DJT formulated his 2020 campaign slogan long ago. Keep America Great a/k/a #KAG. It’s a clever spin off of Make America Great Again. You see, first we have to make the country great. And then, we’ve got to keep it great! Absolutely brilliant. No doubt.
As often as Trump reiterates the same message, I’m kinda surprised that nobody ever mentions he blatantly plagiarized the damn thing. Adding to the irony, he stole it from the Great Communicator. Yep, you guessed it. “Let’s Make America Great Again” was Ronald Reagan’s slogan in 1980 when he steamrolled Jimmy Carter in an electoral blowout. All Trump did was omit the “let us” part… which he probably thinks is spelled “lettuce.”
Though it got me to thinking. The Democrats, regardless of their candidate, desperately need a strong campaign slogan. Here’s a current list of ‘em for the 2020 Democratic primary.
* "For Everyone" – used by Joe Biden's campaign
* "Win With Warren" – used by Elizabeth Warren's campaign
* "One Nation. One Destiny." – used by Julian Castro's campaign
* "Focus on the Future" – used by John Delaney's campaign
* "Lead with Love" – used by Tulsi Gabbard's campaign
* "For The People" – used by Kamala Harris's campaign
* "We Rise" – used by Cory Booker's campaign
* "Not me. Us." – used by Bernie Sanders' campaign
* "We're all in this together." – used by Beto O'Rourke's campaign
* "Brave Wins" – used by Kirsten Gillibrand's campaign
* "Our Moment" – used by Jay Inslee's campaign
* "Humanity First" – used by Andrew Yang's campaign
* "Not left. Not right. Forward." – used by Andrew Yang's campaign
* "Join the Evolution!" – used by Marianne Williamson's campaign
* "A Fresh Start for America" – used by Pete Buttigieg's campaign
* "Our Future Is Now" – used by Tim Ryan's campaign
* "Building Opportunity Together" – used by Michael Bennet's campaign
* "Go Big. Be Bold. Do Good." – used by Eric Swalwell's campaign
* "Working People First" – used by Bill de Blasio's campaign
* "Stand Tall" – used by John Hickenlooper's campaign
* "End the American Empire" – used by Mike Gravel's campaign
They all have one thing in common. They’re generally uninspired. And they suck. Well, that’s actually two things.
“Win with Warren” strikes me as the worst. I recall a Cheers episode where Diane lent her support to Boston city council candidate Jim Fleener.
Diane casually mentioned how she’s the one who came up with his campaign motto…
WIM WITH JIM
“I thought it up. It’s very Joycean (a reference to the writings of James Joyce which often utilize rhymes and clever word play).”
Carla brashly responded, “Joycean? If that means stupid, I agree.”
Incorporating your name isn’t necessarily a bad primary strategy. Hey, if your name’s eventually headed for the ballot, why not familiarize people with it beforehand? Think in terms of Amy Klobuchar’s "Amy for America" or Pete Buttigieg’s "Mayor Pete". Showing off your name can’t hurt. I suspect it’s why Donald used to fly around in a red, white and blue airplane emblazoned with the Trump moniker.
I also suspect it’s why Donald Trump spends the vast majority of his time experimenting with derogatory nicknames — Sleepy Joe Biden, Crazy Bernie, Pocahontas, etc. Even the lowest form of juvenile ridicule has some degree of branding success.
But a general election slogan usually requires something a little less egocentric. Why? Because it’s about appealing to the voters and love of country, not love of self. Still, there are exceptions.
In the 1940’s, Thomas Dewey fared poorly against Franklin Roosevelt (Dewey or Don’t We) and failed to get the hint when he later ran against Harry Truman (Dew it with Dewey). This was pre-Mountain Dew but post-Nike. If the Dooster was still alive, I’m quite certain his catchphrase would be “Just Do It Dewey Style.” Yo Snoop Dogg, eat your heart out!
Though sometimes it does work. In 1928, Herbert Hoover rolled out “Who but Hoover?” His opponent Al Smith tried a similar tactic but lost with the admittedly superior… “All for ‘Al’ and ‘Al’ for All.” Hoover’s other slogan “a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” is a bit lengthy but definitely struck a chord.
Barack Obama fared well with short slogans, although it was widely rumored he didn’t care much for them. “Yes We Can”, “Hope and Change”, and during his 2012 reelection campaign, the simple message of “Forward.” Straightforward and effective.
“I Like Ike” and “I Still Like Ike” won General Ike Eisenhower two consecutive terms in the 1950’s. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when his talented advisors conceived of those two gems!
Sometimes it’s a blatant attack. "Ma, Ma, Where's my Pa?" – used by James Blaine supporters against Grover Cleveland in 1884. A reference to the allegation that Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate child. But when Cleveland got elected, he had the last laugh. His supporters added “gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha!" Clever.
Sometimes it’s an unofficial line that just picks up steam. Walter Mondale’s “Where’s the Beef” was a reference to the lack of substance in Gary Hart’s policy proposals. At the time, Wendy’s restaurants used the same line in non-stop commercials to expose the lack of meat in their competition’s hamburgers. Not a bad strategy in the era of televised, showbiz leadership.
James Carville’s off-the-cuff comment worked well for Bill Clinton. “It’s the economy stupid.” But what worked for the Green Bay Packers in 1997 (Go Pack Go) didn’t pan out too well for Pat Buchanan in 1996 (Go Pat Go).
Barry Goldwater’s 1964 slogan was heartfelt … “In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right.” But Lyndon Johnson had a snappy comeback for the Arizona Senator… “In Your Guts, You Know He’s Nuts.”
The foremost concern for any slogan is making sure the phrasing isn’t easily mockable or prone to mischaracterization/misinterpretation.
Richard Nixon supporters would chant, “Don’t change dicks in the midst of a screw, vote for Nixon in ’72”. A tad vulgar perhaps. Then again, Trump almost seemed emboldened with the infamous “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment. That might be the only thing he’s ever apologized for, although truth be told, there wasn’t a whole lotta sincerity. I know. What a shocker.
Trump threw a conniption fit when he learned about the most pressing flaw with his choice for Veep… Mike Pence. Turns out it was their collective initials.
You’d think he’d be above the petty scrutiny. Guess again. In the name sobriety... drain the swamp? Trump's the spirited creature from the orange liqueur lagoon.
My point with all these word games: in a hotly contested race, it's critical to have a solid, unwavering campaign slogan. So without further adieu, may I present the Democratic answer, the rebuttal, the retaliatory counter strike to “Keep America Great.” Drum roll please...
Regrettably, my photoshop skills are nonexistent. But here’s the gist of it. I mean, seriously, what true patriot doesn’t love the outline of ‘Merica?
Granted, it needs a little fine tuning. Either way, try to think conceptually, not graphically.
Alright, let’s do the pros and cons. We’ll start with the pros.
PROS (in no particular order):
1. The design itself makes for a decent t-shirt. Your home state on the front, map of the United States on the back. U.S.A. ! U.S.A. ! U.S.A. ! (never heard that one before, eh?) From an optics perspective, the Dems could stand to benefit from the nonsensical U.S.A. chant. Makes for convincing television as it appeals to easily manipulated humans, low information voters and the uber patriots. Every presidential election has one thing in common. It's time to wave the flag and shake those red, white and blue pom poms. Makes for a visually interesting sign and bumper sticker as well.
2. "No State Left Behind" is reminiscent of other similar slogans, specifically “No Child Left Behind” and “No Man Left Behind.” If a Republican brings up the former, you simply reply with, “Yeah, Democrats support educating our children. Trump puts 'em in cages, separates infants from their mothers, and secretly hopes they die while in detention.” If a Republican brings up the latter, you respond with, “Democrats appreciate the sacrifice of our people in uniform. Trump's a recidivist, 5 time draft dodger with fake bone spurs.” Most important, Trump will be afraid to mock the slogan because if he decides to 'go there' and utters the words “no state left behind,” it’s a glaring conceptual reminder of real heroism (nobody gets left behind). Totally inconsistent coming from Trump who's guided entirely by unabashed selfishness and ego-maniacal narcissism. Not to mention ample evidence of cowardice.
3. "No State Left Behind" provides an opposing narrative to Trump’s “Keep America Great.” Hell, it’s our country too. Trump’s entire pitch is based on this contrived patriotism and manufactured love of country. This slogan visibly demonstrates that Democrats are up to the task and willing to counter-punch. And it flies in the face of the long held assumption that Republicans are exclusively the party of states’ rights. With a character as divisive as Trump in the Oval Office, Democrats need to embrace a 50 state strategy, or at a bare minimum, offer that perception.
4. The hash tag (#NSLB) isn’t easily mimicked. It looks a little like the word nosebleed, but that’s a bit of a stretch. There are a couple of acronyms (NATO Standardization Labor Board & National Security Law Brief). But they’re not particularly amusing or easily committed to memory. Keep in mind, almost every presidential campaign slogan is regurgitated to some degree. No State Left Behind has NEVER been used before. So it's unique, fresh and out of the ordinary. Democrats will need to avoid reliance on stale, traditional themes. They'll likely require something a tad different in order to effectively combat the unorthodox approach of bizarro Trump. It's time to dismiss conventional norms and throw out the old playbook.
5. Country First! Outside of an unanticipated war or terrorist attack, the state of the economy is almost always the #1 issue (jobs, wages, trade, taxes, inflation, etc). Current advantage Trump. Assuming the stock market is doing well and the economy is still humming, Democrats would be wise to avoid using a slogan that deliberately raises the number one issue, the U.S. economy. Never wage war from a defensive posture.
6. "No State Left Behind" directly implies that Democrats will fight for your vote in every state, not just the swing states. Regardless of your opinion of Donald Trump, he’s done a good job of aggressively campaigning from day one (he filed for reelection on the day of his inauguration) — staging constant MAGA rallies, visiting contested states, and raising vast sums of money. He’s shown no sign of letting up. Democrats cannot concede the narrative regarding who’s the more vibrant, robust campaigner. Trump quickly disposed of "low energy" Jeb in the 2015 primary. He'll try it again, because tactically speaking, it was a resounding success.
7. The “O” configuration for the state of Hawaii might remind voters of a time when the office of the President carried a certain amount of dignity and respect. And it’s also a subtle reminder of the Trump birther lies. The "A" in state? Well, I dunno. Could conceivably appeal to a dyslexic hockey mom or disenchanted mama grizzly.
8. "No State Left Behind" represents a unifying, come together approach. From the liberal leaning Hawaii to the conservative bent of Alaska… and every state in between. This whole Uniter-in-Chief vs. Divider-in-Chief argument will inevitably play itself out.
9. The slogan could have a trickle down effect for Governors and members of the House. No state left behind, no city left behind, no county left behind., no community, no region, etc. No child with autism left behind. No homeless veteran left behind. This makes for an easily replicated talking point during campaign rallies. Anyone can adopt it. Hillary lost Pennsylvania because she only campaigned in Pittsburgh and Philly. Much to her own peril, she never showed up in places like Erie or Harrisburg or Scranton. And she withdrew from Wisconsin entirely. How’d that work out? The 2016 red vs. blue map is a strikingly effective visual.
Gotta reclaim rural America.
10. The slogan helps dispel the notion that Democrats are wholly reliant on New York and California. That they’re dismissive of red state America, the midwest and the deep South. Fly-over country will be critical. Regardless of the candidate, the Democrats need to win back the rust belt swing states and make a concerted effort in traditional Republican strongholds like Georgia and Texas. Reps aren't clinging to Trump's coattails. They're literally hanging from his long red tie. Trump's villain-like, contemptuous status gives the Dems a golden opportunity to crush the entire Republican party. A political opportunity like this comes along only once-in-a-Melania, er uh, millennia.
11. The slogan transitions well with traditional Democratic messaging. We will fight for the children of all 50 states! We will fight for their education. We will fight for their health care. We will fight for your infrastructure, roads, tunnels, and bridges. And so on and so forth.
12. The slogan's an attempt to counter the America First pitch. Trump will spend the entire 2020 campaign posing a ridiculous question, "Why do the Democrats hate our country so much? Why do they hate our talented military, our brave law enforcement, et al?" No normal politician, or human being for that matter, would ever even consider making such statements. But for a man with zero empathy and no shame whatsoever, it's essentially an autonomic exercise, much like swallowing or breathing. One of Trump's better lines during his first term, "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." I'd hit back with, "Donald Trump isn't a man of the people. He's a con man for the people."
Democrats will need to directly confront the accusations of globalism. The entire Brexit issue will still be around in 2020. It ain't going away. The Democratic party better have their talking points aligned on the issues of foreign military intervention and global humanitarian assistance. Trump's sweet spot is when he spews out, "Our country has been getting screwed for decades! Everyone is laughing at us! We're not going to be suckers anymore! Not on my watch!"
Alright, I'm starting to digress away from the NO STATE LEFT BEHIND slogan. Let's venture into the cons.
1. It has the word “Left” in the slogan, which generally has negative connotations as it implies liberal policies and a socialist agenda. But I don’t think that’s a deal breaker. If someone raises it, just reply with “well, what about Keep America Great?” The last time a slogan started with the word ‘Keep’ was during the roaring 20’s. “Keep Cool with Calvin Coolidge”. How’d that work out? Oh yeah, it ended with a juiced stock market bubble, bankers jumping out of windows, and the Great Depression. Nice job. Sound familiar?
2. The slogan's a tiny bit wordy, but then again, so was “Make America Great Again.”
3. Numbskulls will proudly make the imbecilic argument that Hawaii and Alaska are NOT inside the continental United States. Counter with, “Yeah, as if Trump’s an expert on geography... he knows more about maps than the best cartographers!”
4. The argument that it’s “too busy.” What?! The USA too busy? Get a fucking reality check! I always have time to defend my country. Its shape, its distinctive borders, its glorious history, its blah. Cue the Lee Greenwood.
5. In practice, use of the word "behind" could be a negative. Based on the 2016 RNC t-shirt (Monica Sucks, Hillary Swallows), I have little doubt that someone would shoot for the obvious. For example, Biden Takes it in the Behind. But that just strikes me as an "exceedingly fringe" Trumpian insult. I honestly don't think it would have much appeal. Unless the nominee is Buttigieg. "No Butt Left Behind" would be absolutely devastating.
Ideally, the NO STATE LEFT BEHIND slogan will look more professional and explicitly show off the Midwest state outlines. Not cover them up. It just needs a little TLC. Take one last look.
So there's your positive unifying campaign message. Of course, you'll need a negative campaign message as well. I’d go with an onslaught of vicious attacks ad entitled “No More Lies” and "Dump Trump." Emolument violations, porn star pay offs, charity rip offs, Trump University, jail terms for the ever growing list of administration/campaign officials, voter suppression, racism and bigotry, anything Jared Kushner related, the works.
Throughout the summer and into the fall of 2020, I'd have the DNC put out a series of 30-45 second animated cartoons spots entitled "Donald Trump." A spin off of the similar sounding and universally familiar "Forrest Gump." Forrest briefly explains his situation. Then, Trump weighs in. In one segment, contrast their military service and experience (Purple Heart/bravery vs. bone spurs, draft deferments, cowardice). In another segment, focus on their love and sexuality (Jenny vs. Stormy). In another segment, compare their business acumen (poor/self-made vs. silver spoon/bankruptcies). Humble generosity vs. greedy narcissism, plain attire vs. pretentious gaudiness, etc. The subplots literally write themselves. And I can assure you, everyone who voted for Trump has seen the movie. Most of them, more than once. Heartland America identifies with the beloved Gump character. It would resonate. Trump's hardcore support is very cultist. If the Donald diehards absorb Trumpian behavior from an easily digestible, cartoonish perspective, not from the antagonistic commentators of MSNBC/CNN fake news, his base should fade accordingly.
Whatever you do, don't create commercials comparing and contrasting Trump w/ Biden, Warren, Klobuchar, whoever. Trump has the advantage because he operates from an unfair tactical perspective, the freedom to lash out and insult his opponents at-will. That's what makes the cartoon concept so effective. There's no way to retaliate against an animated caricature. He'd just have to "sit and take it." History has demonstrated, time and time again, that Donald Trump would be unable to emotionally handle something like this. Because there's no retaliatory, specific human being to demonize. The notion of Trump brawling with an animated Gump dullard takes preposterous absurdity to unforeseen heights.
This could be a wildcard dagger as the entire series would be rolled out in a timely fashion and specifically designed to humiliate, mock and denigrate Trump. Nothing more, nothing less. All he would respond with is commercials of his own (which will be very predictable - adoring fans, rally footage, Air Force One backdrop, stock market chart, etc). When it's all said and done, Trump is essentially a cartoon character. Don't let such a golden opportunity go to waste.
Anyway, if you’ve got a better idea for the 2020 Democratic slogan, feel free to weigh in. You’re all queers! Oops, meant to say… I’m all ears. How embarrassing. Verifiable evidence that I am a “Jag-Off Dotard.”
One last thing. If you think my slogan is weak, let's take a look at the current DLCC (Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee) options. They're running a contest where you get to vote for your favorite! Sounds like fun. Just hit submit and they'll keep you updated on the results. And of course pester you with 365 daily requests for a donation. All hail the efficiency of spam!
Hmm, three different colors, three different options here. Vote for ass, election date reminder (in case everyone forgets the big day), and quite possibly, the least interesting suggestion in the history of politics. This is what I'm up against.
With the dramatic impact of the Coronavirus being felt in all 50 states, except West Virginia of course, the NO STATE LEFT BEHIND slogan would likely resonate across the board. As in... the notion of electing a president for every state, not just advocating for the reddest of the red or the bluest of the blue.
It's a basic 'come together and unite' strategy as opposed to 'divide and alienate.'
Seems well-timed for a candidate like Joe Biden, particularly against a demonizer like Trump.
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