Campaign slogans are always just one short sentence, but they always involve the input of dozens of people (possibly thousands), in a very complicated process, with testing and polling, the same way advertising agencies help manufacturers come up with names for new products.
Soap, cookies, toilet paper, leader of the free world…same thing.
So why did Trump choose “Make America Great Again,” with its obvious negative connotation of going back to the good old days which weren’t all that good for everyone, namely minorities?
One would think this little “problem” would have been pointed out to him by someone of substance in his campaign, and instead, he would choose something like “Make America Greater” …“Make America Greater Than Ever”…“Hillary!? Are You Freakin’ Crazy!?”…etc. He must have known what he was doing because nothing succeeds like success (sorry Dems, he won), and he was well aware of the negative feedback coming his way, but figured he could deal with it.
After all, America has been in decline in many areas for many years, and he chose the best slogan to deliver that important message.
As we look ahead to his 2020 slogan, let’s take a quick look back at some former Presidential slogans. (Please note that the examples below weren’t the only slogans used for that candidate during that particular election.) After reviewing them, maybe you’ll agree that Trump’s MAGA slogan doesn’t sound that bad at all.
Abraham Lincoln, 1860 (Winner): “Vote Yourself a Farm and Horses.” It’s a slogan to make Bernie Sanders proud, but he also shouted “Protection to American Industry,” and of course, “Honest Old Abe.” For his reelection in 1864, someone came up with the great line, “Don’t Change Horses Midstream,” which was later recycled by FDR.
Ulysses S. Grant, 1868 (Winner): “Vote As You Shot.” Talk about warmongering! A clear reference to soldiers who fought during the just-ended Civil War, both Union and Southern soldiers, I suspect. As you can see, it worked. Both sides loved their guns!
Opponents of Grover Cleveland, 1872: “Ma, Ma. Where’s My Pa!?” Yes, there were sex scandals even then, with Cleveland being suspected of fathering an illegitimate child. When Cleveland won, his supporters answered, “In the White House!”
Williams Jennings Bryan, 1896 (Loser): “No Cross of Gold, No Crown of Thorns.” With the average education of Americans not exceeding primary school, if even that, this wasn’t exactly talking to the people in their own language. Most folks just scratched their heads and voted for the other guy, William McKinley, who marketed himself with “Patriotism, Protection and Prosperity.”
William McKinley, 1900 (Winner): “Let Well Enough Alone.” Coming from an incumbent president promoting himself for reelection, you gotta admire the modesty of this slogan. Hell, if I was alive at the time and undecided, this would have definitely pushed me in McKinley’s favor. Who wants trouble? Better the devil you know.
Alton Parker, 1904 (Loser): “The People’s Choice.” Do you think he would be surprised to learn that his failed slogan would become a renowned Hollywood gala three-quarters of a century later, The People’s Choice Awards, honoring the stars of film, television and music? Seems like the kind of foresight and vision this country needs!
Woodrow Wilson, 1912 (Winner): “I Am For Wilson and an 8-hour Workday.” Considering the long work hours of the era, how could you lose with a slogan like that? Ironically, he ran for reelection in 1916 under the banner “He has kept us out of the war,” which Wilson actually did during the campaign, but didn’t do after he won with this campaign promise he didn’t keep.
Eugene V. Debs, 1920 (Loser): “From Atlanta Prison to the White House.” A trade unionist and devout Socialist who ran for President five times, he was arrested for making an anti-war speech. Don’t really know how his slogan resonated at the time, but I’m sure Bernie Sanders has a huge painting of him in his living room.
Alfred M. Landon, 1936 (Loser): “Defeat the New Deal and Its Reckless Spending.” A straightforward statement, clearly and honestly communicating Landon’s plan to do away with FDR’s New Deal. Pretty stupid slogan though, considering the relief that the New Deal was bringing to millions of destitute Americans who weren’t exactly concerned about the nuances of 1936 economics; they just wanted a damn meal.
In a future blog, I’ll review more slogans leading up to present day, some funny and some confusing. I’ll also speculate on possible upcoming slogans for the current 2020 field of Dem hopefuls.
And that should be hysterical.