By Graham Glover –
As the American presidential election prepares to officially begin the caucus and primary season next month, I wish I had a dollar for every time we’ll hear a candidate say it’s time to “Take Back America!” If I did, I’d be a millionaire by mid-January!
Every four years, especially from the party that does not control the White House, we hear the same tired refrain. Candidates clamor for some time in American history that they think we ought to return. They cite statistics (sometimes true, oftentimes not) and cultural mores that prove their platforms will return America to greatness, as if America is no longer great. Some of them strive to be like a past president, which is typically dripping with irony since they almost never resemble their supposed political hero (see especially this year’s flock of Republicans when they call on the legacy of Ronald Reagan, a legacy none of them are even close to emulating). Others clamor with a nostalgia that is borderline fantasy. But no matter the year, no matter the party, the American voter is always sure to be fed a healthy dose of the call to “Take Back America”.
My question is, what in the hell does this mean? What timeframe are these candidates wishing to return? And to what extent are these politicians desiring to turn back the clock?
Although her party currently occupies the White House, Hillary Clinton talks a lot about the greatness of her husband’s administration. Some have said electing Hillary will be the equivalent to a third Clinton term (by the way, what would we call Bill? First Man? President? Director of Interns?). Partnering with Republican Congress, Bill ushered in a period of economic growth that we all wish would return. But Hillary ain’t no Bill. The Democratic Party of 2016 has little appetite for the “Third Way” masterfully adopted by Clinton’s 1992 campaign. Bill is a moderate. Today’s Democrats have no room for such pragmatism. So when Hillary calls on the greatness of the 90s, I wonder how much of her husband’s willingness to work across the aisle and make compromise of campaign promises she will be willing to embrace.
On the Republican side, I’m still unclear to which time-frame they wish to return. Some call on the Regan 80s, a few on George W’s tenure in the 2000s. Both of these are pipe dreams. I’m not even sure Ronald Regan would make it through this year’s Republican primary. He clearly would not be conservative enough. He raised taxes (even while he lowered them). He worked with Tip O’Neill all of the time, something anathema to today’s Republicans. He was very hesitant about using American military force. By 2016 standards, he was a moderate on immigration and the environment. As for W, are the Republicans really wanting to embrace his economic record? They may resonate with his tough foreign policy, but I doubt the American public is ready to embrace that level of intervention anytime soon.
Let’s hypothetically assume that our candidates could return us to a presidency or a time-frame of their choosing. Are they willing to give up and forgo everything for such a move? Are they wanting to abandon all new policies, all new laws, and somehow – through the power of the bully pulpit, erase all of the cultural changes our country has undergone? If not, I wish they would be a little more specific on to what extent they want to take America back.
The biggest flaw in this mantra however is its assumption that America is no longer great. It presumes that America has lost its genius – that its essence has somehow gone away. I reject both of these ideas and believe that America is as great as she has ever been. We’ve got problems, as do all administrations. But we aren’t going back. We never have. We never will. Our political conversation should never focus on what has been, but only on what lies ahead. And on that, conversations about taking America back should be no more.
It’s coming. Get ready. Those that wish to lead our nation and the free world are foaming at the mouth to let us know that they are going to take back America. When? Where? It what form? They have no idea. And even if we think there was a golden era in the not too distant past to which we wish we could return, neither do we.
What we do know however is that Friday is Christmas. And on that day the promise made to God’s people in the Garden became flesh among us. As much as we talk about politics on this blog, in our homes, classrooms, and the public arena, this event is all that really matters. For in the town of Bethlehem was born the One that is the King of Kings. His promises are eternal. His kingdom is that which we should seek. In Him and through Him does our future rest.