Like so many 2016 Trump campaign themes, the notion that
“America should win again” was largely ignored, or treated
as jingoism by most Democratic strategists, activists and
those in the liberal media.
Among many middle class elites and their establishment
educational/psychological values, the natural social impulse
to win at games, sports, business, and war had increasingly
been played down. “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how
you play the game’ was now a standard cliche expressed ---
at least verbally --- in certain circles. “Winning isn’t
everything” was another.
Since it’s genesis in the 1780’s, the United States was a nation
that usually won, and except for the grim tragedy of 1861-65,
the nation grew, prospered and increasingly played a winning
role in hemispheric and global affairs.
In the second half of the 19th century, there began to appear
a number of mostly indigenous competitive athletic events
that were played at all levels, but became what we today call
“professional sports.” Baseball soon became the national
pastime, and championship boxing was widely popular, but
American football, basketball, tennis and ice hockey also
drew large and passionate audiences. With television and
cable, even more sports drew more fans. In every sport,
teams that won aroused pride and celebration in their home
cities or in their schools and universities.
Individuals who won in their sports became national figures,
usually exceedingly well-paid.
The passion for local sports teams and star athletes remains
a staple of U.S. public culture --- as does popular fascination
for entertainment stars, colorful successful entrepreneurs,
charismatic elected officials and assorted celebrities who ply
their trades through various public relations.
All of them have something in common -- they are winners in
what they do. Losers need not apply for public adulation.
Until the Korean War of the 1950s, and Viet Nam a few years
later, the U.S. was accustomed to winning as well.
A mood of anticipating disappointment and loss soon
developed thereafter, as America’s post World War II
global economic and military dominance began to deteriorate
into stalemate or apparent defeat --- first challenged by Soviet
Russia in a Cold War, later by terrorists, and now by a surging
In 2008, recoiling from a mortgage banking crisis, and weary of
seemingly endless military excursions in the Middle East and
Middle Asia, U.S. voters elected Barack Obama president. It
was Mr. Obama’s intention, formed by his personal
background, to reverse U.S. foreign policies of previous
administrations, both Republican and Democrat, to play a
visibly active role in much of the world.
The global community was so pleased by the prospect, Mr.
Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize even before he took
office. He did not disappoint them. The U.S. gradually, but
unmistakably, withdrew from many points of global conflict,
altered relationships with allies and competitors, and turned
from acknowledging deteriorating trade relationships. U.S.
military readiness and capacity was, at the same time,
reduced --- although there was a clear build-up of military
force and activity by numerous potential adversaries.
Meanwhile, those who esteemed these policies were not
playing politically to lose. Forces allied with Mr. Obama,
seemingly indifferent to winning on the world stage, were
quite aggressive about winning politically on the domestic
stage. Their biggest legislative victory, healthcare reform
or Obamacare, proved not to be a winner, however, for
many Americans. This issue led to conservative victories
in the 2010 and 2014 national mid-term elections, and set
the scene for the 2016 presidential election.
That election seemed set to be a classic contest between
the liberal and conservative establishments, and their
well-known figures. What happened, however was that
insurgent figures in both parties stole the show. One was
socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders --- who very
nearly won the Democratic nomination from the early
presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton by speaking to the
populist base of the liberal party. The other was a real
estate developer turned celebrity TV show host who kept
shattering “political correctness” and talking about the
forbidden subject of America winning again.
Today, more than a year after his taking office, Donald
Trump is actively seeking a winning streak in U.S.
foreign policies. He has set in motion a military
build-up, as Ronald Reagan did after 1981 (which led to
the end of the Cold War), and more controversially, in
U.S. trade policy, he threatens tariffs to bring what he
considers unfair trade policies by our trade partners to
Recently, in the wake of President Trump’s controversial
trade policies and statements, his popularity suddenly
rose noticeably --- even to 50% in one major poll. This has
occurred in spite of relentless attacks on him by the major
media on both the left and the right, and of endless
negative stories about investigations into his past.
Yet predictions of his downfall continue to appear daily,
and a political wave is often forecast for his and his party’s
defeat next November.
Anything is possible, of course, especially in mid-term
elections, but Mr. Trump seems to be doing his own thing,
once again against the odds, and playing to win.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.