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America 101: Why Do Presidential Campaigns Use Slogans?

America 101: Why Do Presidential Campaigns Use Slogans?


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The little-known history of ‘Make America Great Again’

THE slogan that took American presidential politics by storm has a long and important history, tracing back to former US President Ronald Reagan.

Trump one year on: by the numbers.

Trump one year on: by the numbers

Ronald Reagan was the first to use the slogan: ‘Make America Great Again’. Picture: News Corp Australia. Source:News Corp Australia

It’s the slogan that engulfed American politics. It will likely be a mainstay of presidential politics for years to come. So what does it mean, and where did it come from?

The slogan has a long and interesting history that explains its recent re-emergence.

Mr Trump isn’t the first President to use the slogan. Ronald Reagan rolled it out during his 1980 Presidential campaign.

𠇏or those who’ve abandoned hope, we’ll restore hope and we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again,” he said at the 1980 Republican National Convention.

Mr Reagan’s predecessor was Jimmy Carter, a president Republicans remember as weak and ineffectual. The final year of his presidency was marred by a number of humiliating controversies, including the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Mr Reagan’s use of “Make America Great Again” was a reaction to Carter’s known failings. It was a promise to return America to the prestige it had lost.

Republicans turned to Ronald Reagan to correct Carter’s presidency. Picture: AP. Source:AP

Fast-forward 40 years, and the slogan has come back with a vengeance.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Mr Trump recounted how he landed upon the famous catchphrase. He claimed he thought of it himself after Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama in 2011.

Mr Trump originally thought of: “We Will Make America Great.” Then: “Make America Great.” Then finally, “Make America Great Again” popped into his brain.

“I said, ‘That is so good.’ I wrote it down,” Trump told The Washington Post. “I went to my lawyers. I have a lot of lawyers in-house. We have many lawyers. I have got guys that handle this stuff. I said, ‘See if you can have this registered and trademarked.’ “

When campaigning for the 2016 election began, the slogan was an instant success. The basic design of the red “Make America Great Again” hat took off.

The red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat was a symbol of the Trump campaign. Picture: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong. Source:AP

“It actually inspired me,” Mr Trump said, �use to me, it meant jobs. It meant industry, and meant military strength. It meant taking care of our veterans. It meant so much.”

Others thought the slogan was racist.

“If you’re a white southerner, you know exactly what it means,” Bill Clinton said.

For most Americans, the country has never been more accepting and inclusive. The country has taken tremendous stride for the LGBT community, women and African-Americans.

“I’m actually old enough to remember the good old days, and they weren’t all that good in many ways,” Mr Clinton said.

Whether it’s racist or not, “Make America Great Again” completely dwarfed the Clinton campaign’s slogan: “Stronger Together”.

There was something special about Mr Trump’s slogan that Mr Clinton couldn’t match.

Mr Trump’s supporters wanted to undo the Obama presidency. Picture: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP. Source:AFP

The slogan appealed to a group of disaffected voters who, due to globalisation, were struggling to fulfil the American dream that was promised to them. Unlike previous Republican presidential candidates, Mr Trump appealed to voters in economic ruin voters who believed in American exceptionalism, just not right now. Not after eight years of Barack Obama.

And in a role reversal, it was the Democrat touting the idea that America is and has always been ‘great’.

“If you’re looking for someone to say what is wrong with America, I’m not your candidate. I think there is more right than wrong,” Hillary Clinton said. That simply didn’t cut it for the thousands of Americans looking for a candidate to validate the ugly reality of their economic decline.

“Make America Great Again” meant America First, better trade deals, strict immigration laws, secure borders, a bigger and better military, less gun control and religious freedom. To supporters of Mr Trump, Mr Obama stole these things from them and in doing so, destroyed American prestige. ‘Make America Great Again’ was a decision a decision that enough was enough.

Mr Trump’s use of ‘Make America Great Again’ is a sly condemnation of the Obama Presidency. Picture: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais. Source:News Corp Australia

Mr Reagan and Mr Trump’s use of “Make America Great Again” are eerily similar. They were both a backlash to their predecessors, both of whom were Democratic presidents who were blamed for the decline of American prestige.

If Mr Reagan’s use of the slogan had everything to do with Mr Carter, Mr Trump’s had everything to do with Mr Obama.


Chapter 3: How do governments shape elections?

State governments enjoy a huge amount of power in deciding how to run elections. These governments can wield their power to expand the electorate, helping ensure governments at every level are representative of the communities they are elected to serve. Yet all too often, state governments choose to use their power to limit the vote.

Voter suppression dates back to the earliest days of our country.

From our country’s founding, anti-democratic forces have worked to limit the vote. For our country’s first one-hundred years, only white men were permitted to vote. White women, all black men and women and Native Americans, were denied the vote under the first US constitution. Even after universal male suffrage was guaranteed in 1870 under the 15th Amendment, women of all races were prevented from voting until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920.

Voter suppression in this country has historically targeted black voters. Black men secured the vote in the aftermath of the civil war, radically altering the political makeup of the south. From 1870 to 1877, black men served as US Senators, Representatives and state and local elected officials in former Confederate states. These men were elected primarily by newly-enfranchised former slaves throughout the American south.

White fear of black political power led to new voter suppression laws. Starting in 1877, the federal government withdrew troops from former Confederate states and effectively stepped back from any effort to protect black men’s right to vote in southern states. Southern legislatures quickly passed legislation to suppress the black vote, including “poll taxes,” which kept poor Americans from voting, and “grandfather clauses,” which disenfranchised the descendants of former slaves. While most explicit voter suppression laws during this period were passed in the American south, they were passed with the complicity of northern states, who made little to no effort to protect black male suffrage.

Terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan targeted black voters to suppress the vote. KKK members staked out polling places, lynched black voters, and engaged in a campaign of terror to suppress the vote. By 1940, only 3 percent of eligible black voters in the south were registered to vote.

Our country’s racist history of voter suppression began with targeted efforts to prevent black Americans from voting, but today, Latinx voters also face concerted efforts to limit their access to the ballot.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEAO) estimated that laws passed since 2012 would make voting more difficult in 2016 for 875,000 eligible Latino voters. Five of the states that passed more restrictive voting laws since 2012 are in the top-ten in terms of Latino population nationwide -- and Texas (which is home to 9.8 million Latinx residents) had a law on the books in 2016 that was thrown out in 2017 for having been enacted with clear “discriminatory intent.” Voter suppression in the 21st century looks different than it did decades ago, but it shares an end goal of preventing brown and black Americans from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

Black activists led the fight for voting rights, often without white progressives. From Sojourner Truth’s 1851 speech at the Women’s Rights Convention, to Ida B Wells-Barnett’s campaign against lynching, to Dr. King’s tireless advocacy to pass a voting rights bill, black Americans fought for the right to vote against terrifying opposition. As a result of this sustained activism, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The legislation represented the federal government’s decision to re-engage to protect black voters for the first time in nearly one hundred years. It was a major step forward, requiring jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to receive federal government approval before changing election laws, and forbidding any election policies that limit the vote based on race.

The election of the first black president coincided with a surge in new voter suppression laws. These new laws are disguised to appear less explicitly racist than those of the past. Rather than talking about suppressing the vote, new racist laws talk about “stopping voter fraud.” But, as studies show, there’s zero evidence that “voter fraud” is a real problem -- and a lot of evidence that these laws are really intended to stop black and brown Americans from voting.

Some examples of anti-democratic voter suppression laws, rulings, and policies include:

Voter ID laws -- At present, ten states have strict voter ID laws in place. These laws are a solution in search of a problem. Voter fraud is an imagined crisis, but getting an approved ID can be a challenge for many voters.

Rollback of VRA -- In June 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated key portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 5-4 decision freed nine states -- primarily in the south -- to change election laws without approval from the federal government. In the four years since the court’s decision, legal battles have raged across the American south, as states from Texas to North Carolina moved to implement new strict voter ID laws.

Reduction of early vote -- Early vote periods allow voters who might be busy on election day to vote on their own time in the lead-up to the election. In 2016, a number of states, including Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin all cut early voting days or hours.

Reduction of same-day registration - Same-day voter registration works to expand the electorate, allowing voters who may have been unaware of voter registration deadlines to register to vote at the polling location. North Carolina eliminated election day same-day registration in 2013, and the law was allowed to go into effect without federal government review following that year’s Supreme Court decision.

Cuts to polling places and hours -- Legislators have strategically closed polling places or limited hours in key locations in order to limit voting access for people of color. In 2016, The New York Times rolled out the “Voter Suppression Trail,” an interactive “game” that demonstrates the impact of cuts to polling places and hours on citizens’ ability to cast a ballot.

Returning citizens -- Nine states disenfranchise all voters convicted of a felony. In these states, citizens returning from serving a sentence must apply to the Governor of their state to have their voting rights restored. Because our country’s criminal justice system disproportionately targets black and brown Americans -- one in three black men and one in six Latino men can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime, compared to one in seventeen white men -- laws that disenfranchise returning citizens target voters of color.

Disabled Americans -- While the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 explicitly prohibited states from “categorically disqualifying” all people with intellectual or mental health disabilities from voting, thirty-nine states do have some laws that can deny those with “mental incapacities” the right to vote. In all but eleven states, some disabled Americans are barred from voting.

DC & US Territories -- Today, 4.5 million Americans (including 3.4 million in Puerto Rico and 0.6 million in DC) live in US districts and territories that have no voting Congressional representation. Most of the residents of these territories are non-white. Together, residents of these non-voting territories comprise a bigger percentage of the US population than voters in half of US states, including New Mexico, Iowa and Connecticut.

The “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” -- In May 2017, Trump announced the creation of the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” and put notorious voter suppression expertKansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in charge, with the mission of uncovering evidence of the non-existent voter fraud Trump claims plagues our elections. The architect of the Commission, Hans von Spakovsky, has argued that Democrats and “mainstream Republican officials and/or academics” should be excluded from participating because they are insufficiently zealous about pursuing evidence of voter fraud. Since its formation, the commission has not uncovered any of this evidence—but it has managed to come under investigation for its funding, operations, and protection of citizens’ voting information.

States can fight voter suppression and expand the electorate.

Efforts to protect the vote have also been gaining traction around the country. Some tactics for voter expansion include:

Automatic voter registration -- In the last two years, six states have created “opt-out” voter registration. In these states, voters who interact with certain state agencies (for example, the Department of Motor Vehicles) are automatically registered unless they specifically opt-out of registration.

Same-day voter registration -- At present, fifteen statesallow same-day voter registration. These states tend to be clustered in the northeast and northwest of the country, although Maryland and North Carolina have allowed same-day registration during early vote periods.

Online voter registration -- Online voter registration increases voter participation, particularly among young first-time registrants. These “digital natives” are more comfortable registering online. Online registration also removes the possibility of lost paperwork. 35 states allow electronic registration.

Long early vote periods and no-excuse absentee ballots -- Thirty-seven states allow some form of early voting, whether that be in-person early voting or no-excuse absentee voting. Increasing the time period allowed for voting boosts turnout.

Pre-registration for high school students -- Fourteen states allow high school students as young as 16 years old to “pre-register” to vote. Once pre-registered students turn 18, they are automatically added to the voter rolls.

All mail voting -- Three states -- Colorado, Oregon and Washington -- have an all vote-by-mail system. Ballots are mailed to all registered voters ahead of election day. Voters don’t have to worry about being delayed at work or getting stuck in traffic. On the other hand, mail voting does require voters to take the initiative to mail the ballot back in in time to be counted.

Both voter suppression and expansion impact election results.

State election policies have a real impact on election results. No one is trying to keep rich, straight, white guys from voting. Efforts to restrict the vote disproportionately impact voters of color, and can swing elections away from more progressive candidates.

The number of votes separating a winning and losing campaign can be really small. In 2016, progressive candidates in Nevada and New Hampshire ran closely contested elections for Senate. In Nevada, the difference between the two candidates was about 25,000 votes, or 0.6 percent of the vote. In New Hampshire, the margin was even smaller: just 1,017 votes, or 0.1 percent of the vote.

The laws our governments pass can make it easier or harder to turn out to vote. At the end of the day, voting is the strongest tool we have to take back control of our government. Stay tuned: Indivisible, along with partner organizations, will be releasing guides on voter protection efforts in the coming months.

In 2016, Donald Trump won Wisconsin by about 23,000 votes, out of nearly three million ballots cast.

The state saw its lowest turnout since the year 2000, and most of that drop occurred in Milwaukee, a city in which more than half of residents identify as black or Latinx. Milwaukee’s election director, Neil Albrecht, estimates that “between 10,000 and 15,000 voters” in Milwaukee didn’t vote because of a new photo ID law passed by the Wisconsin state legislature. Mother Jones has a great article on the impact of voter suppression in Wisconsin, which shows the impact a single bad law can have on politics across the country.


The Long History Behind Donald Trump's 'America First' Foreign Policy

I n the course of an interview with the New York Times, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had his foreign policy boiled down to two words: “America First.” In an exchange prompted by the Times‘ David E. Sanger, who was the first to use the phrase in the course of the interview, Trump said that he was “not isolationist” but that he was, in fact, “America First.”

“I like the expression,” the candidate said. “I&rsquom ‘America First.'”

Trump explained that what he meant by the idea was that his administration would prevent other nations from taking advantage of the United States. But whatever he meant, those words come with nearly a century’s worth of political baggage.

Though the nation has a long history of vowing to stay out of the problems of other countries&mdashGeorge Washington’s farewell address famously warned against foreign entanglements in 1796&mdashbut it was after World War I, as the U.S. was in a position of power and wealth compared to its once-stronger allies, that the modern version of that sentiment came to the forefront. At the war’s close, President Wilson had urged the nation to join the new League of Nations, to ensure peace through international cooperation in the precursor to the United Nations. In 1919, however, the Senate had rejected the idea of participating in such an organization.

In the years that followed, it appeared to some that the isolationist instinct in the U.S. had been a good one. As Europe faltered and once-supreme nations struggled to recover, the U.S. seemed by contrast healthy and wealthy&mdasha fact that at least some observers attributed to having left the rest of the world to fend for itself. “The United States has achieved prosperity by the wise policy of America first,” declared London’s Daily Express in 1923. In 1927, the slogan got another boost when Chicago elected a headline-hungry mayor, William Hale Thompson, whose campaign anthem was “America First, Last and Always.” He pledged to support the establishment of America First Associations around the country, and said he would show English leaders who asked for economic help “where to get off.”

That “America First” attitude would be put to the test soon enough.

As war broke out once again in the 1930s, isolation-minded Americans confronted the possibility that the U.S. would become entangled in another international campaign. As TIME recounted in December of 1940, the previous summer a Yale law student named Robert Douglas Stuart Jr. had joined forces with business executive and famed veteran Gen. Robert E. Wood, and together they had started the America First Committee. The committee espoused the view that since Germany was unlikely to invade the U.S. directly, the best response to the war was for the U.S. to remain neutral in all respects, even if that meant doing business with the Nazis. By that December, the committee boasted 60,000 members.

In April of 1941, after the Lend-Lease Act was passed over America First objections, Charles Lindbergh&mdashthe most famous face of U.S. isolationism and the America First Committee&mdashspoke to a Manhattan rally, laying out the America First take on the global situation. As he saw it, England was losing the war and it was too late to fix that. He believed the U.S. shouldn’t fight a war it couldn’t win, helping England was depleting America’s defenses, and the U.S. was better off alone:

[The America First policy] is based upon the belief that the security of a nation lies in the strength and character of its own people. It recommends the maintenance of armed forces sufficient to defend this hemisphere from attack by any combination of foreign powers. It demands faith in an independent American destiny. This is the policy of the America First Committee today. It is a policy not of isolation, but of independence not of defeat, but of courage. It is a policy that led this nation to success during the most trying years of our history, and it is a policy that will lead us to success again. We have weakened ourselves for many months, and still worse, we have divided our own people by this dabbling in Europe’s wars. While we should have been concentrating on American defense we have been forced to argue over foreign quarrels. We must turn our eyes and our faith back to our own country before it is too late.

As Donald Trump has done, Lindbergh advanced the idea that the majority of Americans were on his side, but that their opinions were drowned out by the powerful voices of the interventionist press. Poll results from the time, however, indicated that most respondents agreed that the U.S. should go to war if that were what was necessary to defeat fascism. And as the summer ended and it was clear that the committee had failed in its mission to change the tide, Lindbergh’s views were widely protested as un-American&mdashand worse.

That autumn, the America First Committee, as TIME put it in a cover story, “touched the pitch of anti-Semitism, and its fingers were tarred.” The story came after Lindbergh publicly revealed his views about Jewish people, whom he faulted for pushing the U.S. toward war and for manipulating the narrative through what he saw as their control of the media. As “America First” became associated with those views&mdashdespite its protestations that it was not an anti-Semitic group and that it was looking out for the interests of American Jews&mdashmore moderate isolationists dropped out of the committee.

With fewer tactics left at its disposal, America First asked President Roosevelt to submit to Congress a declaration of war, for an up or down vote. The gambit never had a chance to pan out. The attack on Pearl Harbor of Dec. 7, 1941, removed the possibility of isolation. America was at war, like it or not. &ldquoThe period of democratic debate on the issue of entering the war is over,” announced America First Committee chair Robert E. Wood. “[The committee] urges all those who have followed its lead to give their full support to the war effort of the nation, until peace is attained.&rdquo

The America First Committee was done for. The idea of putting America First, however, clearly lived on.


U.S. Presidential Campaign Slogans

Here is the list of election campaign slogans for political parties in English:

1. 2000 – Al Gore – Prosperity and progress

Gore has won a lot of prizes including the Nobel Peace Prize (joint award with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007). Leaving behind what he has done or doing, you can get inspiration from the slogan he used for his campaign back in 2000.

2. 2004 – John Kerry – Let America be America Again

To be honest, this was the most appealing slogan to me. Which actually tells you to delete all the wrong ideas, thoughts, works, and turn the country into the same happy land we used to enjoy once.

3. 2004 – George W. Bush – Yes, America Can!

Bush was a creative man! He may haven’t come up with the tagline himself, but that doesn’t matter to us! What matters is that the slogan was amazing and creative. And you should be trying to get inspiration from him.

4. 2008 – Barack Obama – Change we can believe in

The first black president of America, that’s a change. Yes, he was right.

5. 2012 – Barack Obama – Forward

Elected again. The slogan “Forward” was a really awesome and broad tagline! Telling a creative story in just one word.

6. 2016 – Donald Trump – Make America Great Again

Trump the current president of America, chose a really wise slogan.


“Yes, We Can” and the Power of Political Slogans

“Hey Joe, instead of saying, No we can’t,” retorted Senator Kamala Harris to Vice-President Joe Biden. “Let’s say, Yes, we can.” With that single line, Harris resurrected an Obama-era sound bite on the stage in Houston during the September Democratic debate—a crowded stage with 10 candidates each seeking to get in a word edgewise.

To rise above the fray and generate momentum among supporters, political campaigns have long relied on slogans such as Barack Obama’s “Yes, we can.” Much like Harris borrowed the slogan from Obama, Obama himself borrowed the words from Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta who used the Spanish version (“Si, se puede”) to mobilize the United Farm Workers in the 1970s.

But Harris’s use of the slogan on the debate stage in Houston didn’t have nearly the same impact it did in Obama’s stump speeches in 2008. Context and message resonance have as much to do with the effectiveness of slogans as do the poetic ring of the chosen words.

At the most basic level, political slogans must provide easily repeatable taglines for campaigns. But for political slogans to truly do valuable political work, they need to resonate with a candidate’s larger campaign message. This is what sets apart Obama’s “Yes, we can” from most of the current candidates’ slogans—including Harris’s use of that phrase in Houston.

The power of slogans relies not simply on their intrinsic aesthetic appeal—although that is a baseline requirement for their success—but also on a slogan’s intertextual resonance with historical usages and the campaign’s own central message.

The slogans being used by the current crop of Democratic candidates fall into a few different categories. The most mundane incorporate the candidate’s name into a straightforward tagline—for example, Beto for America, Cory 2020, John Delaney for President, Julián for the Future, Tulsi 2020, Yang 2020. More monikers than slogans, these descriptive taglines simply convey to voters that a particular person is running for office. The taglines don’t tap into the substance of the campaign itself or even hint at the reasons why the candidate is running.

The basic tagline can be spiced up with poetic devices such as alliteration—for example, Amy for American or Win with Warren. More creative yet are the puns, such as Feel the Bern, that play upon words that sound alike but have different meanings.

“Political slogans are designed to by witty, catchy, and most importantly, highly quotable,” carrying the campaign message far and wide (Hodges 2014). To those ends, a certain content bias—a term Nicholas Enfield (2008) uses to discuss a linguistic variant’s intrinsic properties—must be met to make a phrase memorable and repeatable. For a successful political slogan, this means a certain aesthetic appeal that arises from leveraging the poetic function of language.

More important than a slogan’s intrinsic appeal is the way it enters into specific contexts of situation, draws from previous contexts, and resonates with a candidate’s larger campaign theme. Obama’s “Yes, we can” slogan demonstrates all these elements.

Senator Obama first introduced this slogan in a speech to supporters on the evening of the New Hampshire primary in January 2008. In that speech, he tapped into the slogan’s rich intertextual history and connected that history to his own campaign’s focus on hope and change.

We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

[…]

For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. (applause)

Yes, We Can. cfishy/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Yes, we can. (crowd chants, “Yes we can”)

Yes, we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can. (cheers)

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can. (cheers)

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can. (crowd responds in unison, “Yes we can”)

It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality. (applause and crowd chants, “Yes we can”)

Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity.

Yes, we can heal this nation.

Yes, we can repair this world.

Yes, we can.

Obama’s performance is marked with parallelism, repetition, and dramatic pauses, all elements that play a key role, as Richard Bauman and Charles Briggs (1990) explain, in “rendering discourse extractable.” Supporters in the crowd responded with their own chants of “Yes, we can,” illustrating how a text’s intrinsic appeal compels others to repeat it.

More importantly, Obama utters the slogan in the same breath as historical precedents of struggle and inspiration, alluding to the nation’s founding, the abolitionist and suffragette movements, and the struggle for equality epitomized by Martin Luther King Jr. The choice of the phrase itself—the English version of the United Farm Workers’ rallying cry for labor rights—further solidifies the slogan’s association with struggles for social change. That association, of course, is no coincidence it closely paralleled Obama’s central campaign theme, codified in campaign materials through his other slogan, “Change we can believe in.”

The “Yes, we can” slogan therefore did valuable political work by indexing the larger message of Obama’s campaign each time the slogan was repeated in the intertextual web of public discourse. Prominent figures formed a powerful speech chain that propelled the slogan—and associated campaign message—into the public consciousness musicians will.i.am and Jesse Dylan brought together several celebrities in a “Yes, we can” music video.

Obama’s use of “Yes, we can” illustrates the way slogans do political work. The power of slogans relies not simply on their intrinsic aesthetic appeal—although that is a baseline requirement for their success—but also on a slogan’s intertextual resonance with historical usages and the campaign’s own central message. Although Harris introduced a potentially compelling slogan of her own when she launched her campaign on Martin Luther King Jr. Day earlier this year (“For the People”), she and other candidates have yet to harness the musicality of language in a way that connects those words to a central message in the way Obama did with “Yes, we can.”

Adam Hodges is a linguistic anthropologist who writes about language and politics. His new book, When Words Trump Politics: Resisting a Hostile Regime of Language, is now available from Stanford University Press. His previous books include The ‘War on Terror’ Narrative and Discourses of War & Peace, and his articles have appeared in the American Anthropologist, Discourse & Society, Language & Communication, Language in Society, and the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology.

Cite as: Hodges, Adam. 2019. ““Yes, We Can” and the Power of Political Slogans.” Anthropology News website, October 21, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1291


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Slogan Resources

The following are a collection of useful resources to aid in slogan writing. Gain inspiration from classic, famous and effective slogans.

Company Slogan Examples

Reference company slogans used by notable corporations.

Product Slogan Examples

Classic slogan examples: classic slogans used to advertise famous products.


63 of the catchiest company slogans ever

Company slogan Brand or product name
Just Do It Nike
Got Milk? California Milk Processor Board
Breakfast of Champions Wheaties
The Best a Man Can Get Gillette
There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard. MasterCard
Think Different Apple
Betcha can’t eat just one Lay’s
America Runs on Dunkin’ Dunkin’ Donuts
I’m Lovin’ It McDonald’s
Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Maybelline
Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. State Farm
Think Outside the Bun Taco Bell
Think Big IMAX
Taste the rainbow Skittles
Red Bull gives you wings Red Bull
What’s in your wallet? Capital One
The Quicker Picker Upper Bounty
Shave Time. Shave Money. Dollar Shave Club
Fly the friendly skies United Airlines
Have it your way Burger King
All for Freedom. Freedom for All. Harley Davidson
Quality never goes out of style. Levi’s
Live in your world. Play in ours. PlayStation
The Happiest Place on Earth Disneyland
Eat Fresh Subway
Belong Anywhere Airbnb
I want my MTV! MTV
Open happiness Coca-Cola
Because you’re worth it L’OREAL
Is it in you? Gatorade
Can you hear me now? Verizon
The snack that smiles back Goldfish
Pure Michigan Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Every kiss begins with Kay Kay Jewelers
I ❤️NY Empire State Development Services
Diamonds are forever De Beers
All the News That’s Fit to Print The New York Times
Everywhere you want to be Visa
It’s finger-lickin’ good KFC
Gotta catch ’em all! Pokemon
Easy, breezy, beautiful… CoverGirl
Eat Mor Chikin Chick-fil-A
Nothing runs like a Deere John Deere
The Ultimate Driving Machine BMW
You’re in good hands Allstate
Save money. Live better. Walmart
Good to the last drop. Maxwell House
Democracy Dies in Darkness Washington Post
Impossible is Nothing Adidas
King of Beers Budweiser
It keeps going, and going, and going… Energizer
Go Further Ford
When you care enough to send the very best Hallmark
Obey your thirst Sprite
Have a break. Have a KitKat. KitKat
Where’s the beef? Wendy’s
Don’t leave home without it American Express
Let’s go places Toyota
Challenge everything Electronic Arts
Snap! Crackle! Pop! Rice Krispies
What happens here, stays here Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
We try harder Avis
Yes We Can 2008 Obama presidential campaign


Presidential Campaigns of the 1800s

  • American History
    • Key Events
    • Basics
    • Important Historical Figures
    • U.S. Presidents
    • Native American History
    • American Revolution
    • America Moves Westward
    • The Gilded Age
    • Crimes & Disasters
    • The Most Important Inventions of the Industrial Revolution

    The campaigns that elected presidents in the 1800s were not always the quaint affairs we imagine them to be. Some of the campaigns were noteworthy for rough tactics, accusations of fraud, and image-making that was far from reality.

    These articles about some of the most significant campaigns and elections of the 1800s highlight how politics changed throughout the century, and how some of the most familiar aspects of modern politics developed throughout the 19th century.


    "Make America Great Again," like Reagan and Clinton

    The slogan “Make America Great Again” is one that ignites emotion in many people for many different reasons. For supporters of President Trump, it signifies hope and optimism. For opponents of President Trump, it signifies social regression and hatred. But the slogan itself has a more nuanced past that transcends its more recent usage. Before it came to represent so many different things to so many different people in the 2016 election, it was used by both President Ronald Reagan and President Bill Clinton.

    Ronald Reagan used the slogan in his 1980 Presidential campaign. Here’s Reagan saying it in 1980.

    Bill Clinton spoke the words on several occasions, including his announcement of his presidential candidacy. Here’s Bill Clinton saying it in 1991. Clinton apparently forgot about this in 2016 when he proclaimed the phrase is a racist dog whistle to white Southerners. But then again, we have no idea what President Clinton’s interpretation of “is” could be for his accusation, given Clinton’s record of saying things like “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If—if he—if ‘is’ means is and never has been that is not—that is one thing.”

    Despite the cheap shot that I just took at President Clinton, in the current period of identity politics, “Make America Great Again” indicates to some minority groups that America is unwelcoming. This should be directly addressed by President Trump in a message crafted to appeal to the moral foundations of both liberals and conservatives, which differ according to research by Jonathan Haidt. Graham, Haidt, and Nosek (2009) showed evidence that liberals emphasize the moral foundations of harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, while conservatives emphasize those as well as ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. The message should be articulated to speak to each of these. For the slogan to remain viable it can’t be divisive and it must be understood by everyone. I realize that it was built to win elections, and did so successfully. However, a re-election campaign is different from a primary and an initial national election. The message is the same, but clarifying to people outside of his voter base what it is and what it is not will maximize the President’s chances of re-election. The message must engage everyone in a positive way.

    Where did President Trump develop his idea for the slogan? According to Tumulty’s (2017) interview with Trump for The Washington Post, President Trump came up with the slogan after Mitt Romney lost the Presidential Election to Barack Obama in 2012. His initial idea was “We Will Make America Great,” which he quickly modified to “Make America Great.” However, he thought that this implied America had not been great previously. So he came up with “Make America Great Again” and trademarked it. At the time, President Trump said he did not know that it was used by Ronald Reagan. To President Trump, the slogan meant jobs, borders, security, law and order, and trade. Wilson’s (2018) article in Time provides a review of the many variations on the slogan that have been trademarked by companies and citizens since President Trump’s campaign, all copying the slogan for their own wide-ranging marketing needs. See Pressman’s (2015) article in The Atlantic for an interesting comparison of President Reagan and President Trump from the perspective of 2015—before the monumental 2016 election. The comparison is interesting as an artifact of history, given the predictions of President Trump’s chances of success in the election at that time.

    America has been great before, but not for all groups of people. Making America Great Again in the future requires addressing different groups of the population in ways that promote equality. The modern message of Making America Great Again should incorporate inclusion and equality. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and Independents differ in their vision for how to achieve this. As I have mentioned previously (State of the Union 2018 in my Psychology Today blog), if the slogan were a racist dog whistle, Trump would be doing a poor job of supporting white supremacist groups with many of his positions and rhetoric.

    President Trump’s policies are far more inclusive than his opponents believe him to be. Securing our borders is a step towards inclusion and equality. Evidence shows that group competition for limited resources increases discrimination and that mutual cooperation with equal status is necessary to decrease prejudice and discrimination, as demonstrated by classic social psychology studies such as the Robber's Cave Experiment (Sherif et al., 1961 Sherif, 1966) and the Jigsaw Classroom (Aronson, 1978). These conditions are impossible to meet when the borders are insecure and we have underclasses without equal opportunities to thrive. Read “Pervasive Myths About Immigrants” by Laura Collins, Deputy Director of the Economic Growth Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute, for a discussion of the value that immigrants have in our economy. President Trump’s willingness to negotiate DACA amnesty against the wishes of many in his own party demonstrates that he understands this.

    Presidents Reagan and Clinton at times both oversaw strong economies and their terms included periods of optimism from the nation. President Trump will be well served to capture that optimism, and to begin by clarifying his message to a wider range of voters. Considering that he is politically inexperienced, it is not surprising that he does not always articulate his message to all as clearly as he could. Hopefully he will learn to do so and bring people together. He can begin by developing the meaning of his slogan to appeal to all of the moral foundations (Graham, Haidt, & Nosek, 2009).

    It is time for Republicans and Democrats to work together to solve problems and stop grandstanding and watching poll numbers. It is time for us, the citizens of the United States, to come together to solve problems. It is time for us to Make America Great Again together, and to define that together as citizens in an inclusive way.

    Aronson, E. (1978). The jigsaw classroom. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

    Campbell, C. (2015, May 12). Donald Trump trademarked a Ronald Reagan slogan and would like to stop other Republicans from using it. Business Insider (online).

    Collins, L. (2018, Winter). Pervasive myths about immigrants. The Catalyst, 9. (online).

    Engel, P. (2017, January 18). How Trump came up with his slogan ‘Make America Great Again’. Business Insider (online).

    From the Starr Referral: Clinton Grand Jury Testimony, Part 4. (1998). The Washington Post (online).

    Graham, J., Haidt, J., & Nosek, B. A. (2009). Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1029-1046.

    Levine, S. (2016, September 7). Bill Clinton says ‘Make America Great Again’ is just a racist dog whistle. HuffPost (online).

    Margolin, E. (2016, September 9). ‘Make America Great Again’—Who said it first? NBC News (online).

    Pressman, M. (2015, September 16). Donald Trump is Reagan’s heir. The Atlantic (online).

    Reagan, R. (1979, November 28). Political ad: “Let’s Make America Great Again” Reagan, 1980 [Television series episode]. Political Advertisement. NBC Learn K-12 (online).

    Sherif, M. (1966). In common predicament: Social psychology of intergroup conflict and cooperation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Sherif, M., Harvey, O. J., White, J., Hood, W., & Sherif, C. W. (1961). Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The Robber’s Cave experiment. Norman: Institute of Intergroup Relations, University of Oklahoma.

    Tumulty, K. (2017, January 18). How Donald Trump came up with ‘Make America Great Again’. The Washington Post (online).

    Wilson, C. (2018, January 8). ‘Make America High Again’ and 279 other ways people are ripping off Trump’s campaign slogan. Time (online).