I never liked the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again,” and it’s not because the idea suggests America is in decline. The post-American world that journalist Fareed Zakaria describes is not about the losses the United States faces as power centers shift and evolve across the global arena; it’s about the role the United States can potentially play in the rise of thriving economies worldwide and what we have to gain (and perhaps learn) as a nation.
No — I never liked the campaign slogan, because I don’t believe “greatness” in the United States is based on a single vision of our past (or a single individual for that matter). The effort to make America “great” is a collective effort embedded in what the French politician Alexis de Tocqueville described in “Democracy in America” (1835) as “the triumph of an idea.”
America, if nothing else, is an intellectual accomplishment, a way of envisioning social and political practice grounded in the voice of the people rather than despotism. America is as much a philosophy as a way of life. The ideas that define her are refined through tension and the rationality of words; they are held in place by those who work day-after-day believing, profoundly — undeniably — their vote matters.
America does not have to be made “great again.” America is great; she always was. Our hands stretch toward an ideal.
Heather Fitzgerald Jorgensen