Get out your Donald Trump hats, everybody. Bloomberg, recognizing the value in asking attention-grabbing questions in its polls, included a question in its new national survey focused on the question of America's greatness. And, as it notes, a full 72 percent of Americans think the country used to be greater.
That's 47 percent who think America is "falling behind" and 25 percent who think we're "failing" — proving, categorically, that Trump is right.
But of course, it doesn't.
First, there are the semantics of the question. "Great" has degrees. If you ask if America is "greater than it has ever been," saying no doesn't mean it isn't still great; it's just not as great. If you ask whether America is "equally great as it has been in the past," a "no" still doesn't mean it's not great. You might say, for example, that America is great but is "falling behind." You know who is great? Tiger Woods. But Tiger Woods is falling a bit behind. (Of course, "failing" is admittedly a little harder to put a spin on.)
Then, there's the timeframe. Bloomberg is comparing now to the past — with no consideration of the future. And that's important, because Americans have consistently seen the future as being brighter for our nation. Exclude the present, which apparently always seems lame, and things change.
A sample of polling:
In every case, a majority of respondents said that America's best days lay ahead.
And it goes back further than that. In 1982, The Post and ABC News asked if people agreed that America's best days were behind it. Sixty-one percent of people disagreed. This was during the Reagan administration, which Trump offered as the period "[y]ou felt really proud" when NBC's Chuck Todd asked him the last time America was great.
Americans are optimistic. We see problems in the moment and opportunity ahead. Trump's pledge to make America great again leverages that optimism, in its way. But I'm skeptical, based on my own anecdotal observations, that the majority of Americans don't actually think America is great. I mean, have you ever opened your eyes on July 4th? Have you been to an NFL game? Come on.
Maybe you want to use the highly scientific metric of social media. Fine.
Or maybe you want to heed the words of a dewy-eyed optimist, caught up in the moment during an interview with Fox News's Greta van Susteren shortly after Barack Obama's inauguration.
"We have the greatest country in the world," he declared. The greatest! "We have a young, vibrant, smart president who, I think, is going to do a really good job. And, honestly, he has to do a really good job or this country maybe will never be the same. We had eight years of a horrendous president, a terrible president. You cannot get worse than Bush. And I really believe that Obama will be a great president, and I hope he is."
If you haven't guessed — which of course you have — that "America is the greatest" patriot was one Donald J. Trump.