Make America Great Again

"Make America Great Again" (MAGA; /ˈmæ.ɡə/)[a] is a campaign slogan which is used in American politics and was popularized by Donald Trump in his successful 2016 presidential campaign. Ronald Reagan used the similar slogan "Let's make America great again" in his successful 1980 presidential campaign. Bill Clinton also used the phrase in speeches during his successful 1992 presidential campaign and used it again in a radio commercial aired for his wife Hillary's 2008 presidential primary campaign.

Trump's "Make America Great Again!" sign used during his 2016 presidential campaign before Trump selected Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate

Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen has called Trump's use of the phrase "probably the most resonant campaign slogan in recent history", citing large majorities of Americans who believed that the country was in decline.[2][3] The slogan has become a pop culture phenomenon, seeing widespread use and spawning numerous variants in the arts, entertainment, and politics, and used both by those who support and oppose the presidency of Donald Trump.

Regarding its use since 2015, a Voice of America journalist, among others,[4] explained how it is a loaded phrase because it "doesn't just appeal to people who hear it as racist coded language, but also to those who have felt a loss of status as other groups have become more empowered."[5] However, others have refuted this, explaining that the slogan refers to "making America an economic powerhouse, a military powerhouse, pride in being an American."[6]

Use prior to Donald TrumpEdit

Use by Alexander WileyEdit

The phrase was used by Republican senator Alexander Wiley in a speech at the third session of the 76th United States Congress in anticipation of the 1940 United States presidential election: "What is the way? Here is America. There are 130,000,000 of us. America needs a leader who can coordinate labor, capital, and management; who can give the man of enterprise encouragement, who can give them the spirit which will beget vision. That will make America great again."[7]

Use by Barry GoldwaterEdit

The slogan was found in some advertising associated with Barry Goldwater's unsuccessful 1964 presidential campaign.[8]

Use by Ronald ReaganEdit

 
A button from Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign

"Let's make America great again" was first used in Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign. At the time the United States was suffering from a worsening economy at home marked by stagflation and Reagan, using the country's economic distress as a springboard for his campaign, used the slogan to stir a sense of patriotism among the electorate.[9][10][11][12] Within his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention, Reagan said, "For those without job opportunities, we’ll stimulate new opportunities, particularly in the inner cities where they live. For those who’ve abandoned hope, we’ll restore hope and we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again."[13][14]

Use by Bill ClintonEdit

The phrase was also used in speeches[15] by Bill Clinton during his 1992 presidential campaign.[16] Clinton also used the phrase in a radio commercial aired for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential primary campaign.[17]

During the 2016 electoral campaign, Clinton suggested that Trump's version, used as a campaign rallying cry, was a message to white Southerners that Trump was promising to "give you an economy you had 50 years ago, and ... move you back up on the social totem pole and other people down."[18]

Other usesEdit

In video game Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2013), the final boss, senator Steven Armstrong recites this phrase to the protagonist, Raiden. The game was released a few years prior to Trump's campaign, a coincidence which has been noted by journalists.[19][20]

Use by Donald TrumpEdit

 
Donald Trump wearing a "Make America Great Again" cap during his 2016 presidential campaign

In December 2011, Trump made a statement in which he said he was unwilling to rule out running as a presidential candidate in the future, explaining "I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again."[21] Also in December 2011, he published a book using as a subtitle the similar phrase "Making America #1 Again" — which in a 2015 reissue was changed to "Make America Great Again!"[22]

 
Trump popularized the slogan "Make America Great Again" by stitching it onto his widely distributed cap

On January 1, 2012, a group of Trump supporters filed paperwork with the Texas Secretary of State's office to create the "Make America Great Again Party", which would have allowed Trump to be that party's nominee if he had decided to become a third-party candidate in the 2012 presidential election.[23] Trump himself began using the slogan formally on November 7, 2012, the day after Barack Obama won his reelection against Mitt Romney. By his own account, Trump first considered "We Will Make America Great", but did not feel like it had the right "ring" to it. "Make America Great" was his next slogan idea, but upon further reflection, he felt that it was a slight to America because it implied that America was never great. After selecting "Make America Great Again", Trump immediately had an attorney register it. (Trump later said that he was unaware of Reagan's use in 1980 until 2015, but noted that "he didn't trademark it".)[24] On November 12 he signed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office requesting exclusive rights to use the slogan for political purposes. It was registered as a service mark on July 14, 2015, after Trump formally began his 2016 presidential campaign and demonstrated that he was using the slogan for the purpose stated on the application.[25][24][26]

 
Banner displaying "Vote To Make America Great Again" on a roadside in California shortly after the November 2016 election
 
Trump wearing a "Keep America Great" hat in December 2019

During the campaign, Trump often used the slogan, especially by wearing hats emblazoned with the phrase in white letters, which soon became popular among his supporters.[27] The slogan was so important to the campaign that at one point it spent more on making the hats – sold for $25 each on its website – than on polling, consultants, or television commercials. Millions were sold.[24] Following Trump's election, the website of his presidential transition was established at greatagain.gov.[28] President Trump stated in January 2017 that the slogan of his 2020 reelection campaign would be "Keep America Great" and immediately ordered a lawyer to trademark it.[24] Trump tweeted "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!" on September 1, 2018,[29] apparently in response to Meghan McCain telling approximately 3,000 mourners at John McCain's memorial service, "The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again because America was always great."[30]

Social-media usageEdit

Donald Trump took the campaign slogan to social media (primarily to Twitter), using the hashtags #makeamericagreatagain and its acronym #maga. In response to criticism regarding his frequent and untraditional usage of social media, Trump defended himself by tweeting "My use of social media is not Presidential - it's MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!" on July 1, 2017.[31]

In the first half of 2017, Trump repeated his slogan on Twitter 33 times.[32] In an article for Bloomberg News, Mark Whitehouse noted "A regression analysis suggests the phrase adds (very roughly) 51,000 to a post's retweet-and-favorite count, which is important given that the average Trump tweet attracts a total of 107,000."[32]

Trump attributed his victory (in part) to social media when he said "I won the 2016 election with interviews, speeches, and social media."[33] According to RiteTag,[34] the estimated hourly statistics for #maga on Twitter alone include: 1,304 unique tweets, 5,820,000 hashtag exposure, and 3,424 retweets with 14% of #maga tweets including images, 55% including links, and 51% including mentions.[34]

Donald Trump set up his Twitter account in March 2009. His follower-count increased significantly following the announcement (June 16, 2015) of his intention to run for president in the 2016 presidential election, with particularly notable spikes occurring after his securing the Republican Party nomination (May 3, 2016) and after winning the presidency.[35]

Accusations of racismEdit

A Voice of America journalist, among others,[4] explains how it is a loaded phrase today.[5] As Sarah Churchwell explains, the slogan now resonates as America First did in the early 1940s, with the idea "that the true version of America is the America that looks like me, the American fantasy I imagine existed before it was diluted with other races and other people." [36]

Use by othersEdit

In politicsEdit

Political commentator and author Peter Beinart published a 2006 book titled The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again[37] drawing on the philosophy of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr after the Invasion of Iraq and early years of the War on Terror.

In 2011, Christine O'Donnell published a book about her Republican Senate campaign in the 2010 Delaware special election titled Troublemaker: Let's Do What It Takes To Make America Great Again.[38]

After Donald Trump popularized the use of the phrase, the phrase and modifications of it were widely used in reference to both his election campaign and his politics. Trump's primary opponents, Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, began using "Make America Great Again" in speeches, inciting Trump to send cease-and-desist letters to them. After the election Trump claimed that the hats "were copied, unfortunately. It was knocked off by 10 to one [...] but it was a slogan, and every time somebody buys one, that's an advertisement."[24] Cruz later sold hats featuring, "Make Trump Debate Again", in response to Trump's boycotting the Iowa January 28, 2016 debate.[39]

 
West Michigan retail store launched in December 2019 to sell Trump-related merchandise

Retail usageEdit

Local media in Grand Rapids, Michigan reported that a "MAGA Store" had opened in December 2019, using the acronym from the Trump campaign's "Make America Great Again" slogan.[40] The store subsequently changed its name to "The Patriot Store of Grand Rapids" in March 2020.[41]

DisagreementEdit

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that America "was never that great" during a September 2018 bill signing.[42][43] Former US Attorney General Eric Holder questioned the slogan in a March 2019 interview on MSNBC, asking "Exactly when did you think America was great?"[44][45]

Other countriesEdit

In June 2017, Emmanuel Macron, President of France, rebuked Trump over withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The last sentence of the speech delivered by him was "make our planet great again."[46]

During his campaign for the 2019 Indonesian presidential election in October 2018, opposition leader Prabowo Subianto used the phrase "make Indonesia great again", though he denied having copied Trump.[47]

During the Swedish European Parliament election in May 2019, the Swedish Christian Democratic Party used the slogan "Make EU Lagom Again".[48][49]

 
February 2019 Fridays for Future protest in Berlin with the line "Make Earth Greta Again"

Members of the Fridays for Future Movement have often used slogans like "Make Earth Greta Again", referring to activist Greta Thunberg.[50] In 2019, Grant Armour and Milene Larsson co-directed a documentary film named Make the World Greta Again.[51]

In popular cultureEdit

 
Rap-rock supergroup Prophets of Rage displaying a "Make America Rage Again" stage backdrop reminiscent of the "Make America Great Again" catchphrase as it appears on a MAGA hat
 
An advertising twist on MAGA, "Make America Grape Again", as seen in Midtown Manhattan on September 7, 2020

The phrase and its variants are widely used and parodied in media.

Adult entertainmentEdit

AdvertisingEdit

  • A Dunk-a-roos marketing campaign used the slogan "Make America Dunk Again".[53]

ArtworkEdit

ComedyEdit

  • Comedian David Cross's 2016 stand-up tour was titled "Making America Great Again".[55]

Conventions and eventsEdit

FashionEdit

  • Fashion Designer Andre Soriano used the "Make America Great Again" Official presidential campaign Flag to design a MAGA Gown for celebrities in Hollywood to wear on Red Carpet e.g. 2017 Grammy Awards.[59]

FilmsEdit

  • In Holmes & Watson (2018), Sherlock Holmes wears a "Make England Great Again" fez hat in one scene.[60]
  • The Syfy film Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (2017) was released with the tagline "Make America Bait Again".[61]
  • The tagline for The Purge: Election Year (2016) is "Keep America Great" (a phrase Trump would later use as his 2020 campaign slogan); one of the TV spots for the film featured Americans who explained why they support the Purge, with one stating he does so "to keep my country [America] great".[62] The next film in the franchise, The First Purge, was subsequently advertised with a poster featuring its title stylized on a MAGA hat.[63]
  • The character Paul in Da 5 Bloods is an avid Trump supporter and sports a MAGA hat throughout the film.[64]

GamesEdit

MusicEdit

NovelsEdit

  • Author Octavia E. Butler used "Make America Great Again" as the presidential campaign slogan for a character, Andrew Steele Jarret, in her 1998 dystopian novel, Parable of the Talents (novel).[73] Jarret is described as "a demogogue, a rabble-rouser, and a hypocrite" who "pulled religion and government together and cemented the link with money from rich businessmen".[74]

SportsEdit

  • WWE professional wrestler Darren Young and former star Bob Backlund began appearing on WWE TV in May 2016, with Backlund acting as Young's life coach, promising to "Make Darren Young Great Again".[75][76]
  • Upon his return to Impact Wrestling (known as TNA during his first run with the company) in 2017, professional wrestling personality Dutch Mantell (known in WWE as Zeb Coulter, the manager of Jack Swagger in 2013) proclaimed he would help "Make Impact (Wrestling) Great Again".[77][78]

TelevisionEdit

 
Two women wear "Make Donald Drumpf Again" hats during the 2017 Women's March

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Pronunciation used by Trump.[1]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ The Telegraph (May 30, 2020). Donald Trump: 'MAGA loves the black people' responding to race protests (YouTube video). Event occurs at 0:00.
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External linksEdit