Cooper: The curious calculation of refuting American greatness

Cooper: The curious calculation of refuting American greatness

May 8th, 2019 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, says America was never as great as advertised.

Photo by Nam Y. Huh

Pete Buttigieg, one of the nearly two dozen Democratic hopefuls for the 2020 presidential nomination, went down the road Monday that several in his party have in running down the country in which he lives.

America's past, he said, "was never as great as advertised."

Buttigieg, on his official South Bend, Indiana, website, also proclaimed, "We cannot find greatness in the past."

Before him, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told an audience at a bill-signing ceremony, "We're not going to make America great again. It was never that great."

Similarly, former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder recently told an MSNBC interviewer he doesn't believe the concept of American "greatness" ever "really existed."

We get that partisans want to mock President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign slogan of "Make America Great Again." And the proliferation of the red caps that sport the slogan only angers them further, resulting in the hate and violence that many on the left have visited on innocent Americans wearing the caps.

Trump and the caps, after all, are a reminder that Democrat Hillary Clinton was supposed to win the presidential election in a walk.

But consider for a moment that the former candidate and the caps do not say "Make America Perfect Again."

Those Democrats who now run down the country make their statements as if Trump were attempting to make the case the country was sinless and had nothing to answer for.

On the contrary, on the campaign trail, he had plenty of criticism for, among other things, the Iraq war, the country's trade policies, its illegal immigration inaction, and its agreement on a climate treaty that would have little benefit.

Instead, Trump often simplistically said he wanted the country to be "winning." By that, he meant he wanted the economy to be humming, to negotiate trade deals that protected American workers, to not kowtow to terrorist countries and to not continue to apologize around the world for what this country was and is.

Making America great again only hearkened back to its individual and collective accomplishments — inventing electric lights, perfecting the airplane, liberating Europe from Nazis, helping eradicate yellow fever, breaking up the Soviet Union and creating the polio vaccine, among other things.

For Trump, it was a challenge to Americans that their best days didn't need to be behind them and that greater things still were within their grasp.

It was like strong medicine at the time for many in the country, who felt then-President Barack Obama spent too much time apologizing for the U.S., criticizing its police and military, and tempering any hopeful expectations.

That's why we find it curious that Democrats like Buttigieg are doing the very thing that turned off Americans in 2016. Sure he's having to fight his way out of the paper bag of wet cats that are the Democrats running for the 2020 nomination, but he must know that such statements will resurface.

Trump would only be too happy to have video of the South Bend mayor's proclamation of America being "never as great as advertised" to be played against record unemployment, a strong economy and a destroyed Islamic State.

But if Buttigieg means what he says, and is not just tweaking the president, that's worse.

What voter would trust a candidate who prefers pessimism to optimism, criticism to accomplishment, disparagement to potential? What voter would rather hear of everything that ails the country than ideas for what can be done to make it stronger?

Indeed, what child should grow up in a country that does not believe in its greatness? Believing in the greatness of a country does not preclude the greatness of other countries or mitigate the sins of a country's past. But it instills pride for what has been accomplished, what has been overcome, what wrongs have been righted and what potential can be grasped simply because one lives in a country that offers such opportunity.

Buttigieg has other policy positions that do not make him a viable candidate in the general election — reparations for descendants of slaves, support for the Green New Deal, encouraging illegal immigration, among other stances. But eschewing the country's greatness is not a strategy that will gain him much support from voters who have pride in its stellar accomplishments and believe in its unlimited future.

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