When Was America Great? Trump’s Coded Promise and the Transgender Ban

On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court ruled to stay an injunction that would have blocked the Trump Administration’s armed forces transgender policy. Effectively, military service members who are already openly transgender can remain in the services without retribution, but those who are closeted must remain so or risk expulsion, and no new, openly transgender members may join the military unless the courts eventually deny the policy’s legality.

It’s ironic that a man who obtained five draft deferments during the Vietnam War is setting public policy about who can join America’s all volunteer force. Trump’s transgender policy is consistent with the promise he made to his base to “Make America Great Again”—a thinly veiled pledge to make America more socially conservative, harking back to a time when gay, lesbian, and transgender people were stigmatized, ostracized, ridiculed, and chastised. Trump’s unspoken promise to reset America’s clock back to a time when America was great raises a number of questions. When exactly was this time? When Women’s roles were primarily maternal and domestic? When America was segregated, and black Americans were second class citizens? When Christian prayer was mandatory in schools? When Jews, Asians, Hispanics and Blacks were restricted from buying property in certain neighborhoods? Exactly when was the last time that America was great in the eyes of Trump’s ardent supporters and what was it about that time that made it so great?

This unspoken promise to “MAGA!” is apparently enough to allow Trump’s supporters to overlook his lies, his misrepresentation of facts and truth, the criminal political campaign he engaged in, and all of his amorality. For these people, Trump is but a small thing to suffer in exchange for propping up their world view—one that pays homage to the old American caste system and resists the ideals of inclusion, tolerance, and equality of opportunity. I have many friends who voted for President Trump and I still want to give them the benefit of the doubt when they cite Trump’s political inexperience as a draw to his campaign. Many were attracted to the notion that he was a well-intended outsider who would bring business-like efficiency to the government and stand up for American business interests. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that Trump’s promises of draining the swamp and “putting America first” were appealing and convincing. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but then I recall his failure to put America first at the bilateral summit in Helsinki Finland, when he said, ‘I don’t see any reason why Russia would interfere” in our 2016 Presidential elections, with Vladimir Putin standing mere feet from him. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but many who were hoping Trump would drain the swamp seem to excuse the six felony convictions of former members of his campaign and inner circle. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they seemed unconcerned when Trump announced withdrawal of troops from Syria, essentially telegraphing his military strategy despite pronouncements he would never do so as Commander in Chief.

If the reasons Trump supporters give for supporting Trump prove to be untrue, then what is the real reason for their continued support? This is the discussion America needs to be having.