This piece was originally published by American Greatness on April 2, 2018.
In the 2016 campaign, the slogan “Make America Great Again” was simultaneously a cry from the heart and a masterpiece of political marketing.
Ronald Reagan used a version, “Let’s make America great again,” in 1980. Then the country faced double-digit inflation and interest rates, gasoline rationing, and a Soviet Empire on the march around the world. In what became known as the “Malaise Speech,” Carter blamed our problems on “a fundamental threat to American democracy” which was, he said, “a crisis of confidence” among the American people. Reagan said: Get rid of leaders like Carter, and America will return to confidence and greatness.
Sometimes, slogans tell us a lot about the candidates and campaigns with whom they are associated. Why is the candidate running? On what goal is he or she focused? What values does he or she consider most important? James K. Polk demanded the annexation of the Pacific Northwest to 54 degrees 40 minutes north latitude; he ran on “Fifty-four Forty or Fight!” In the aftermath of the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant depicted Democrats as Southern sympathizers and urged Union veterans to “Vote As You Shot!”
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