When Was America Greatest?

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again,” but what does that even mean? Depending on who you are, when you were born, and which socio-economic class you lucked into, the time period when America was great could be anywhere from the Revolutionary era to the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s. Even the greatest eras in American history were marred by ugliness and misfortune. Booming economic times shared space with terrorist attacks and the displacement of indigenous people. Put on your thinking cap and vote up the times when was America great.

From the Civil Rights movement to the waves of feminism that date back to the first great awakening, every era has had something going for it. But when was America last great? What era can you look back on and place a demarcation saying there’s been a steady decline in greatness ever since? Have we hit that moment in history yet? According to Donald Trump, the answer is yes, but what era do you think we should return to? What era do you think we should try to emulate?

Vote up the periods of U.S history to which you think “Make America Great Again” refer

The Post-WWII Boom

What made it great: Massive economic prosperity, malt shops, The Catcher in the Rye

What made it not so great: Institutionalized racism, the threat of atomic annihilation, Atlas Shrugged

The Space Race

What made it great: Neo-futurism, we went to the moon, a massive jump in technology.

What made it not so great: Sending animals into space to die, rocket development, finding exactly zero space aliens

The Revolutionary Era

What made it great: America winning its independence, no cell phones, people still loved poetry.

What made it not so great: All that fife music, slavery, no indoor plumbing

The Era of Continental Expansion

What made it great: We moved out west, the Homestead Act

What made it not so great: The War of 1812, mass annexation of Native land

The Great Awakening

What made it great: Spiritual equality was extended to African American slaves, women were told they could analyze their feelings

What made it not so great: Rampant hucksterism, the separation of the Calvinist movement

The Grungey ’90s

What made it great: America making all the money, the nation beginning its love affair with Dave Grohl, chain coffee shops on every corner

What made it not so great: Neoconservatism, the Gulf War, the Oklahoma City bombing

The Era of Good Feelings

What made it great: Everyone loved America, bitter bipartisan disputes ended, Monroe’s tour of goodwill

What made it not so great: The panic of 1819, the Missouri Crisis, Jacksonian Nationalism

The Go-Go Eighties

What made it great: MTV, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the phrase “gag me with a spoon”

What made it not so great: Yuppies, Reaganomics, cocaine

The Roaring Twenties

What made it great: Jazz, the suffrage movement, all of the great art

What made it not so great: No air conditioning, Black Tuesday, Prohibition

The Gold Rush

What made it great: There was gold in them there hills! The growth of San Francisco, railroad construction

What made it not so great: Pushing Native Americans from their homes, organized attacks on foreign miners, the depletion of natural resources


What made it great: Slavery officially being not cool, the beginning of the public school system, railroad subsidies

What made it not so great: Things were still awful for African Americans, the Panic of 1873, the much-disputed 1876 Presidential election

Progressive Era

What made it great: Political reform, everyone had a mustache, the upgrading of country life, Teddy Roosevelt shaking everybody’s hand

What made it not so great: Prohibition, state-sponsored eugenics programs, the Influenza epidemic

World War II

What made it great: An increase in production, the advancement of military technology, women joining the workforce

What made it not so great: The Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, the internment of Japanese Americans, dropping two atomic bombs, war in general

The ’70s

What made it great: Vietnam finally ended, Stephen Hawking’s theory of black holes, Star Wars

What made it not so great: The energy crisis, Watergate, the all-time high of the misery index

The Civil War

What made it great: Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, America developing the modern Navy

What made it not so great: Slavery, the rampant bloodshed brought on by a mixture of economic policy and the desire to make people work for free, all of that fife music

The New Deal Era

What made it great: Banking reform, the creation of the Public Works Administration, the Social Security act

What made it not so great: The recession of 1937, increased federal debt, widespread bureaucracy

The Groovy ’60s

What made it great: Feminism, all those swingin’ tunes, the Civil Rights Movement

What made it not so great: Nixon’s election as President, assassinations, a massive increase of urban crime, entrenched systematic racism, Vietnam

The Early 2000s

What made it great: The rise of high quality cable TV programming, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” hybrid vehicles finally hit the market

What made it not so great: The September 11 attacks, the Patriot Act, Hurricane Katrina, the invasion and occupation of Iraq

The Dot-Com Bubble

What made it great: The continued expansion of the stock market, almost everyone got Internet, a few people made a lot of money.

What made it not so great: The massive bust of first-wave dot-com companies, people skateboarding in their offices, the stock market crashing

The Great Depression

What made it great: The rise of the American hobo, The Grapes of Wrath, Woody Guthrie

What made it not so great: The massive economic crash, increasing racial tensions, the run on the banks