A key point to remember about American Greatness is that you can see it: It’s tangible.
If America is rich, if its middle class is prosperous, you can tell. If our military is strong, you can see that, too. If we’re winning our wars and destroying our enemies, we know it—and so does the foe. If we are doing cool things, that’s visible, too: It’s our test pilots breaking the sound-barrier, it’s our scientists developing the polio vaccine, it’s our astronauts walking on the moon, it’s our entrepreneurs debuting the next world-changing smart-device or launching the next reusable rocket. Again, the common thread in American Greatness is reality, technology—that is, tangibility.
As a real-estate developer, Donald Trump has been building tangibles all his career. The building, and all its parts, either stands tall and looks good, or it doesn’t. The same holds true for a golf course, or a resort—or even a beauty pageant.
And now, in politics, Trump brings his emphasis on the real, and the tangible, with him as he enters the political arena. When he says, “Build a wall on the US-Mexican border,” everyone can visualize it. Whether one loves the idea—as do a majority of Americans, and an overwhelming majority of Republicans—or hates the idea, it’s a real thing in the mind. When he says he would “bomb the [bleep]” out of ISIS, that’s a real thing, too. Tangible.
No, Trump has never been about intangibles—theories. In business, he made real things, and now, in politics, he describes the real things he will do in office. Real things, we might add, that are in service to America.
Sophisticated observers are noticing that Trump is truly something different. Peggy Noonan, in the April 28 edition of The Wall Street Journal, wrote an important piece, “Simple Patriotism Trumps Ideology.” As she put it, “Mr. Trump’s appeal is simple: What Trump supporters believe, what they perceive as they watch him, is that he is on America’s side.”
Continuing, Noonan added that Trump’s blunt and concrete appeal marks a huge change from the style of his two predecessors, who have dealt mostly in abstractions. Whereas Trump, as we have seen, traffics in tangibles, George W. Bush and Barack Obama traded in intangibles. This lack of specificity, Noonan continued—combined with alien, avant-garde ideology—was disturbing to ordinary Americans:
They believe that for 16 years Presidents Bush and Obama were largely about ideologies. They seemed not so much on America’s side as on the side of abstract notions about justice and the needs of the world. Mr. Obama’s ideological notions are leftist, and indeed he is a hero of the international left. He is about international climate-change agreements, and leftist views of gender, race and income equality. Mr. Bush’s White House was driven by a different ideology—neoconservatism, democratizing, nation building, defeating evil in the world, privatizing Social Security.
In other words, too much ideology, not enough practicality—not enough tangibility.
But that’s not Trump’s problem. We don’t hear him saying things like,“Islam is peace,” or “diversity is our strength.” Instead, he is emphasizing real things, like building fences, or bringing jobs home, or destroying ISIS.
A further indicator that Trump is really something different came on March 26, when he identified, in a New York Times interview, his two favorite eras in America history. In describing both eras, he was heavy on the tangibles.
The first era was the turn of the 20th century, back when Theodore Roosevelt was our 26th president. As Trump said of that time, “If you really look at it, it was the turn of the [20th] century, that’s when we were a great, when we were really starting to go robust.” Continuing, he added—combining metaphor, literalism, and a dollop of his own pro-business thinking—we were “building that machine, that machine was really based on entrepreneurship.”
The second of those Trump-favorite eras was the middle of the last century: “I would say . . . during the 1940s . . .the late ‘40s and ‘50s . . . we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war.” The presidents back then, of course, were Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower; all of them, to use Trumpian language, were definitely winners.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but popular culture today is reinforcing Trump. The new movie, Captain America: Civil War, opened last weekend to a colossal domestic box office gross of $179 million.
Okay, but even if the title is Captain America—a character that debuted in the wartime year of 1941—maybe it’s only a movie, and nothing more. Yet Wired magazine, for one, thinks that the success of the film is, in fact, a legitimate indicator.
In an article, “How Captain America Became Marvel’s Big-Screen Secret Weapon,” writer Brian Raftery observes, “Just a few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine a big-name Marvel character less destined for movie-stardom than Captain America.” That is, “In a comic book universe full of coolly vengeful mutants and relatably angsty teen heroes, the World War II-era do-gooder has always seemed almost defiantly square—a throwback to the firm-jaw, firm-handshake era in which he was created.” And yet, continues Raftery, Captain America’s “earnestness and discipline” and “patriotically charged uniform” have struck a chord with today’s audiences. And so, the author concludes, Captain America is now “the most valuable soldier in the Marvel big-screen universe.”
Yes, the country wants something different from what we’ve had. The polls showing huge majorities of Americans declaring that we are on the wrong track are proof of that.
So yeah, it’s about time we had a president who focused on real things—real deliverables for people—and not theories. On May 12, Peter Morici, an economist at the University of Maryland, outlined the failure of the status quo, using cutting words:
Politicians at all levels—obsessed with political correctness, victimhood and identity politics—have dumped billions into failing public schools and universities, financed an increasing array of entitlements instead of adequate public investments in R&D and the infrastructure needed to support a technology-based economy, sowed divisions and suspicion among ethnic groups, between men and women, and the successful and those deserving a genuine hand up.
Continuing in this vein, Morici added:
High schools churn out students unprepared for college or vocational programs, and many university graduates lack the critical thinking and technical skills needed to prosper in a technology-intensive workplace.
To Morici, and all the rest of us, the results of this systemic failure are, well, tangible:
This is America, 2016; the country, as we know, is currently a mess—and the root of the problem is bad leadership.
If Hillary Clinton thinks that she can run and win on a promise of bringing, in effect, a third term for Obama, well, with apologies to Judas Priest, she’s got another thing coming. Indeed, she faces, one might say, a rendezvous with destiny this November, a rendezvous with a cold and harsh reality. Very cold, very harsh.
Then, beginning in 2017, it will be President Trump’s opportunity to build his vision for America. And it’s a safe bet that, in the spirit of the great 20th century presidents whom Trump admires, that vision will be tangible—tangible as all get-out.