“Sadly, the American Dream is dead.”
After rambling, off script, for most of his 50-minute speech to announce his presidential candidacy in June 2015, Donald Trump had returned to his written remarks for the final section. He delivered these somber words slowly, pausing for emphasis.
“Sadly. . . the American Dream is dead,” he enunciated, pausing again.
In the cavernous lobby of Trump Tower, an eager supporter filled that pregnant silence. “Bring it back!” she shouted.
Sure enough, that was Trump’s promise and the final line, the bottom line, of his candidacy: “But if I get elected president, I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again!”
This became his mantra. Make America Great Again. The premise of that motto—the American Dream is dead—carried the day in state after state, and it drew boisterous crowds at rallies in places like Lowell, Massachusetts; Beaumont, Texas; Mobile, Alabama (“We’re running on fumes. There’s nothing here … ”); and Springfield, Illinois.
“These rally towns,” the Washington Post reported in an early effort to decode Trump’s meaning, “lag behind the country and their home states on a number of measures. Their median household incomes are lower, and they often have lower rates of homeownership or residents with college degrees.”
On April 26, 2016, my own state of Maryland, along with four other states, voted for Trump in the primary election, putting him on the doorstep of the Republican nomination. “Every single place I go is a disaster,” Trump said in his victory remarks that night.