The American Dream is a long-running and inspiring national-greatness myth. It posits boundless resources, freedoms and successes. Until recently the myth largely kept its overall promise, though not always and not for all. But in the 1970s, a lost war in Vietnam and an overwhelmed domestic economy launched persistent wage stagnation for many Americans. Still, despite widespread dissatisfactions, the sky’s-the-limit Dream remains a national ethos, often luring us into costly lost wars abroad and infrastructure neglect at home. Many who feel left behind blame others rather than reexamining the Dream’s (and America’s) inherent limitations. Trump capitalized on this anger in 2016, promising to resurrect the Dream after declaring it dead.
Tom Asher is a retired constitutional and charitable lawyer. He served as president of the American Civil Union of Maryland, chair of the board of the Center for responsive Politics, and founder/president of Media Access Project, public interest law firm. He served as counsel to numerous foundations, including the (Norman) Lear Family Foundation and the Rockefeller Family Fund, and nonprofit organizations, including International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Rock the Vote. He also served as special First Amendment counsel to large charities, including the Sierra Club and the American Red Cross.