Was, is, or has America ever been "great?"

America’s “greatness” is an issue on which opinions are all over the map - and it’s interesting that liberals and conservatives each have plenty of reasons to claim that America is great, or is not great.

On the one hand, you have people like Hillary Clinton who recently claimed, “America never stopped being great.” You have some liberals who claim that America was never great. You have conservatives who claim also that America is still great today. There’s also the Donald Trump faction of “Make America Great Again” - implying that America was great before but lost its way and needs to reclaim that greatness. Finally, it’s a favorite opinion among many conservatives that America is following the footsteps of the Roman Empire - namely, that it was great before, and perhaps is still great, but is definitely on the path to losing its greatness.
Generally, I’ve found that conservatives tend to evaluate “greatness” from something of a ***quantitative ***standpoint - namely, that America has one of the largest economies in the world, the most powerful military in the world, is a powerhouse in science and technology, one of the highest standards of living in the world, is the world’s most influential nation in many regards, etc. and conclude from this that America is great or was great.

Liberals on the other hand often look at this from more of a ***qualitative ***standpoint and point to America’s horrific health care system, police shootings of unarmed suspects, racial tensions in society, frequent shootings, history of slavery, high incarceration rate, income inequality, the absurd cost of tuition, etc. and say that America is not great. This is why some liberals will say for instance, that Iceland is the greatest country in the world, or that one of the Scandinavian countries is the greatest in the world. Of course, this only describes some liberals - as mentioned earlier, Hillary Clinton claimed not long ago that “America never stopped being great.” (This is an election year, of course, though.) And of course, there are conservatives who bemoan America’s national debt or moral decay or whatnot.

What are your thoughts? I realize that some people do not classify themselves as liberal or conservative, but in the interest of preventing this poll from having 12 or more options, I will only limit the poll options to liberal or conservative.

I voted still great. As with any democracy there are flaws that I feel should be addressed - term limits is one - but when we retire it will be in the US.

I have rail against the “Greatest Generation” crap. I think the influence of the Millenials and young people who are focused on equality and representation of opinion for all as well as the interest in building a true future (as opposed to the “Greatests” and the Boomers Me Me Me feeling of entitlement) are really making the U.S. a great place.

Great is a relative term. I think that what most spouters of the sweaty hat phrase mean is “1955,” which is what most jingoists, sexists, racists and generally uneducated citz think of as “the way America always was until the pinkos and queers screwed it up” - or some such.

The joke, of course, is that 1946-1960 is one of the greatest global and national aberrations in history, and is absolutely in no way representative of a sustainable world/country/economy.

But while I don’t blindly think the US is the greatest country on earth, I do think across the board and under the limitations it has, it has equals but no superiors. (You simply can’t compare small, largely homogeneous countries to the US, or vice versa.)

Loud, yes. Great, no.

I voted “never great and still isn’t”. OK, wait, hear me out.

In certain ways America has, no question, been great for me. I was born into a WASP-y middle class family, and have managed to reach a position of employment that, while not making me independently wealthy, has certainly made me comfortable. So, between a favorable business climate, relative political stability and my position as one of a (relatively) privileged class, metaphorically speaking, “baseball been bery bery good to me”.

It’s hard not to notice, however, that vast numbers of people in this country have it a lot harder than I do. Whether due to racism or economic deprivation, I’m fairly certain it’s not just due to some inherent laziness or inability on their part. Until sometime after WWII, several classes had few of the rights and protections that my WASP-y group did; that situation, at least, has generally improved in recent decades. Nevertheless, there are still classes of people who are at the back of line, economically, and racism still clearly exists, despite being somewhat hidden when compared to the period before oh, say, 1965 or so. So in my view there’s still a bit further to go before I’m willing to call it ‘great’ without qualification.

I think it’s absurd to define a “great” country as one that is flawless or at least doesn’t have very much wrong with it. I’m almost tempted to go the other way and say, the greater the nation, the greater its problems.

I think that America is, and always has been, both great and seriously and deeply flawed. I think that, both historically and currently, America has much to be proud of and much to be ashamed of. And I don’t think greatness is a competition or a zero-sum game. To call America great is not to imply that other nations necessarily aren’t.

If a history of slavery eliminates you from greatness, there aren’t very many contenders anywhere in the world, especially if you count things that were done within the territory now occupied by a recently formed country.

Greatness is such a fuzzy term anyway. When I answer the question, I’m using it to mean “I like my country enough that I have no desire to move to any other country” and by that definition, America is and always has been great. This is the place that other people come to and that is probably the biggest criteria I would use to judge greatness.

America is and was great, mostly when you think about the alternatives. It could be a LOT better.

America is pretty good. It is better than it was in the past, and it can be even better in the future.

Was great, is still great, but not as great. There are problems that need to be addressed and I think the politician/big business/lobbyist cycle is eating up the middle class.

From my perspective, never “great.” It’s not as bad as it used to be. Still better than most alternatives, though.

Was great, is great, will be great. The question is about ‘greater’, then, now, and in the future.

I claim to be conservative, but often agree with liberals…basically I’m libertarian, which makes me fall with the typical conservatives on some issues and fall with the liberals with others.

America was and is great. People fail to realize the reason why America doesn’t seem so great right now, is that the rest of the world is catching and caught up to us (and often surpasses us). I don’t view it so much as a zero sum game. It took Europe 70 years to recover from beating each other up so much that those countries finally became great as well.

Never was and certainly isn’t now. Look at any stats comparing the US to other countries (well, the developed ones) and we are failing miserably. And anyone wanting to drag the country back into the sexist racist you name it phobic 1950s when most people had miserable lives is going to get quite a fight from me.

America looks better from the outside, looking-in. From inside, it appears pretty screwed-up. That being said, I’m sure that America “is the greatest, best country God has ever given man on the face of the earth”. Alright, I plagiarized that part. I don’t even like that guy but thought it was good for a laugh.

I’m fortunate enough to have travelled around the world, but there’s nowhere I’d rather live than in the good, ol’ US of A. Other countries can seem wonderful under the romantic haze of a part-time stay. But they’ve their own problems. Whether their problems are better or worse is a matter of perspective.

But what tips the scales for me is that most people WANT to immigrate here.
Oh, and our building codes. :slight_smile:

We were lucky – incredibly lucky – in having people like George Washington to start us on our path. Imagine if John Adams’ administration had been our first. Would we ever have had a second?

Actually, from an outside perspective the usual refrain when hearing news from America is “well, at least we don’t live there”.

I think the truth is somewhere between the pessimistic jingoism of the right and the hopeful cynicism of the left.
Of course America has been and still is a “great” country in a “land a man on the moon, kick Hitler’s ass, invent the 20th Century and the Internet” sort of way.

I think to properly evaluate our greatness, you need to compare us against our peers. These are the top ten countries by populations:
United States

Now I’m somewhat biased, but are any of these countries “greater” than the US?

I think what makes America a bit different from most other countries is that it was created on purpose. It wasn’t the result of centuries of people who just happen to live in a certain area. That is to say, it was started more or less from scratch around 240 years ago to become the largest, most advanced economy and most power military the world had ever seen. People came (and still come here) specifically to be Americans. And for the most part, we manage to integrate all those different groups without everyone constantly killing each other all the time.

Right. Because everywhere else in the world is perfect.

Dutch here. I think America is great like the big capital city of a country is great. The big city has the leaders, the most impressive buildings, impressive everything…best entertainment, most knowledge, most luxury, the most stuff going on, the most diversity of people…mostly because so many ambitious people went there to make it.
America the Worlds Big City IS great. But I don’t want to live there, I’m much happier in my own villagey corner of the world.