Opinion | Scott M. Estill: Making America great
“Make America Great Again” was first used successfully in 1980 as a campaign slogan of President Reagan. He used this catchphrase to offer hope to people in what were difficult financial times (to say the least). An inflation rate of 12.5% and unemployment of 7.2% make today’s economic situation tame by comparison. Yet, when President Trump took over in 2017, the economic factors (4.7% inflation rate and 2.1% unemployment) were good and getting better. What was wrong with the country that it needed to be made great (again)? And if it wasn’t great now, when in the past was it great? In other words, to what time period are we really referring to here?
We need to turn back the clock to before I was born to arrive at a historical era that the MAGA hat wearers would find to be “great.” I’ve arrived at 1957 as the year. Why 1957? Looking back, America certainly wouldn’t be considered “great” under the prior Democratic administrations. The ugly military conflicts in Vietnam and the Middle East eliminate most of the Republican years after 1960. I did consider the eight years under Reagan but dismissed them as Roe v. Wade was still the law of the land and the economy stunk for most of these years.
To know where we are going in the near future, we need to look back to the time period we are going back to.
During that time, the color of your skin and nationality would matter (a lot). The governor of Arkansas ordered the National Guard to stop Black children from entering an all-white school. He then ordered the Little Rock public schools to close for a year to prevent forced federal integration, claiming that the federal government had no right to interfere in how a state educated its children. He was a Democrat.
Jim Crow laws were in effect throughout the Southern states. These laws made voting impossible for many Black citizens, reduced education opportunities via a “separate but equal” policy and made basic day-to-day living under a segregated society a most difficult existence. The U.S Supreme Court gave its blessing to these practices in 1896 and didn’t change its mind for 58 years. It took Congress another decade before it realized that removing barriers to voting was important for all skin colors. Change takes time.
The first birth control pill was introduced in 1957, but it was approved for menstrual relief and not as a contraceptive. It took eight years for a married person and 15 years for a single person before the U.S. Supreme Court found constitutional protection for the use of any contraceptives.
When I say “married,” I am referring to a marriage between a man and a woman, both of the same skin color. It was a crime in Virginia (and 15 other states) up until a unanimous 1967 U.S Supreme Court ruling that rejected any laws that prevented interracial marriage. Forget any sense of privacy. Police officers raided the private home of a white man and Black woman who evaded Virginia’s marriage laws when they married in Washington, D.C. (where it was legal for spouses not to match skin colors) and caught them in the act of sleeping. Yes, the police obtained a warrant from a judge prior to the 2 a.m. arrest.
Look past the Trumpism in the MAGA movement and you see the return to 1957 very clearly in the plans. In 2021 there were 19 States that passed restrictive voting laws, again blessed by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling preventing federal oversight of voting discrimination. Once Roe v. Wade is overturned, over 25 million women of child-bearing age in 20 states will no longer have access to abortion as a viable medical procedure. Another 12.1 million women in 10 additional states won’t know the status of their own reproductive health rights until upcoming elections determine which party is in control.
The party with the red hats has the full backing of a very sympathetic Supreme Court sitting with a 6-to-3 advantage.
If you are uncomfortable with this scenario, the time to step up and voice your opposition is now. Sending many resolved (until now) constitutional rights back to the states to determine who gets what rights will become the rule. It will ultimately paralyze an already fractured country, as the right to vote, procreate (or not), marry, educate and many other issues will depend upon what state you live in, and not which country. That is most definitely not making America great again.
Scott M. Estill’s column “Challenges, Choices, Changes” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Estill is an attorney, author, and public speaker who lives in Dillon when not traveling or attending to legal matters in Denver. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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