has become the slogan of his campaign.
What does it mean to “make America great again”? What would it look like?
If America had the most powerful military in the world, but it treated Palestinian terrorists as the moral equals of their Israeli victims, would America be great?
If America had a prosperous economy, but its government continued to fund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading baby-murdering business, would America be great?
If America was once again feared by its enemies, but its president was a man of known moral turpitude, low character, and lack of integrity, would America be great?
These are all examples of the kind of greatness Trump seems to be offering. Should we take it?
No, in those cases America would not be great. It would be terrible.
Since the 1940s a quotation has been making the rounds, attributed to nineteenth-century French political and social commentator Alexis de Tocqueville. It concludes, “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
It turns out this statement doesn’t show up in any of Tocqueville’s writings. Too bad. If he didn’t say it, he should have. But would it be any more true if the nineteenth-century Frenchman had written it? I think it’s true anyway. As Abraham Lincoln exhorted his listeners to have faith that right makes might, so America has prospered and grown strong when it has striven to do right, to be not merely strong but also–and to an even greater extent–good and just. It hasn’t always done so, and it’s never been perfect. But it has tried harder and more consistently than any other nation in history. America became great because enough Americans strove to do good and to make their nation good.
In recent years the American “city on a hill” has not shone very brightly. Indeed, these have been years of shame and degradation for the country under Obama’s misrule. What a shame it would be if those who have opposed Obama, those who call themselves conservatives, even some who call themselves Christians–the people who should be leading the fight to make America good again–were now to embrace a faustian bargain with evil in exchange for the uncertain promises of personal affluence and security that Donald Trump is offering, along with his debauched character and rhetoric.
Yes, I want America to be safe and prosperous, but even more I want it to be good and just. Ted Cruz offers our best hopes of attaining both sets of goals, and we ought to vote for him. Let’s accept Lincoln’s exhortation and trust that, with God’s favor, right will make might once more. As a nation, as voters, let’s choose to do what is right, and trust that God will bring the restoration our country so desperately needs.