There have been years of talk now about making America great again from the Trump campaign. But there hasn't been quite so much talk about who America used to be great for?

That part is unspoken isn't it, that part is implicit in the contract, we don't say it out loud because we already know. It's a nod and wink that means us.

Not the people we don't like. Not the people who don't look like us. They can all choke. Right?

But we should keep asking who exactly did America used to be great for? Was it great for black people? Latinos? Native Americans? Gay people? Feminists? Undocumented immigrants? The working class? Not so much, eh?

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The truth is that the push for civil rights for most of these underserved social, racial or sexual minority groups only really got started within the last half-century and these movements have made America infinitely better, not worse.

From the New Deal to the GI Bill to Civil Rights to Stonewall, the truth is that that the improvements in the material lives and life experiences of millions of Americans only really got started in the era that Trump supporters insist was already America's greatest.

So for most people what you see really depends on where you stand. If you were white and middle class or even further up the economic ladder from the 1950s onwards you would have grown to maturity in what sociologists call the American Century, the longest period of peace, prosperity and social advancement the country has ever known.

Of course, the so-called baby boomers were the main beneficiaries of that booming American Century. They could usually expect to rise higher than their parents on the economic ladder, they had job security and good health insurance and access to higher education and the real expectation of advancement.

The worst of them took all this privilege for granted, assuming that it was as fixed and fated as they felt their own lives to be. That assurance turned out to be misplaced.

Interestingly, it started to go wrong just at the very moment when it seemed the country's forward trajectory was the most assured, in the Ronald Reagan led 1980s.

Back to back recessions, rising wealth consolidations, unfettered banking practices, globalization of the markets assured the rise of a rapacious and devouring top tier who now own over half the nations wealth, which in turn has seen economic progress stall for most baby boomers, just as it has intensified for the one percent.

So what did America's far-seeing baby boomers do when the chips were down? Did they push for the kind of ambitious social and economic reinvestment their parents had fought for with the New Deal and the GI Bill?

No, in their wisdom they built a golem out of every bad quality they possessed: anger, fear, envy, grievance, hatred, contempt for others. Then they found a human avatar to give it expression. He’s in the White House now.

The writer James Baldwin once wrote this observation: “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

It's a remarkable insight. It's possible to see every debate in America through the prism of pain avoidance: from gun control to affirmative action, to the opioid crisis, to reparation payments, to slavery, to genocide.

It's because many people feel that if we ever really have these discussions they will lose. So to prevent the long-postponed discussion of who we are to each other and what we owe, we have placed Trump in office like a plugin a leaky dike.

But I have a growing sense that in doing this his supporters, overwhelmingly white and conservative, have finally overplayed their hand. Because now all of the discussions they dread are actually being embodied and promoted by their own president. They have shown their hand.

White supremacy is a discussion now, so is white nationalism - fueled by the misplaced belief that the rights and entitlements of white people are under threats from their neighbors rather than their employers. The resentment is on the rise but so it the debate about it.

In picking an angry figurehead to defend them against the uncertainties of the future, Trump's supporters have elevated a man who literally embodies the worst of our past. It's a tragic irony. 

Read more: Trump haters are no better than the President himself

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