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May 19th, 2019

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RESOLVED: 'Make America Great Again' is an absolutely brilliant political slogan

Chris Cillizza

By Chris Cillizza The Washington Post

Published April 1, 2016

RESOLVED: 'Make America Great Again' is an absolutely brilliant political slogan

When Donald Trump insisted he would "make America great again" in every one of his speeches at the start of his presidential campaign, some people rolled their eyes. When he started wearing a hat with the slogan emblazoned on it, many more people rolled their eyes.

Trump, as so has often been the case in this campaign, got the last laugh. "Make America Great Again" became both his calling card and the rallying cry for those drawn to his message. And, whether he realized it or not, those four words perfectly encapsulated the nostalgia mixed with disappointment and anger pulsing through a large-ish chunk of the American electorate.

New polling from the Pew Research Center makes this point vividly. Asked whether life for people like them is better or worse than it was 50 years, three-quarters of Trump backers say it is worse. That's significantly higher than the 46 percent of all voters who say the same and considerably higher than even supporters of Ted Cruz (63 percent worse) and John Kasich (54 percent worse).

There's something of a chicken-and-egg argument going on here. Did Trump create this group or did this group exist before him and simply find its messenger in him? I tend to believe the latter is closer to right. The economic struggles of the mid- to late-2000s and the ongoing wage stagnation in the country. The growing gap between rich and poor. The ramped-up distrust in all institutions. The sense that you are totally on your own. None of these are things that Trump created. But they are what -- whether wittingly or unwittingly -- he spoke to when he started talking about the need to "make America great again."


The slogan contains multitudes. It's a denunciation and an affirmation all at once. Things were once great. They aren't now because of, mostly, political correctness. We -- or, more specifically, Trump -- can make them great again. If you feel as though the 21st-century economy has left you behind, that you can no longer say what you think for fear of being shamed by liberals, that things used to be simpler and, therefore, better, then Trump is speaking directly to you in this campaign.

He not only understands where the country has gone off track but he knows how to get it back on course again. Say what you think, split the world into good guys and bad guys, never apologize, be strong. Make America Great Again.

I've often wondered if Trump understood -- whether consciously or at a more gut level -- any/all of this when he began talking about the need to make America great again. Did he grasp what he would be tapping into when he formulated the phrase? Or did he just sort of like how it sounded and, once it became clear others did to, find ways to make it the defining slogan of his campaign?

As always with Trump, finding the answers to those questions is virtually impossible. Regardless of how it came to exist, "Make America Great Again" is right up there with "Hope and Change" and "Morning in America" when it comes to the great slogans of the modern political era. Donald Trump wins. Again.

Previously:


03/28/16: Donald Trump is the best thing that has happened to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 race
03/18/16: A radical proposal for how Republicans could try to stop Donald Trump
03/17/16: Trump haters had a very bad night on Tuesday
03/14/16: I was really impressed with something Donald Trump did in Thursday's debate: Discipline
03/11/16: Winners and losers from the 12th Republican presidential debate
03/07/16: Here's how Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz should have answered the 'will you support Trump' question
03/04/16: Winners and losers from the 11th Republican presidential debate
03/03/16: The Republican establishment waited too long to stop Donald Trump. Now they probably can't
03/02/16: Winners and losers from Super Tuesday
02/29/16: Why Donald Trump is remarkably dangerous to the Republican Party
02/29/16: 4 reasons why Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump
02/26/16: Winners and losers from the 10th Republican presidential debate
02/24/16: Donald Trump is on course to win the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the GOP nominee
02/23/16: This Donald Trump explanation of his Iraq position is just so mind-boggling
02/22/16: Jeb Bush never really had a chance in the 2016 presidential race
02/18/16: Senate Republicans will never hold a Supreme Court vote this year. This poll shows why
02/17/16: South Carolina isn't Bush Country anymore
02/12/16: Winners and losers from the 6th Dem debate
02/10/16: Winners and losers from the New Hampshire primary
02/06/16: Winners and losers from the fifth Democratic presidential debate
01/29/16: Winners and losers from the 7th Republican presidential debate
01/27/16: Ranking the Republican 2016 field
01/25/16: Trump is the favorite to be the Republican nominee. Period
01/22/16: Who had the worst week in Washington? Hillary Clinton
01/18/16: Feeling bad for Jeb Bush
01/15/16: Winners and losers from the sixth Republican presidential debate
01/12/16: Here's exactly how Bernie Sanders can beat Hillary Clinton
01/11/16:The fantasy scenario that could become reality for Hillary
12/30/15: The five big lessons from a weirdly watchable year of politics
12/21/15: Winners and losers in the third Democratic presidential debate
12/16/15: Winners and losers from the 5th Republican presidential debate
12/16/15: Cruz, not Trump, looking like GOP favorite for 2016
12/04/15: Ted Cruz is the sleeping giant in the Republican race
11/24/15:Trump is leading an increasingly fact-free 2016 campaign
11/23/15: A ranking of GOP presidential candidates who can still make a case --- and the nominee
11/16/15: The remarkably unappealing anger of Donald Trump
11/11/15: Winners and losers from the fourth Republican debate
11/02/15: Jeb Bush says he still doesn't get why his terrible debate performance matters so much
10/29/15: Winners and losers from the third Republican presidential debate
10/22/15: Paul Ryan might be saving his party. But at what cost?
10/20/15: Six things we know Joe Biden is thinking
10/19/15: Who had the worst week in Washington? Lincoln Chafee
10/14/15: Winners and losers from the first Dem presidential debate

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